No. 23 A&M looks to rebound from terrible season with help from new offensive coordinator Petrino

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher confers with head line judge Chad Green, left, and referee Ken Williamson during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. Texas A&M won 23-21. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade) (Brandon Wade, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Coach Jimbo Fisher had one of the worst seasons of his career last year when No. 23 Texas A&M won just five games behind an impotent offense.

His solution to help turn things around in 2023: Bobby Petrino.

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Fisher hired the former Louisville, Arkansas and Atlanta Falcons coach as his new offensive coordinator, bringing Petrino back to FBS football for the first time since 2018. Petrino was fired at Louisville after the Cardinals won just two of their first 10 games in 2018; in 2020, he took over at FCS school Missouri State.

“My knowledge of (Fisher’s) success and what he likes to do (on) offense made it very, very attractive,” Petrino said. “When I was coaching at Missouri State, I was having a great time. One of my goals there was to mentor and raise young coaches. So that was a lot of fun. But I always had the itch to get back to this conference and be able to coach at this level.”

Fisher’s job security has been a popular topic given the massive contract — and massive buyout — he has at Texas A&M, where he is a pedestrian 39-21 over five seasons. He is counting on Petrino to refire the Aggies offense.

Petrino was 119-56 over 14 seasons as an FBS head coach, taking Louisville to eight bowl appearances over two stints and Arkansas to three bowls. Under Petrino, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016.

Petrino also had his share of controversies. He signed a 10-year contract before the 2006 season with Louisville but left a year later for the Atlanta Falcons. After a 3-10 start in 2007, he left for Arkansas.

Petrino twice won at least 10 games with the Razorbacks, including two New Year’s Six bowl appearances, but he was fired in 2012. He lied about a motorcycle accident involving a female staffer and failed to disclose when she was hired that the two were in an extramarital relationship.

In College Station, Petrino inherits an offense that ranked 101st in scoring with just 22.8 points a game last season and one that came in 93rd in total offense (360.9 yards per game).

“He’s been very productive as a head coach and as an offensive coordinator… and he has balance,” Fisher said. “It’s not just all throws, it not just all pass, it’s a balanced attack (and) he has a very similar philosophical nature and is a very proven guy who has a great mind for the game and does a great job teaching and getting great production.”


Petrino is poised to improve Texas A&M’s offense, but for now he and Fisher haven’t chosen a quarterback, with Max Johnson and Conner Weigman vying for the starting job.

Johnson threw for almost 4,000 yards in two seasons at LSU before transferring to Texas A&M before last season. He had 517 yards passing with three touchdowns in four games last season before a season-ending hand injury.

Weigman threw for 896 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception in five games as a freshman after Johnson’s went out.

Both players say that the competition in camp has made them better.

“He has done a great job of understanding the system,” Johnson said. “I think he’s really athletic. We learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. We pick each other’s brains, talk off the field, and are able to understand offenses more from each other.”


Top receiver Ainias Smith returns for a fifth season. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Smith is back after breaking his right leg in Texas A&M’s fourth game last season.

He was off to a great start last year before the injury and had piled up 291 yards receiving with two touchdowns. Smith had more than 500 yards receiving with six touchdowns in each of the two years before his injury and the Aggies are expecting him to build on that this season.

Smith is also the team’s punt returner and has a punt return TD in his career.


While Smith leads the offense, the Aggies will look to senior defensive back Demani Richardson to pace the defense. Richardson ranked first on the team in 2022 with 73 tackles and he broke up five passes, had an interception and forced a fumble.


Texas A&M opens the season Sept. 2 at home against New Mexico before a visit to Miami the following week. The back end of their schedule should be the most challenging when they face teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 in four of their last seven games. They host No. 4 Alabama Oct. 7 and end the regular season with a trip to fifth-ranked LSU.


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