The Dallas Morning News

QB up for grabs

Contenders are OK so far, but there’s still a long way to go

- BEN BABY bbaby@dallasnews.com Twitter: @Ben_Baby

Ben Baby: No clear favorite emerged in spring practice among the three players competing to be the Aggies’ starting quarterbac­k.

COLLEGE STATION — Watching Texas A&M in black jerseys Saturday felt like witnessing a mini-game inside of the Aggies’ spring game.

While the Maroon and White teams battled in the intrasquad scrimmage that operated as a glorified scrimmage, three quarterbac­ks in black uniforms showed the options the Aggies will be picking from when choosing a starter this fall.

Senior Jake Hubenak, redshirt freshman Nick Starkel and early enrollee Kellen Mond took their turn throwing passes. All three, according to one of the team captains, played well.

“Overall, I thought Nick, Kellen and Jake all played really well,” said A&M junior wide receiver Christian Kirk.

But between now and A&M’s season opener against UCLA, one will have to be a better option than the other. And after the spring, there doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite.

Each of the three quarterbac­ks brings something different to the position and showed glimpses of that in the scrimmage.

Hubenak, who has appeared in 13 games in two seasons and made three starts, didn’t see a ton of reps. But at this point, the A&M coaching staff knows what it is getting out of the former Georgetown and Blinn College standout — someone who’s thrown for 1,283 yards, doesn’t run often and doesn’t commit a lot of turnovers.

But Starkel and Mond, the two youngsters who could give the Aggies their first long-term quarterbac­k since Johnny Manziel left town after the 2013 season, are relatively unknown.

Starkel’s arm strength has often been compliment­ed during his brief time in Aggieland. His best moment in the spring game was a 29yard completion to tight end Kalvin Cline, who wrestled away a high pass from a defender.

Mond, the other freshman, made two nice throws on a day that could never really showcase what they bring to the position. The highly praised recruit and one of the top dual-threat prospects in the nation didn’t run often on a day that didn’t allow for contacting the quarterbac­k .

In high school at San Antonio Reagan and IMG Academy, Mond excelled at running option plays that give the quarterbac­k the choice of handing the ball to a running back or taking off himself.

While Starkel and Hubenak have more collegiate experience than Mond, neither can move as well as the dualthreat option. And that could bode well for Mond, especially given A&M’s offense.

In his first year with A&M, offensive coordinato­r Noel Mazzone used the legs of quarterbac­k Trevor Knight to turn the Aggies into one of the better offenses in the country.

Before Knight’s injury against Mississipp­i State on Nov. 5, the Aggies led the SEC in total touchdowns. In his senior year, Knight managed to complete only 53 percent of his passes, but he kept his intercepti­on totals relatively low and punished defenses on the ground with a team-high 10 rushing touchdowns.

Mazzone’s run-pass options worked well for Knight and should also be effective under Mond. Mond had a couple of intercepti­ons in the spring game, with both of them coming on batted passes that were just off the mark.

But be careful before overanalyz­ing anything from Saturday’s game, which primarily served as a way to fill airtime on one of ESPN’s several networks. While both young quarterbac­ks completed less than a third of their passes, both appeared to be comfortabl­e.

“They played relatively well and probably [had] one of their best performanc­es during the spring,” said Kirk, who’s been one of the SEC’s best receivers the last two seasons. “I think they really settled in.”

In less than five months, only one quarterbac­k can settle into the starting role.

It could be Hubenak, the seasoned veteran, or one of the two freshmen. It’ll be the most important decision the Aggies make in a year that will be critical to the future of the program.

 ?? Louis DeLuca/Staff Photograph­er ?? Aggies quarterbac­k Jake Hubenak looked for a receiver in a game against Ole Miss last season. Hubenak is in a battle with two others to win the starting job.
Louis DeLuca/Staff Photograph­er Aggies quarterbac­k Jake Hubenak looked for a receiver in a game against Ole Miss last season. Hubenak is in a battle with two others to win the starting job.
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