Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher embraces difficult schedule
By DAVID BRANDT
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) Texas A&M's schedule looks pretty brutal this season. Coach Jimbo Fisher can't wait to get it started.
If the Aggies are going to be among the best teams in the country this season, they'll have to beat some of the nation's preseason favorites. According to Fisher, he expects to be right there with them by the end of the season.
"We don't want to spoil anything. We want to take care of our own," Fisher said on Tuesday at SEC media days. "They're all great teams, but we expect to play with them, compete with them and win those games. That's why we're here."
The Aggies play Clemson, Alabama and Georgia this year and all three of those programs will likely be among the preseason top five.
Texas A&M finished with a 9-4 record last season, including a 5-3 mark in the SEC. The Aggies are expected to be competitive again thanks to an experienced offense that includes junior quarterback Kellen Mond, who threw for 3,107 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year.
Mond says the team is reminded of the tough schedule every day during weightlifting and other workouts and that "it's a really good opportunity for us."
Jeremy Pruitt dryly stated the obvious when describing why he thought Tennessee's offensive line would improve this fall.
"It helps to have large men," said the second-year coach.
A bigger offensive line - combined with new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney - is giving the Volunteers hope that the offense will be more productive. Pruitt said his team has 15 offensive linemen that weigh more than 300 pounds after having just two this time last year.
Pruitt hired Chaney away from Georgia to run a unit that finished next to last in the league in points scored.
"He's done it in the SEC a bunch of different ways, whether it was the last few years at Georgia where they ran the ball a lot, or at Tennessee before where they had a lot of balance, or even when he was at Purdue when they threw the ball 50 or 60 times," Pruitt said. "Jim's a guy that figures out who his best players are and he finds a way to get him the ball.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart is among several former Nick Saban assistants who haven't figured out how to beat their former boss.
They're a combined 0-16 against the Alabama coach, though Georgia and Smart have come close to toppling the Tide in recent seasons. The Bulldogs lost hard-fought games in the national championship and Southeastern Conference title game over the past two years.
Smart was asked Tuesday if he was confident that one of Saban's former underlings would finally top him. He responded saying, "Am I confident someone's going to beat him? Depends on how long he coaches."
Smart could have a chance this year in the SEC championship game. Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher and South Carolina's Will Muschamp will get a crack at the Tide during the regular season.
Ole Miss is once again eligible for the postseason after finishing a two-year postseason ban as punishment for NCAA rules violations.
If the Rebels reach the six-win mark to qualify, it'll probably be because some young players matured quickly.
Ole Miss showed its commitment to the program's current youth movement by bringing freshman quarterback Matt Corral to media days.
The conference showcase is usually reserved for players with ample experience, but Corral has thrown just 22 passes in his college career. The California native still has four years of eligibility because he played in just four games last season.
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Corral was productive in limited action last season. He completed 16 of 22 passes (72.7 percent) for 239 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and also ran for two touchdowns.
Corral said the early leadership "doesn't feel forced, I wanted it this way. It's part of the reason I came here - being a leader, doing what you're supposed to do and setting an example."
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated July 16, 2019