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Summer Scheming ‘23: Texas A&M Aggies

After a tough season in 2022, Jimbo Fisher went off script and hired Bobby Petrino to serve as the Aggies O.C. this season. Can a new play caller ignite the A&M offense?

Texas A&M v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes and Texas A&M Aggies will meet up for the second year in a row on Saturday, September 9th, 2023. Kickoff is set for 3:30pm ET on ABC. The ‘Canes and Aggies share a 2-2 overall record including last year’s barnburner in College Station, TX, a 17-9 win for the Aggies.

Jimbo Fisher is heading into his 6th year as the head coach at Texas A&M with an overall record of 39-21, and an SEC record of 23-18. Fisher’s Aggies peaked with a 9-1 finish in the 2020 COVID year which saw TAMU finished 4th in the country.

Fisher is 122-44 overall as a head coach including winning the final BCS National Championship in 2013 while at Florida State. In ‘13, the Seminoles were led by Heisman Trophy winning and future 1st overall NFL Draft pick quarterback Jameis Winston.

Per Bill Connelly’s SP+, The Aggies are the 16th overall team in FBS heading into the season. TAMU is 44th on offense and 2nd on defense. Comapred to Mario Cristobal’s Hurricanes who are 37th overall; 47th on offense and 22nd on defense.

Summer Scheming SWOT Analysis

This year’s Summer Scheming will look different than in years past by featuring a SWOT Analysis on each opponent the Hurricanes will face in the 2023 season. SWOT in this iteration will stand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Traditions* (not Threats). We’ll discuss one cool tradition from each of the football programs on the ‘23 schedule.

Strengths: Blue Chip Ratio, Defense.

The TAMU strengths are crystal clear- their Blue Chip Ratio (BCR) and their defense. The Texas A&M defense is ranked 2nd per the SP+ for the preseason rankings. Former Maryland head coach DJ Durkin left Ole Miss to take over the Aggies defense for 2022 and made an immediate impact. The Aggies struggled at times to keep defensive backs on the field and added Tony Grimes from the transfer portal to start at cornerback.

The TAMU Blue Chip Ratio is 73% and top-four in FBS. They’re one of 16 teams that can play for the College Football Playoff National Championship, if you believe Bud Elliott’s theory on the BCR. A&M had no business finishing 5-7 in ‘22, outside of culture issues and offensive woes (see: Weaknesses).

The Aggies have three offensive and defensive players make the Athlon preseason All-SEC first-team. Wide receiver slash return man Ainias Smith and wide receiver Evan Stewart made the 1st team offense, while safety Demani Richardson made the 1st team defense.

Weaknesses: Jimbo’s offense, culture, injuries

Jimbo Fisher’s offense has been a huge weakness for the Aggies the last couple of seasons, along with program cultural issues and injuries. The SP+ preseason rankings have the Aggies offense ranked 44th in FBS. Seeing as Fisher is an offensive-minded head coach, that ain’t great.

To overcome this weakness, but what could compound upon the ‘poor culture’ issues at TAMU, Fisher hired Bobby Petrino to join DJ Durkin and himself on staff. The Aggies’ culture problem could be exacerbated by employing the three highest ranking officials in the football program as guys with suspect character.

Per 247, the Aggies lost 100+ player-games due to injuries. It’s hard to stay consistent if your roster is depleted with injuries.

Opportunities: Petrino + Weigman = TD’s?

Of all the gin joints, Bobby Petrino has walked into Jimbo Fisher’s offensive meeting room. Petrino will have sophomore QB Conner Weigman to base his offense around. We’ve seen Petrino with QB’s like Brian Brohm but also Heisman Trophy winner and millionaire passer Lamar Jackson.

A former five-star, Weigman threw eight touchdowns with zero interceptions in five games (four starts) in 2022. Weigman, also an elite baseball prospect at shortstop, has kept his focus on football so far while at A&M.

The Aggies are 16th overall per the preseason SP+ and seeing as they finished with a losing record a year ago, that’s a lot of statistical data leaning towards a bounce back season.

Traditions: Yell Leaders

Many of us college football fans know about the 12th Man at Texas A&M, but do you know about the Aggies’ Yell Leaders? Texas A&M doesn’t have cheerleaders, they have Yell Leaders.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Louisiana at Texas A&M Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The tradition started in 1907, and since then A&M has had three seniors and two juniors who are voted on by the student body as YL’s. They wear all white and attend every home and away football game (as well as many others games) to lead the student section in... yells.

