Jimbo Fisher may no longer be at Florida State, but his main principal remains the same. He wants to bloody your nose. In other words he wants to shove the football down his opponent’s throat with a strong running game and then throw the football over the top with play action to the tight end or hit you with a screen to the running back in the flat.
“I think, when you pill it all back to his core, he wants to run the football and he wants to force the issue to bloody your nose and create the play action. That is what he wants to do,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said as his second-ranked Tigers prepare to play Texas A&M Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.
That’s what Fisher’s new team, Texas A&M, did in its season opener. The Aggies ran for 503 yards as a team, while averaging 8.2 yards per carry in a 59-7 rout of Northwestern State.
In a matter of three hours, running back Trayveon Williams became a star, rushing for 240 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He may not be Dalvin Cook, Fisher’s best running back in his eight years at FSU, but he did a great impression of him.
“As we have played them over the years, and we have obviously played them a bunch, when he has been able to establish the run against us and win that physical matchup, it has been a tough game,” Swinney said.
No one kind of knew what to expect from Texas A&M, and really still don’t, when Fisher took over. He inherited offense personnel that are more suited for a spread offense. At Florida State, and going back to his time when he was the offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at LSU, Fisher’s teams were pro style. They always played with tight ends and fullbacks.
Since he came to A&M last December, Fisher has added a couple of transfers that have helped bulk up his style. The Aggies threw to the tight ends last week more than they did the entire 2017 season.
“He has always been a tight end oriented guy,” Swinney said. “And he has always kind of be been a pro set, although he is very diverse. He will be empty on you in a heartbeat. He will get in the bunch sets and he will spread you out. A lot of play action.”
Then he will hit you with the screen game, something he was notorious for at Florida State.
The goal for defensive coordinator Brent Venables and the Tigers this week is to get Fisher out of his comfort zone. The Tigers’ defense has to dictate what the Aggies will have to do. They will have to set the tone and force the issue.
With a quarterback in Kellen Mond, who is still learning the offense and trying to define himself in it, Clemson’s goal will be to make the sophomore beat them, not Williams.
“When he hasn’t (been able to run), then he has had to get out of some of that stuff. So, that’s the battle when you face teams like that,” Swinney said. “The thing he also does is he has answers. So, he is diverse and he has been able to adapt to his personnel, not just game to game and season to season, but within a game.
“He finds ways to win. I guess that’s why he is a great coach. He has always kind of taken what he has had and then if you are taking something away, then more times than not he has been able to find other things to give them a chance to be successful.”
The thing Clemson does know about this year’s Texas A&M team, besides having a lot of talented players, is they know what Fisher has always done.
“You certainly have to prepare for that,” Swinney said. “We just have to wait and see, and accept the challenge and make the right adjustments in the game.”