COLLEGE STATION -- There are two ways to look at Jimbo Fisher's comments regarding the quarterback battle happening at Texas A&M. The first is all three are struggling, thus making it harder for Fisher to name a starter.
The second is the trio are pushing each other hard enough to make Fisher's decision more challenging come early September. Likely, it's somewhere in the middle.
"[I] don't put a timetable on it," Fisher said of naming a starting quarterback. "They'll tell you and the team will tell you, and how they play each and every day will tell you. It'll be obvious in what you do."
A&M is entering a crucial year following an 8-4 finish in 2021. After landing the No. 1 recruiting class, plus finally getting over the hump of beating Nick Saban and Alabama, eight wins won't cut it in College Station.
Teams win and lose based on quarterback play. A&M isn't an outlier. Whether Max Johnson, Haynes King, or freshman Connor Weigman wins the title of QB1, they'll have to be on-point if the Aggies hope for better results.
In a sense, A&M was pigeonholed last fall following a season-ending injury to King in Week 2. Zach Calzada had his highs moments — like beating No. 1 Alabama in front of 103,000 screaming Aggies at Kyle Field. He also had his lows — one is throwing a pair of late interceptions against Ole Miss to fall short of completing a four-game win streak.
Calzada is now at Auburn hoping to take down T.J. Finley for first-team reps. In Aggieland, the consensus is it's a two-man race between King and Johnson. Each provides something perhaps the other is missing.
Johnson, who transferred from LSU, has experience. In two years with the Tigers, the junior played 18 total games, 16 of which were starts. He's been through the gauntlet of what is the SEC West schedule, picking up wins over programs like Ole Miss, Mississippi State and of course the Aggies last November.
But King has speed in the open field. Several players have said he's one of the fastest players on the roster. He's hit 22 mph on the radar gun during practice, hanging with speedsters such as running back Devon Achane.
"We're expecting to be very explosive," receiver Ainias Smith said of the two quarterbacks.
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Fisher, whose development of quarterbacks has been well-documented since his time at Auburn working with Patrick Nix in the 1990s, isn't opposed to giving freshmen starting reps. Smith worked as the team's starting slot receiver during the 2019 season. All-American safety Antonio Johnson started as the team's nickel defender in his first year during the 2020 campaign.
But quarterback is different. Kellen Mond was the team's starter before Fisher departed Florida State, making his job easier to keep the now-Minnesota Vikings quarterback at the helm. Last season, Fisher didn't have an option under center with starting reps.
He does in 2022. Johnson has the reps that warrant a chance to start. Of course, King might have something to say about that since he initially beat out Calzada for the title of QB1 last August.
It's not as if Fisher is rushing to name the Aggies' starter. They'll open the season at home against Sam Houston State on Sept. 3 before hosting Appalachian State on Sept. 10. King and Johnson should be able to walk away with wins if the competition is living up to the hype.
The real challenge will come on Sept. 17. Miami comes to town with Mario Cristobal at the helm. The Hurricanes have their quarterback problem solved with ACC Rookie of the Year Tyler Van Dyke, a name multiple scouts believe could be a top 10 draft pick next April.
Fisher chuckled saying that he wish he knew who his starting quarterback was "yesterday." Perhaps it's not entirely a joke. Sure, he's in the camp that eventually, the team will show him which passer gives A&M the best chance to win.
There has to be a cutoff date. Sept. 12 should likely be the deadline at the latest.
"Everyone talks about the quarterback battle," Fisher said. "I think we have three outstanding quarterbacks."
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