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Jimbo Fisher kicks off his first spring at Texas A&M

March 22, 2018

Texas A&M opened much-anticipated spring football drills Tuesday under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher, who started to tweak an offense that will make good use of tight ends and quarterbacks under center.

The Aggies practiced for just over 2 hours on the Coolidge grass practice fields in shorts and helmets.

“The kids had a good attitude. I thought they worked good,” Fisher said. “Again, they are getting used to new schemes, just practice in general. Everything is different.”

That certainly will be the case for tight ends, who under former coach Kevin Sumlin averaged 5.3 catches per season. Sumlin used linemen or hybrid wide receivers such as 6-foot-3, 230-pound freshman Aaron Hansford occasionally near or on the line of scrimmage, but players listed on the roster as tight ends caught only 32 passes in the last six seasons.

Those numbers are expected to rise under Fisher.

“Those tight ends may not have 80-90 catches, but they’re going to have 30, 40, 50 catches,” he said. “It’s how they get them, big third downs, red zones, keeping drives alive. There’s so many new nuances for a tight end and how he’s going to get open, and that takes time, and a quarterback has got to get a feel for it.”

That’s also the case with quarterbacks taking snaps under center, something sophomores Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel didn’t do last season.

“You’ll see it at times,” Fisher said. “Sometimes we’ll be in the [shotgun]. We’ll be in both. That is something different for these guys. They haven’t been underneath center as much, but there are some things we like to do in our offense that I think you need to be under center.”

A&M’s quarterbacks worked taking direct snaps on their own in the offseason, which showed.

“It went pretty good for the most part today,” Fisher said. “Some of the guys have never been under [center].”

If A&M can become a more physical offense, it would help the defense compete in the Southeastern Conference, Fisher said.

“In this league you’ve got to be able to run the football and you’ve got to be able to stop the run, no doubt,” Fisher said. “I’ve been in this league a long time. You’re going to make your plays. You’re going to throw the ball. You can spread and do all those things. But you’ve got to have the physicality, and that’s why lining up in two-back formations ... it will definitely help our defense, because they’re going to see it and see the blocking schemes and have to play those kind of blocks.”

Fisher said it’s too early to tell how talented the team he inherited is.

“You can never judge a guy’s ability until he knows where he’s going and how fast he can go,” Fisher said. “How quick they learn is what you’re really going to be able to judge.”

Fisher is happy with the conditioning work done by Jerry Schmidt, director of football athletic performance.

“I thought Smitty did a great job,” Fisher said. “Our body fats have dropped. Strength got better, but it should be. We cranked them real hard and had a great offseason program.”

A&M didn’t have anyone cramp Tuesday or have anyone look out of shape, Fisher said.

NOTES — Fisher said the quarterbacks not only are asking questions but asking the right ones. “They’re kind of getting the concept, which is what I’m happy about,” Fisher said. “They’re fun to work with, easy to coach. They’ve been very attentive.” ... Slight changes such as how and where the quarterback hands off or how and where receivers makes cuts are things that will take time, Fisher said. “That’s where they have to do a lot of work on their own, which they did in the offseason,” Fisher said. “We’d have our meetings and they’d go out and work on their individual routes. But at the same time, it’s just stuff that takes time.” ... Fisher said junior offensive lineman Erik McCoy stood out for his leadership and understanding of the playbook. Mond and Starkel, junior running back Trayveon Williams and sophomore receiver Jhamon Ausbon also stood out, but with A&M constantly using both practice fields Fisher didn’t get to see everyone equally.