It was somewhat of an uneasy spring for Texas A&M. Injuries deterred the continuity that head coach Kevin Sumlin is hoping to work towards. And the uncertainly at quarterback didn’t do anything for that goal, either.
Some questions were answered while others remained. Here are five questions that got answered or at least were addressed, and three more than remain unanswered.
1. Who’s going to catch passes in 2017? Not sure if this was answered as much as which players are going to be thrown to. Either way, with the departures of stalwart WRs Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil demanded answers as to who would take their place. The simple answer is that filling those slots is the best that can be hoped for. You don’t just plug in that kind of talent.
Christian Kirk returns and will no doubt be the Aggies’ go-to receiver, but several emerged as candidates to make plays in 2017. Aaron Hansford, Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers all caught touchdown passes in the Maroon and White game on Saturday, and Damion Ratley will certainly be one of the main targets next season as well. The future of Oregon transfer Kirk Merritt remains uncertain with the recent charges of indecent exposure.
2. Tight ends becoming more a part of the offense: Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone stressed the importance of getting the tight ends more involved, and it showed this spring and in the spring game. Kalvin Cline caught three passes for 59 yards while Tanner Schorp hauled in two passes for 13 yards. Bringing the tight ends into the passing attack would certainly be a weapon and those two proved they could carry out the assignment.
3. All three quarterbacks can lead an offense: While none of the top three candidates to become the starter emerged this spring as the leader, all three displayed an ability to lead the offense. All three threw touchdown passes in the Maroon and White game, capping touchdown drives they engineered. The most experienced of the group, senior Jake Hubenak, completed 8 of 13 passes for 47 yards, while Nick Starkel finished 10-for-27 for 184 yards. Kellen Mond was just 4-for-12 for 114 yards and suffered two interceptions, both on tipped passes.
4. Running backs as deep as ever: The running game appears to be able to carry the offense if inexperienced quarterback play takes a little longer to develop. In the spring game, the Aggies employed five running backs who looked capable of doing the job. Keith Ford ran tough in piling up 55 yards rushing on 12 carries, both were game-highs. Kendall Bussey and Rakeem Boyd got eight carries each, and Kwame Etwi had the play of the game — a 71-yard pass reception. Trayveon Williams played sparingly after last season becoming the first freshman in Aggies’ history to rush for 1,000 yards.
5. Offensive line developing some depth: Building on a youthful offensive line from last season, the Aggies will have more experience up front. Add to that a few frontline players, Connor Lanfear and Colton Prater, sidelined do to injury gave some others a chance to show what they could do. Austin Anderson had a respectable spring game for the Maroon team. Koda Martin and Keaton Sutherland continued to improve this spring. Freshman All-American Erik McCoy is back to lead the group.
1. Who will be the starting QB? While all three quarterback contenders had their moments, none emerged as the clear favorite to be the staring quarterback in the season-opener on Sept. 3 at UCLA. If you’re an Aggies fan, you probably wanted to see more out of touted freshman Mond, a 4-star prospect and early-enrollee. Mond was the No. 3-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 class. Hubenak, again, showed that he is the old reliable, but the Aggies struggled under his command late last season.
2. Finding those pass-rushing bookends: While DT Daylon Mack appears to be the real deal, finding those standout edge players remains a challenge. You don’t just replace guys like Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall.
3. Linebackers: This was a soar spot in the defense last season and it isn’t a certainty that this has been addressed this spring. Injuries this spring stunted the growth at that position. LBs Anthony Hines, Santino Marchiol, Tyrel Dodson and Richard Moore didn’t play in the Maroon and White game. However, Mac Labhart (12 tackles, 5 solo), Riley Garner (7 tackles, 2 solo), Dwaine Thomas (4 tackles, 2 solo) and Otaro Alaka (4 tackles) did.