Kellen Mond is the man in College Station.
There’s no question about who Jimbo Fisher is relying on to help get Texas A&M to that next level. The next level being a division title, of course.
It’s Mond. It’s the guy who went from a backup on the depth chart when Fisher arrived in College Station, to legitimate SEC starter by the end of 2018. The sophomore who went from overwhelmed freshman to comfortable, veteran leader should have some big expectations for Year 2 in Fisher’s system.
How high the Aggies fly could come back to Mond taking the next step among the nation’s elite.
This had to be what Fisher envisioned when he made the bold decision to roll with Mond over Nick Starkel, who left College Station as a graduate transfer. Mond can do it all. He can make throws in and out of the pocket, he can scramble for a first down with his legs and he can bust loose the occasional long run.
In other words, Mond has the potential to be a matchup nightmare if he puts it all together. And if — have I said “if” enough? — that happens, maybe this is finally the year that A&M puts it all together.
To be clear, I’m not getting carried away with A&M. I believe a schedule that has Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and LSU in the regular season is as daunting of a schedule as there is in college football. If I’m putting money on it today, my guess is that Fisher isn’t winning the SEC in Year 2.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It does mean that a 10-2 regular season would probably be worthy of a New Year’s 6 Bowl and a Top 10 finish, which obviously hasn’t happened in College Station since Johnny Manziel took the college football world by storm in 2012.
Mond doesn’t have to be Manziel 2.0 for the Aggies to reach those kind of heights (though it would help). He does have to be an even better version of the guy we saw make some considerable steps in 2018. Like, the guy who looked like an All-American against Clemson and LSU.
Speaking of those steps, here’s the snapshot of Mond’s freshman and sophomore seasons:
If you wanted to take it a step further and break down Mond’s numbers against Power 5 opponents, the improvement would be even more drastic. That’s a testament to someone who clearly worked his tail off to not only win the starting job, but to thrive in Fisher’s system.
While it was well-documented locally, I’m not sure Mond got enough love nationally for doing all the things Fisher asked of him. He made reads at the line of scrimmage, he took snaps under center, he hung in the pocket and made difficult throws, etc. Fisher demands a lot of that position, and it shows.
He’ll demand more of Mond in 2019. It’s mainly about efficiency. Mond needs to take fewer sacks (34) — Joe Burrow and Clayton Thorson were the only Power 5 quarterbacks who took more in 2018 — to make A&M a better third-down team (No. 51 in FBS). I tend to think a number like that is bound to decrease as Mond becomes more familiar with processing in Fisher’s system.
It’s a small sample size, but good things tend to happen to Fisher’s quarterbacks in the second year in the system. Jameis Winston and Deondre Francois both redshirted as freshmen, so technically their second seasons in Fisher’s system came as redshirt freshmen. Winston of course won the Heisman and Francois was the ACC Rookie of the Year:
I look at that and I see some telling things. One is that the production is obviously extremely solid. If we’re projecting today, my guess is that Mond would probably be somewhere in the middle of Francois and Winston in all of those categories. That includes the high sacks taken number, which is a byproduct of Fisher’s system.
And obviously this isn’t a perfectly equal comparison because Mond enters his second year with Fisher with essentially a year and a half of starts under his belt compared to redshirt seasons for both Winston and Francois.
But I do think it was interesting that both of those guys reached and won a New Year’s 6 Bowl at that stage of their careers (Winston of course won Fisher a national title). To me, that’s what A&M’s realistic goal should be in 2019. Having a year like LSU did would show the type of progress that fans are expecting.
That’s of course easier said than done. Mond’s favorite target Jace Sternberger is gone, as is first-team All-SEC back Trayveon Williams, both of whom thrived in their one and only seasons in Fisher’s offense. There’s no guarantee that Mond has 2 weapons emerge quite like they did.
But watching what Mond did with that young group of A&M receivers, one couldn’t help but think big things for 2019. Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers developed a knack for coming up in big spots, and Jhamon Ausbon is plenty capable of being a go-to target. The key with that group is staying healthy so that consistency can develop with Mond.
Before the TaxSlayer Bowl, Mond said that the entire year was like a learning curve with Fisher, and that the expectation is that the learning never stops. Nobody will be talking about Mond’s learning curve in Year 2. They’ll be talking about regression or progression.
If it’s the latter, fun times are ahead in College Station.