Spiller's Success Beneficial for Texas A&M's Future
COLLEGE STATION - When Jashaun Corbin suffered a season-ending hamstring injury against Clemson in Week 2, Texas A&M looked lost in the run game. The sophomore running back was the team's leading rusher for the 2019 season with the loss of Trayveon Williams to the NFL.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher always expects greatness from his players. Age and experience doesn't matter in his eyes — it's the fight he wants from every player at Kyle Field. Turning to the youth movement, Fisher called on freshman Isaiah Spiller to lead the charge as the team's top back.
Spiller, a recent graduate of Klein Collins, became a focal point of the offense in moments during his first season. And sure, there will be games he'll need to forget, but overall, his presence helped A&M finish with a 7-5 record on the season.
"He's still got to get better blocking and some things and, like I say, keep being physical inside," Fisher said last month. "But he's a natural runner, he's big, he's very deceiving."
Spiller's ability to captivate an audience was in full-effect early. In his first game against Texas State, the Spring native would break free for an 85-yard run down the sideline and finish the evening with a team-high 106. Two weeks later against Lamar, Spiller would lead the charge again, rushing for 116 yards and scoring his first collegiate touchdown.
It was in early November when Spiller's presence became a feature part of the Aggies' offense. He'd rush for 90 yards and a touchdown against Mississippi State before tying a freshman record in his 217-yard performance against UTSA.
Closing out his season in Kyle Field on a positive note, Spiller would break the triple-digit mark for a fourth time against South Carolina, rushing for 129 yards on 24 carries. He'd finish ninth in the conference with 869 yards and nine touchdowns.
Spiller's success came with stops he'll soon forget. Although named SEC Freshman of the Week in Week 11, he would also struggle in conference play. In the Southwest Classic, Spiller and quarterback Kellen Mond would miss a handoff, leading to a fumble recovery by Arkansas.
The young back would also suffer a pair of fumbles against Auburn and Alabama, both leading to eventual scores by the opposing teams. Through three games, Spiller would rush for a combined 36 yards on 23 carries.
In the classroom, there are three ways of learning. On the football field, Spiller was taught the kinesthetic way. With each fumble, he found new ways to carry the ball. Every closed lane led to a more successful path in the open field.
Fisher was pleased with the freshman's success as he learned on the fly, calling a "quick learner" during fall camp. Without his skills in the backfield, the Aggies could be sitting at 6-6 and in worse shape than before. His 22-yard touchdown run against Ole Miss sealed the team's first road win of the season in Oxford.
With the return of Corbin, the duo should create one of the top units in the SEC come 2020. Throw in the likes of Cordarrian Richardson and A&M's three-headed success should be in contention for one of the nation's dominant backfields.
Spiller's potential was there; it was learning the style that wasn't. Once cemented in his brain, teams best-feared No.28 when he stepped on the field. If they weren't careful, he'd make them pay.
And pay they certainly did.