With Texas A&M’s first game of their 2017 college football season less than one-week away against the UCLA Bruins on September 3rd, who’ll be taking the snaps in the opener? The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California will be the venue this time around as both programs opened their 2016 campaigns head-to-head at Kyle Field in College Station – the Aggies emerged victorious with a nail-biting overtime victory to kickstart their 2016 slate.
The Aggies have three quarterbacks in the mix for the job this season, and head coach Kevin Sumlin has yet to pick his starting QB. Traditionally, Coach Sumlin announces his starter approximately two-weeks ahead of their opening game. This season, the competition remains too close to call. Usually a bad thing when a decision must be made this close to the opener, but I don’t believe that scenario exists this year for the Aggies. Senior Jake Hubenak has the experience, but redshirt freshman Nick Starkel as well as true freshman Kellen Mond can flat out play. The senior QB seems like the safe choice here, but Coach Sumlin has never been afraid to throw a freshman to the wolves. Only one example is needed here. . . Johnny Manziel who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman in 2012.
Currently, Hubenak and Starkel are getting the bulk of the reps with the first-team offense, leaving little doubt that it’s a two-horse race for the starting position. However, don’t count out Mond and his ability to extend plays with his legs. He was the third rated dual-threat QB in the country as a senior in high school last season.
A dual-threat QB has always been a formidable asset in the Aggie offense during the Sumlin era. Manziel and Trevor Knight are perfect examples. Knight battled injuries late in 2016, but when he was on the field, his ability to either sling it or take-off with his legs made the Aggie offense electrifyingly potent. With both Hubenak and Starkel being prototypical pocket passers, there’s enormous potential for Mond to get significant playing time even without being “knighted” with the starting gig.
No matter who’s under center on Sunday, the key to A&M’s offensive success, in my opinion, is to get both running back Trayveon Williams and wide receiver Christian Kirk as many touches as possible. These two young men are both short in stature at 5’9” and 5’11” respectively while weighing-in at just 200-pounds apiece. Yet, they’re by far the most explosive, athletic, elusive and instinctual home-run hitters in the Aggies’ arsenal.
As a freshman in 2016, Mr. Williams gained 1,057 total rushing yards on just 156 carries – that’s a 6.8 yard per carry average. As a sophomore, Trayveon will be lightning in a bottle y’all. One touch changes everything. . . A delayed-draw play or a short dump-off pass to Williams and its reservations for six. The same rings true for Mr. Kirk. As a sophomore, Christian gained 928 total yards with an SEC-best 83 receptions for nine touchdowns. Equally effective as a punt returner, Kirk led the country with three punt returns for touchdowns ( two of those were in the same game marking an A&M record). He finished the season with a team-high 1,418 all-purpose yards along with twelve total TDs. When in doubt, let either Trayveon or Christian touch that pigskin.
Defensively, the Aggies lost perhaps the most disruptive player in the land due to the NFL draft. I’ll reiterate that Myles Garrett was selected No. 1-overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2017 draft and has a motor that just doesn’t quit – all-out energy and effort on every snap. In 2017, look for senior safety Armani “The Perfect Suit” Watts to be A&M’s defensive leader. Listed at only 5’11” and 200-pounds himself, Watts certainly doesn’t pack a light punch. He’s the Aggies’ active career-leader in tackles with 241 in three seasons. Additionally, he wreaked havoc as a junior, being one of a select few players in the SEC who accounted for at least one tackle for a loss, forced fumble, recovered fumble, QB hurry, QB sack, pass breakup and interception. If the old 1990s “Wrecking Crew” defense reemerges, look for Mr. Watts to be the first stud to lay the lumber.
Evaluating their 2017 schedule as well as their ability to stand firm in the trenches on both offense and defense, I see A&M going 9-3 with the ability to win a tenth game in a higher-tier bowl. And if they’re able to accomplish this feat within the SEC West gauntlet, Coach Sumlin will most definitely keep his job.
I realize that their ultimate goal is to reach the College Football Playoff and be one of four teams to have a chance at a National Title, but I don’t believe it’s a reality just yet with the likes of LSU and Alabama still controlling the SEC landscape.
- College Football (Div-I)October 14, 2021Texas A&M’s Grandiose Win Over No. 1 Alabama
- NFCJanuary 7, 2021Justin Jefferson Sets NFL Rookie Receiving Yardage Record
- AFCDecember 31, 2020Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs Have the Bills’ Circling the Wagons
- NFCDecember 24, 2020Justin Jefferson Is My NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year