What happens in the SEC West when pigs fly? We’re about to find out.
The SEC West is going to endure some shakeups in the coming seasons with Kevin Sumlin replaced in College Station by Jimbo Fisher while former A&M alum and Texas HS legend Chad Morris takes over at Arkansas.
The main consensus is that Texas A&M hit a home run, however costly, by hiring a national championship winning coach from another blue blood program. Personally I have a lot of doubts about this hire, even setting aside the pressure that will necessarily come from handing out $75 million guaranteed in expectation of forthcoming titles.
Fisher seems to have at least two elite qualities as a coach. First of all, he’s a great recruiter who’s going from one place that recruits itself well to amazing local talent to another. Whereas Florida State was within easy enough distance of the absurdly loaded Georgia, central Florida, and south Florida hotbeds, Texas A&M has great access to Houston, east Texas, DFW, and Louisiana. There’s little doubt that Fisher will recruit well there in time, perhaps not with this transition class save for players that he already had relationships with from recruiting the state from Tallahassee.
Secondly, he’s a great teacher which is ultimately what coaches are. He runs a pretty complex, pro-style scheme that is rich in details and tools and he’s been pretty good at teaching it to his QBs. IF Jimbo can continue to recruit elite athletes at A&M like he did at Florida State AND he’s able to find and teach top QBs then this should go pretty well.
My main concerns have to do with the existing QB roster at Texas A&M and Fisher’s ability to wield all of the massive resources that he’s long desired and begged for at Florida State. Kellen Mond is a terrible fit for the Fisher offense and this may come down to him getting the most from Nick Starkel or landing a grad/JUCO transfer QB while he recruits his QB of the future. Then whenever he finds that guy, which I’m sure they’re hoping is the currently committed Texan 4-star Grant Gunnell, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on them to perform early as Jameis Winston and Deondre Francois did back in Tallahassee (both started as RS Freshmen).
In regards to staff composition, the big issue that Bud Elliott highlighted at Tomahawk Nation was Fisher’s failure to surround himself with coaches that would allow him to delegate and maintain a winning culture. Perhaps he just needs a reset and he can avoid similar issues at A&M, but it’s concerning when a guy that wanted the ability to have major facilities and to hire tons and tons of support staff like Alabama did also has a problem hiring the right people and then delegating rather than trying to micromanage it all.
Texas recently hired a head coach that tended to hire poor assistants and then try to do their jobs for them while also managing the massive resources and pressures of the job and he was let go after three losing seasons. Hiring smart and then delegating, managing, and supporting your staff well is probably one of the most important skills needed to maintain success at a big college program…or really any high level human organization.
Meanwhile Chad Morris is an Aggie grad with a spread and Texas-friendly system, a penchant for hiring well and building up programs with promise (Clemson, SMU), and now he’s in Texas A&M’s backyard with every reason to make them regret passing him over for a mercenary with a ring and with the full and not inconsiderable resources of Arkansas behind him. If he’s successful in poaching Brent Venables from Clemson or stealing Gunnell away from Texas A&M this could get VERY interesting in a hurry.
Chad Morris was probably the right hire to turn Texas A&M into the power they’ve always dreamed of becoming. Instead they insisted on having a championship-winning coach that could feed their perception of themselves as a top program. It may very well work out for them, I don’t think that would shock anyone, but they may have passed over the right man in hubris and desperation.
Was choosing the big shot looking for an escape route from a bad situation of his own making the right choice over taking the guy that your own culture produced for such an hour as this? I think probably it wasn’t, but we’ll soon find out.Ar