The Dallas Morning News
QB up for grabs
Contenders are OK so far, but there’s still a long way to go
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.