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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Freshman faces fresh Gator meat

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Photo by Robert O’Brien

Freshman QB Conner Weigman (15) scrambles for a first down during Texas A&M’s game against Ole Miss at Kyle Field on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

Texas A&M’s conference home opener against No. 11 Ole Miss displayed a series of events on the offensive side of the ball that filled the stands with aspiration and excitement for the future of Aggie football. 

In the 31-28 loss to the Rebels on Oct. 29, freshman quarterback Conner Weigman lived up to the hype and showed the nation why he was a five-star recruit. The Cypress native threw for the most passing yards in a game since A&M started conference play this season with 338. More impressively, no other quarterback this season on the Aggies’ roster has thrown more than three touchdowns until Weigman stepped on the gridiron and threw for four. 

“He has a feel for things and an instinct that is very natural for the game,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’m extremely happy, and I love coaching the guy. He’s extremely fun to coach.”

This has been a long and agonizing ride for Fisher on this journey to finding and constructing the next Kellen Mond, or even the next Jameis Winston, if you will. It is safe to say his time in the workshop with redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King has proven unsuccessful, forcing him toward a true freshman who has inspired hope in a longing fanbase. 

This offense’s search to find its identity has hit quite a few roadblocks, especially with the suspension of one of its highly recruited receivers, a loss due to an ankle injury with its most versatile player and a significant amount of bumps and bruises at its forefront. Fisher has yet to figure out the solution and to get this maroon and white train rolling again before the chance at competing in a bowl game disappears. 

“You always want to go to a bowl game,” Fisher said. “That’s always one of the goals you set. It gets you 15 more practices.”

For starters, this offense has been switching up its playcalling all season long. In the first two games of the season, Fisher called a balanced offense that featured 35 pass plays and 32 rush plays against Sam Houston and 20 pass plays and 18 rush plays against Appalachian State. In the next two games against Miami and Arkansas, Fisher relied more on the run as he called only 20 and 21 pass plays against the opposing teams to the 34 and 31 rush plays. This offensive rushing attack didn’t last long because, in the last four games, Fisher relied heavily on the passing game as he averaged 44.25 pass plays to 28.25 running plays.

Nothing has seemed to work for Fisher, and handing off the playbook to a new offensive coordinator in the offseason seems like the best option. Despite the impressive numbers from the last game against the Rebels, the Aggies still left the game with another loss in the column and need to find their consistency before it’s too late. 

The wide receiver duo of freshman Evan Stewart and sophomore Moose Muhammad III has been dominant recently and looks to continue this as the season nears its end. Combined, the two young stars have averaged 11.8 receptions for 165.8 yards and have accumulated at least one touchdown in the past four games. With Weigman controlling the offense, look for these two receivers to play a major role in this next conference game against an opponent who has given up, on average, 332.5 passing yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns. 

When asked about Muhammad’s latest performance, Fisher said he is very pleased with how he’s been taking control of the opportunities he’s been given.

“He’s getting more opportunities and is a very gifted guy with gifted hands,” Fisher said. “There’s still another level he can get to, though.”

As for the Aggies’ rushing attack, it has been dominant with the load on the back of one individual all season long. Junior running back Devon Achane is coming off a monster performance on his home turf as he tallied 138 yards on 25 carries, which averages out to 5.5 yards a carry. Achane sits third in the SEC in rushing yards with 765, which is 93 more yards than junior tailback Jahmyr Gibbs at Alabama. Despite his workload getting cut in half over the past four games, watch as this track star continues to set the tone against a defense that has given up 173 rushing yards per game. 

After winning only two conference games in the 2021 season, the Florida Gators decided to fire then-head coach Dan Mullen and hire University of Louisiana Lafayette coach Billy Napier, who hasn’t had the ideal first season. With him, he has brought safety specialist and current co-defensive coordinator Patrick Toney and hired defensive line specialist Sean Spencer to help Toney run the defense. 

In the season before, Spencer was the defensive line coach for the New York Giants and helped the team achieve 34 sacks in the 2021 season. Spencer also coached at Penn State where he helped recruit stars such as Dallas Cowboy Micah Parsons, New York Giant Saquon Barkley and Washington Commander Jahan Dotson. During his reign as a coach, he has trained professionals out of Kansas City Chief Chris Jones and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Carl Nassib. 

Napier has been dealing with situations in Gainesville, Fla., that are quite similar to the ones in College Station. Redshirt junior Brenton Cox was a linebacker in Napier’s defense who played a huge role in causing chaos in the backfield. However, Cox was suspended indefinitely after his actions in the loss last week, punching senior Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh after he scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Napier didn’t just dismiss him because of this but due to a “cumulative effect” that has been occurring all season. Cox tallied 35 tackles, two sacks and nine quarterback hurries for the Gators and is an essential loss to the blitz game. 

Now for players that will be available for this conference matchup, senior linebacker Amari Burney, sophomore safety Rashad Torrence II and sophomore cornerback Jaydon Hill are the three names you need to watch out for come Saturday morning. 

Burney leads the team in interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles this season while sitting top five in all three categories in SEC rankings. Burney has two interceptions and forced fumbles while also having four sacks this season. Hill is tied with Burney in interceptions with two, both coming in their 24-17 win against Missouri. As for Torrence, his ball presence is similar to that of junior defensive back Antonio Johnson. Torrence is fourth in the SEC in total tackles with 66 for the season and leads the team in the same statistic.

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