Offensive Scheme

Both quarterbacks, Max Johnson and Conner Weigman, looked good in the Bobby Petrino offense. You’re going to see 11 (one back, one tight end) and 12 (one back, two tight ends) personnel sets with a strong run game, play-action game and typical Petrino deep shots.

Above- Johnson drops a dime early in the scrimmage where the A&M speed smokes their cornerbacks. The way Petrino uses the entire field eliminates ‘help’ defenders from being readily available, too.

Above- Weigman has a strong arm both on the intermediate passing game and the deep throws. He has NFL arm talent plus he’s mobile, and places the ball best for his receivers and not the defenders.

Above- You can see the other side of the arm strength from Weigman here. A throw across the field on a deep out, placed perfectly for only his receiver.

Above- With no help over the top A&M WR’s were using single and double moves to smoke CB’s. I like how the WR turns back to the ball with his eyes and chest, too.

Above- Evan Stewart looks pretty darn good at WR for TAMU. Here on a fin route he’s blanketed but makes the catch. He’s got steak and sizzle as a WR, a great duo to have.

Above- Petrino has the no3 threat run ‘to the opposite seam’ while sending the no 2 threat up the near seam and no 1 up the #’s. This is classic “6” stuff from Leach. Get the guys away from each other to eliminate help from other DB’s.

Above- GT counter to Daniels for a TD in the 1st quarter. Petrino will start working RPO’s and play-actions off this counter look for some deadly compbos.

Above- Guard wrap for a nice gain and the Slant inside picks the LB. Petrino is a creative fella.

Above- I’m not a big fan of cramming every wang in the box but it works here off the cutback. I prefer to spread ‘em out and find a mismatch.

Defensive Scheme

D.C. DJ Durkin and the Aggies are running a fairly standard 4-2-5 on most downs. They have a clear edge rusher type end, and a run-strength defensive end. Their inside linebackers are both studs, and their DB’s are talented but were injured a lot in ‘22.

Above- Former OC Josh Gattis caught A&M over-rotating to motion. The fly motion turned split zone worked early.

Above- Fly motion split zone again, this time with Jaylan Knighton. Parrish bounced his outside on ‘em and Knighton hit inside, you would expect vice versa there.

Above- I’m not huge on back-turn play-acton with a bad O-Line but it worked early for Tyler Van Dyke. He hit Elijah Arroyo on the Fin-slant-wheel.

Above- 3x3 on the outside is almost bad numbers for a bubble. Now you have to measure leverage. Really 15 is caught but he does a great job of being a ‘wiggler’ and gets off a linear path. The defender doesn’t decel quick enough and 15 is up field in a hurry.

Above- Gattis got predictable by the 4th quarter and TAMU isn’t coached by an idiot. Durkin made his adjustments and Gattis didn’t have answers.

You can see what’s been open against their man coverage looks:

1- Anything forcing TAMU to switch in coverage

2- And 1 was obvious in their spring game footage above.

Above- hitting the flats on repeat makes them easier to jump. A zig-out only gave the CB more time to react.

Above- Van Dyke throws a dime on the stick route and it’s in BOTH hands and dropped. Really hoping new-new-new OC Shannon Dawson (3rd OC in three years, 5th OC in six years at Miami) can utilize the stick concept like his Air Raid brethren.

Canyonero Keys to Victory

In order for the Hurricanes to beat the Aggies, Miami is going to have to score touchdowns on the A&M defense. That was clearly an issue for Cristobal’s offense in ‘22 against everyone, but specifically against A&M.

1- Score more than nine points. It’ll be hard to run on TAMU with how good their ILB’s are and how much they’ve focused on signing a BCR caliber D-Line. Van Dyke is going to have to direct drives and be more mobile vs. the pass rush.

2- Get pressure on Weigman. The Aggies QB is a guy that will have started less than a half dozen games by the time he heads to Hard Rock (hopefully for a night game). The Miami pass rush was hot garbage in ‘22. Miami needs a better pass rush and Jason Taylor has been elevated and Kevin Steele left for Alabama. Lance Guidry- create some pressure!

3- Make the kicks that count. Andres Borregales only missed three FG’s all season last year but he missed two (one blocked) that were desperately needed against TAMU. Make the kicks that matter as the kicking game can win or lose ball games as much as any other part of fundamental football.

Way too early prediction: Texas A&M by 6.