I think it’s a question that we were all wondering last December.
What will Texas A&M’s $75 million investment in Jimbo Fisher buy the program?
Division titles? Conference titles? National titles? How about just Novembers that are worth watching?
Any optimistic A&M fan would argue that $75 million guaranteed should buy all of those things (especially that last one). But, as Fisher himself would probably say, a lot of that depends on how he recruits.
Signing talented players hasn’t necessarily been a problem for the Aggies in recent memory. Kevin Sumlin actually signed the program’s highest-ranked class in 2014 — landing Myles Garrett certainly helped that No. 5 national ranking — and finished with an average of the No. 11 class nationally in his five full recruiting cycles.
Fisher is on pace to raise that bar even higher. Yes, it’s only June. But having the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class is pretty impressive for a guy who has yet to coach a game in College Station.
With 15 verbal commitments — the top 8 are all from Texas — there’s another question that’s worth wondering with Fisher as he puts together his first full recruiting cycle.
How historic can it be?
“Historic” is a loaded word that needs context. If A&M signs the No. 2 class in America 8 months from now, it would be the program’s top-ranked class. At least it would be in the recruiting ranks era. That, obviously, would be an unbelievable accomplishment in Year 1 of the Fisher era. He of all people would know that while a lot can happen with 17-year-old kids in 8 months, signing a top-2 class in one’s first full recruiting cycle isn’t impossible.
I was curious about how some of the well-known college football coaches of the 21st century fared in their first full recruiting cycles at big-time programs. Here’s what I found:
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson (2010): No. 27
- Charlie Strong, Texas (2015): No. 10
- Les Miles, LSU (2006): No. 8
- Tom Herman, Texas (2018): No. 3
- Kirby Smart, Georgia (2017): No. 3
- Nick Saban, Alabama (2008): No. 3
- Urban Meyer, Florida (2006): No. 2
- Meyer, Ohio State (2013): No. 2
- Fisher, Florida State (2011) No. 2
OK. Context. I included Swinney because while his first full recruiting cycle at Clemson wasn’t anything to write home about, it also didn’t prevent him from eventually landing top-10 recruiting classes and playing in multiple national championships.
But man, it’s hard not to get excited when a coach lands a top-3 class in his first full recruiting cycle. With the exception of Herman, who just signed the No. 3 class in 2018, all of those coaches played in national title games within 2 years of signing their top-3 class in that first full cycle.
That includes Fisher, who landed the No. 2 class in his first recruiting cycle at Florida State. There are obviously some key differences to note there. He had been recruiting for FSU for the previous 4 recruiting cycles while he was the offensive coordinator. Fisher had some big-time ties in Florida, which is one of the top 2 recruiting states.
The other, of course, is Texas. That’s where Fisher is trying to accomplish this feat.
That’s what makes his fast start even more impressive.
Besides just having to compete with the aforementioned Herman, who is picking up some serious recruiting momentum, Fisher isn’t doing this with years of experience in the state like he had by the time he signed his first full recruiting cycle at FSU.
Fisher signed six Texas recruits in his entire time at FSU. That’s it. Yes, he signed 5-star Texas recruits like Mario Edwards and Marvin Wilson, but that was hardly a Texas pipeline to Tallahassee. Compare that to the 17 Texas recruits rated 4- and 5-stars that either signed with or are committed to the Aggies since Fisher took over 6 months ago.
That’s some serious work.
The job that A&M assistants like Mike Elko, Jim Turner and Tim Brewster (one of my favorite SEC coach Twitter follows) have done already is a good sign for the Aggies. They deserve a lot of credit for signing a top-20 class with that new Early Signing Period, too.
The Aggies will have even more juice on the recruiting ground if they can be nationally relevant in 2018. But Year 1 success isn’t a must. Saban and Smart failed to win 9 games in Year 1 and things worked out well for them. However, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Fisher repeated his 10-win first season at FSU.
Fisher is clearly putting himself in the best position possible to succeed in his new state. That’s the bottom line. If you were skeptical like me about how he’d recruit in the state of Texas, he’s done everything in his power to answer that question so far.
As for the other question — how historic can his 2019 class be? — Fisher provided his own answer to that on 2018 National Signing Day.
“We’ll end up being 1 or 2,” Fisher told CBS Sports in February. “I’m talking about 10 guys that are right (there). I’m talking about first-, second-round draft pick guys. There’s some phenomenal players.”
Fisher already has verbal commitments from the top 2 recruits in Texas (Brian Williams and Kenyon Green), and 8 of the top 40. That’s as many as Texas and Oklahoma combined.
Is it early? Very. Will Fisher keep all of those commitments? Not likely. Will Fisher add more blue chip pledges in the next 8 months? No question.
He seems plenty motivated to make his lofty prediction come true.