Aggies optimistic about o-line progression despite Matthew Wykoff exit

Texas A&M center Matthew Wykoff is entering the NCAA transfer portal. 

Texas A&M center Matthew Wykoff is entering the NCAA transfer portal.

Ken Murray / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

COLLEGE STATION — On a day when Texas A&M sophomore offensive lineman Matthew Wykoff announced his pending exit from the program, Aggies senior tight end Max Wright said it was time for A&M fans to be introduced to a head-turning newcomer along the line.

“Chase Bisontis is going to be an absolute key factor to this offensive line,” Wright said of the 4-star signee from New Jersey who enrolled early and has taken part in spring drills. “He’s going to shock a lot of people this year with how he plays — he doesn’t play like a true freshman. He’s going to be really good.”

The Aggies will need him to be as part of a unit that has plenty to prove in 2023 following a bumpy year on the line. Bisontis (6-6, 305) projects as a tackle, but can play guard if needed as A&M coach Jimbo Fisher mixes and matches on the line this summer in a search for an effective starting five.

Wykoff, who can play center or guard, filled in last year at center for injured starter Bryce Foster, but had apparently slipped down the spring depth chart with the emergence of Mark Nabou and Remington Strickland at center behind the entrenched Foster, who was a freshman All-American in 2021. Wykoff on Wednesday announced via social media he intends to enter the NCAA transfer portal.

“I am thankful for my time at A&M and the coaching I have received,” Wykoff posted to Twitter. “I will have 3 years of eligibility left.”

Foster, who will be a junior, is currently competing as a shot putter for the A&M track team and has not taken part in spring drills, which wrap up at 3 p.m. Saturday with the annual spring game at Kyle Field. Which offers free admission for fans. Foster also did not participate in football’s spring practice a year ago.

“Getting Bryce back (in the summer), I’m really excited about that,” Fisher said of the center who goes by the moniker “The Mountain” and if healthy likely will project as a high-round NFL draft selection in a year or two.

The Aggies finished 5-7 last season and Wykoff played in all 12 games with nine starts. The former Magnolia High standout made the SEC all-freshman team in 2022 and earned the offense’s “Unselfish Leadership Award” at the annual team banquet over the winter.

“Losing Matthew is tough, he’s one of my good friends and I love him and hope the best for wherever he goes,” Wright said. “But from a depth standpoint on the offensive line, some of the guys having more experience than what we had last year is huge.”

Foster missed two-thirds of last season with illness and injury, paving the way for Wykoff’s emergence at center. The offensive line overall under coach Steve Addazio was perhaps the team’s weakest link last season, but Fisher has retained Addazio for a second season and this spring Fisher spoke highly of Addazio.

“I think he’s a very good coach, a very productive coach and has done it for a long time,” Fisher said of Addazio, a former Temple, Boston College and Colorado State head coach. “I think he’ll do a great job (in 2023).”

In an ideal offensive line world for the Aggies entering the season they’d perhaps start Foster at center, senior Layden Robinson and sophomore Kam Dewberry at the guards and junior Reuben Fatheree and sophomore Trey Zuhn at the tackles (with Bisontis sprinkled in on either side and even taking over one of the starting roles).

“We’ve made some huge developments in the spring and some guys are really coming on and playing well,” Fisher said. “I’m really excited about that whole group on the offensive line. … And those young guys, not just playing and (learning), but physically they’re really good players. I’m really excited about that group.”

A&M is about 10 scholarship players shy of the 85 the NCAA allows on a roster, and Fisher will try and address that shortfall this spring and summer through the transfer portal.

“We’ll go into the portal and see what goes on when the portal opens (back) up on Saturday,” Fisher said Wednesday of the spring transfer period that runs from April 15-30 for undergraduates. “… We’ll be very active in the portal and have been.”

A&M opens its sixth season under Fisher, 39-21 at A&M, on Sept. 2 against New Mexico before playing at Miami on Sept. 9 in what should be a solid early test for the Aggies and new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, who is set to take over play-calling duties from Fisher.

“Last season was really frustrating,” Wright said of the Aggies’ first losing regular season since 2008 under then-coach Mike Sherman. “That made guys come into this spring with a chip on their shoulder.”