Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher is a salesman. The product? Texas A&M football.
Fisher always has been able to close the deal in terms of landing a prospect on the recruiting trail. Keeping them in College Station has been the biggest concern.
The Aggies (5-7, 2-6 SEC) currently lead the nation in transfers with 23. Top-tier programs such as Alabama, Georiga and Clemson see prospects enter the transfer portal for better opportunities.
The difference between the trio and Texas A&M is? Transfers come after a national title appearance. Fisher and the Aggies are seeing players depart after their first losing season since 2008.
Still, Fisher is far from concerned entering Wednesday’s early signing period. At least that was his answer toward the regular season.
“We’ve got good young players, look at the young talent we have and look at the guys making a lot of the plays,” Fisher said last month. “We’ve got a good nucleus of what we’re doing.”
In a sense, Fisher is correct. The Aggies have a young core set to take the SEC by storm come September. Conner Weigman looks to be the future at quarterback after his four-game stretch with the first-team offense. He already has a rapport with future No. 1 receiver Evan Stewart, along with freshman pass-catchers Noah Thomas, Donovan Green and veteran Moose Muhammud.
Still, all that was expected. The Aggies landed the No. 1 recruiting class in 2022, including adding 12 players on SI All-American’s top prospect list. Of the 23 prospects in the portal, five hail from last year’s class, including cornerback Denver Harris and receiver Chris Marshall.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Aggies aren’t only losing potential starters, but also high-end depth. Prospects such as Harris and Smoke Bouie would’ve likely fought for starting reps now that Jaylon Jones and Antonio Johnson are heading to April’s draft.
“Recruiting is about one thing: truth and relationships. … There is no pitch, there is no magical formula, there is no pixie dust,” Fisher said. “You build a relationship through truth and trust, and be honest with (recruits) about where you see them and what they do.”
No pixie dust? Sure. As for promises and lucrative deals? Those might be the magic words used in the NIL world that continues to take over college football each recruiting cycle.
Name, image and likeness deals could be the key to salvaging Texas A&M’s recruiting season. Not just for incoming freshmen, but also in the transfer portal. Sure, Fisher can sell the fanbase on the names on the rise, but the Aggies need proven talent at near every level of the field.
Maybe it’s not about quantity, but rather quality for the Aggies in 2023. Currently, Texas A&M has 13 recruits in the impending class, including SI99 recruits Rueben Owens (No. 33), and defensive lineman David Hicks (No. 56). The Aggies also remain in the hunt for several undeclared and could flip a name or two before the 72-hour window closes before the holidays.
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The Aggies are looking to rebound, not rebuild. Fisher must poach the transfer portal for proven talent if that were to happen. Everyone will focus on the lack of offensive production behind the play design of Fisher and former offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey, but attention must be on the defensive side in terms of the portal.
Texas A&M lost three linebackers, including former starter Andre White Jr. Eight defensive backs have either entered the portal or declared the draft, leaving just three cornerbacks with extensive playing experience left.
So far, Fisher has entertained the idea of adding high-profile names that could contribute right away. Earlier this month, the Aggies hosted former Oklahoma State leading tackler Mason Cobb and North Carolina cornerback Tony Grimes.
Fisher likely hasn’t had much sleep these days between interviews for a new offensive coordinator and phone calls with recruits for last-second visits. Entering Year 6, the Aggies coach knows that morale in College Station is low, but his approval rating might be lower among fans.
Through five seasons, Fisher has a record of 39-21. That’s four more losses than Kevin Sumlin during the same span. Sumlin was fired in favor of hiring Fisher because he couldn’t get the Aggies to the next tier in the SEC.
So far, Fisher’s top accolades are a 9-1 record in a COVID-19 season capped off by an Orange Bowl win over North Carolina, and an upset win against then-No. 1 Alabama with a backup quarterback. And the only reason why Fisher should be at ease about his status with the program is due to his lucrative $9 million yearly salary over the next nine years.
Fisher has been called a salesman during his tenure in college football. The product he’s selling this time around? His vision for 2023 to get Texas A&M back to winning football.
Will that be enough to close the deal by the end of the early signing period?
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