Max Johnson vs. Haynes King vs. Conner Weigman is the 3-way QB battle that I'm absolutely here for
If you listen close enough, you can hear the murmuring from Texas A&M fans leading up to the Gator Bowl.
“How is this the quarterback situation?”
That’s not a shot at Blake Bost. For all I know, he’ll ball out against a horrendous Wake Forest defense and we’ll get an unlikely postseason hero.
But A&M, who is about to sign its best recruiting class in program history, is turning to a walk-on freshman to start in its bowl game. Something doesn’t add up there. But that’s what happens when your QB1 suffers a season-ending injury in Week 2, your backup doesn’t play well and transfers before the bowl game and your QB3, Eli Stowers, changes to tight end as a true freshman.
That’s how you get this quarterback situation.
Next year, though? A&M fans will get that quarterback situation. As in, that quarterback situation you’ve been waiting for with Jimbo Fisher.
LSU transfer Max Johnson announced that he’s following his brother, A&M tight end signee Jake Johnson, to College Station. Go figure that it was Johnson who devastated A&M fans with a game-winning touchdown for LSU a couple weeks ago in the regular-season finale.
Quite the job interview for Max Johnson pic.twitter.com/17EcWnQ9Vr
— The Jordy Culotta Show (@CulottaShow) December 17, 2021
What does that mean? We’ve got ourselves quite the 3-way quarterback battle.
And yes, this will be billed as a true battle. Remember, King was one of the more intriguing first-time starters in the country before his injury. His athleticism was what set him apart and allowed him to emerge as the first starter of the post-Kellen Mond era at A&M.
Don’t forget about 5-star quarterback Conner Weigman, whom Fisher just heaped praise upon after he signed on the dotted line:
“Those guys are all great players, but I’ve invested in (Conner Weigman) and I think this guy’s the best guy in the country.”
— 247Sports (@247Sports) December 15, 2021
It’s not every day that Fisher talks about a quarterback like that. Weigman is his first 5-star quarterback signee since a certain Jameis Winston at Florida State 10 years ago. Winston waited until his redshirt freshman season to take over Fisher’s offense (and then won the Heisman and national title). Ideally for Fisher, Weigman would do the same.
What’s interesting is what Fisher values with his 2022 starter. We know that Johnson doesn’t have the strongest arm and side-by-side, King could actually look like the more talented player. But King missed out on extremely valuable experience by being hurt for basically the entire season. We didn’t get a single SEC rep with him as the starter. There’s nothing King can do to get that before Fisher ultimately has to make a decision.
History suggests that Fisher is going to pick the quarterback with the fewest limitations. They need to be mobile. Is Johnson mobile enough? Or is it unfair to fully judge that mobility because of the lack of designed quarterback runs in Jake Peetz’s offense? If that’s the case, advantage King.
It’s natural to assume that someone like Johnson, who at one point had a streak of 6 consecutive games with 3 touchdown passes that dated back to 2020, isn’t going to A&M unless he thinks he’s winning the job. But from Fisher’s perspective, this made sense even if he’s intent on having a true 3-way quarterback battle.
Johnson technically has 3 more years of eligibility left (2020 didn’t count against him). There’s also no guarantee that he’ll graduate in 3 years. Why does that matter? Because of the 1-time transfer rule for undergrads, Fisher doesn’t necessarily need to worry about benching Johnson and watching him transfer if King or even Weigman is the more capable option out of camp.
That scenario would give Fisher something that he lacks going into the Gator Bowl — depth.
Of course, there’s always the scenario that King loses the job out of camp and he uses his 1-time transfer to seek immediate playing time elsewhere. If he gets the sense that Johnson is getting the majority of the first-team reps and decides to bolt, King would absolutely have a Power 5 market.
(It’s weird to think that Johnson and King are classmates. Johnson’s experience is in another universe compared to King’s.)
If it sounds like a lot to juggle, it’s because it is. But that’s what Fisher signed up for.
One can’t help but think that he’s trying to right the wrong of 2021. Zach Calzada wasn’t the guy. He was the guy for 1 night against Alabama, and nobody can ever take that away from him. But it did feel like Fisher’s generational defense and loaded group of skill-players were wasted because they didn’t have an answer at quarterback. Calzada couldn’t be benched because there wasn’t anyone behind him.
Again, not a shot at Bost. Watch him light up the Gator Bowl and then call me out for feeding him yummy rat poison.
Fisher wants to avoid that. He has to avoid that. If you’re going to be on a $90 million contract, you can’t watch your season fall apart with an early-season injury to a quarterback. It did in 2017 at Florida State, though obviously as we later found out, there were cracks in the foundation that went beyond Deondre Francois’ season-ending injury against Alabama.
Adding Johnson and creating a suddenly crowded quarterback room is exactly what A&M fans could’ve hoped for. A true battle is set to take place in Year 5 of the Fisher era, and with 3 legitimate options, it’ll be unlike anything that came before it.
Sign me up for that.