ATLANTA – Texas A&M’s offense struggled in the 2021 season, and it just lost one of its top players in wide receiver Ainias Smith for an unspecified amount of time.
Smith, a senior from Missouri City, Texas, is the Aggies’ leading returning receiver with 47 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns, and he returned 23 punts for 259 yards with a touchdown. But he was arrested early Wednesday by Texas A&M Police on charges of illegally having a gun in his vehicle, suspicion of driving under the influence and marijuana possession.
He was quickly indefinitely suspended, which meant he could not attend the Southeastern Conference Media Days on Thursday as scheduled here at the College Football Hall of Fame.
“Well, with Ainias, we’re getting all the evidence and the things that go on, then we’ll make a comment,” said Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, who closed the four-day bonanza of interviews. “We have no comment at this time.”
Fisher was later asked if he felt that Smith may return early in the season.
“Like I say, I have no comment, because I don’t know all the information,” he said. “I’ll get it.”
Smith is the only returning receiver who caught at least 20 passes last year in a disappointing 8-4 season that saw the Aggies finish No. 71 in the nation and No. 11 in the SEC in total offense with 391 yards a game.
“Passing game, we need to get better,” Fisher said.
He is counting on incoming freshman Evan Stewart, a five-star prospect who signed as the No. 4 receiver in the nation out of Liberty High in Frisco, Texas. He showed promise during spring drills.
“He was the MVP of our spring. I’ve never had a freshman come in and do that,” Fisher said.
There is also junior Chase Lane, who caught 12 passes for 132 yards last season, and sophomore Moose Muhammad III, who grabbed 10 for 153 yards. And there is another highly ranked incoming freshman in No. 8 receiver Chris Marshall of Fort Bend Marshall High in Missouri City, Texas.
“Receiver wise I feel good,” Fisher said. “We need to throw better. We have to throw the football better. We know that, and we will. We know how to do it. We’ll get it down.”
Sophomore Haynes King was the starting quarterback last year before an early-season injury, and Zach Calzada took over. He transferred to Auburn after the season, and A&M got LSU transfer Max Johnson. He was the Tigers’ starter last season and will compete for the job with King and incoming freshman Conner Weigmann, the No. 1 dual threat quartback prospect in the nation from Bridgeland High in Cypress, Texas.
Fisher hopes to keep a couple of those quarterbacks for more than a year.
“South Carolina has Oklahoma’s starting quarterback (Spencer Rattler). USC has Oklahoma’s starting quarterback (Caleb Williams),” he said laughing. “Wild, wild west. It is crazy. It’s the times we’re in. That’s just the world. Did you ever think it would come to that? No. I hope these guys will try to stick things out at times. But there are reasons. It makes it an interesting show, that’s for sure.”
And fast paced, but no faster than the way Fisher talks. He was asked about his up tempo speaking attack, which is much quicker than his plodding offense of late. The Aggies finished No. 88 in pass offense last year and No. 12 in the SEC with 208 yards a game.
“Got to get the thoughts out,” he said. “How long you want to be here? I give you lots of information in a short amount of time. I’m a reporter’s dream. Dad gum! How can you all be complaining about that? I could be slow and drawn out. ‘Where … we’re … going, what … we’re … doing.'”
Fisher was told he seemed to be imitating Alabama coach Nick Saban’s slower monotone.
“We are from the same place,” he said.
That was one of the more shocking parts about the Saban-Fisher feud last spring as Saban dramatically helped Fisher’s career by giving him his first offensive coordinator job when he hired him at LSU before the 2000 season. And Fisher’s offenses significantly helped Saban succeed at LSU, which won its first national title since 1958 in the 2003-04 season under Saban and Fisher. They were together for five seasons.
“Listen, we’re great,” Fisher said. “Two competitive guys that go at it. We all learn from things we do in our business. I have great respect for Nick. Unfortunately, our thing went public. Sometimes that happens in this world. Nothing is private anymore, is it?”
“Heck, I get you in, I get you out,” he said. “You know I’m on a limited amount of time. I’m used to it in coaching. You only get so much time with a player because of the stupid 20-hour rule. You get a one-hour meeting. You have to get in as much information as you can.”
With the SEC going to 16 teams with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma by 2025 and perhaps to 18 or 20 by then as well, the SEC may need Fisher to teach other coaches to talk as fast.
“It may take two weeks to do SEC Media Days by then,” an SEC official said.