Post-spring report card: What the Texas A&M Aggies do well, need to do better
The second spring camp is in the books for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M and the initial appearance is that every phase of the game has improved over last spring as Aggieland hoped and expected it to.
Oh sure, a backup quarterback hasn’t been established and a starting running back still has to be picked from the plethora of talent. But progress has definitely been made and momentum carried over from Fisher’s initial season in College Station.
Here is a post-spring report card for Texas A&M as we await the long summer months leading up to fall practice.
QB situation: B
While Kellen Mond returns as one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the SEC in terms of passing yards, not to mention second in rushing yards, the Aggies don’t have any experience behind him to speak of and that brings the overall grade down from an “A.”
Mond, who threw for 3,107 yards and 24 TDs last season, must remain healthy for the Aggies to be competitive in the brutal SEC West.
By all accounts, the backup quarterback is Connor Blumrick’s to lose. A nimble 6-5, Blumrick is the only backup candidate with game experience. He played in one game last season and threw one pass as a freshman.
Early enrollee Zach Calzada was very impressive in the spring with both his passing and running abilities. The 6-3, 202-pounder might be the Aggies’ quarterback of the future, but Mond remains the quarterback right now.
Running game: B-
Sophomore Jashaun Corbin appears to have distanced himself from a deep and talented pack as the Aggies’ go-to back. Though he sat out the Maroon & White Game, resting a tweaked hamstring, Corbin impressed during spring camp.
But he wasn’t the only one. Bruising backs Cordarrian Richardson (240 pounds) and Vernon Jackson (230 pounds) proved to be capable as well in Fisher’s physical style of play.
Junior Jacob Kibodi displayed his talents in the Maroon & White Game, rushing for a game-high 106 yards on 20 carries. He also added 53 receiving yards on 5 receptions.
Deneric Prince made the most of his opportunities as well in the game, rushing for 52 yards on 12 carries while adding 38 yards on five catches.
Passing game (including WRs/TEs): A-
This is a solid group with Quartney Davis, Cameron Buckley, Jhamon Ausbon and Kendrick Rogers all returning. Rogers and Davis had their respective springs hampered by injuries but look to return to full strength by the fall to lead a very deep corps.
The big question is at tight end. Replacing the team’s leading receiver is no small task. But the Aggies feel they have a couple of good prospects in sophomore Glen Beal and early enrollee Baylor Cupp. Each caught 5 passes, one for a touchdown in the spring game.
The tandem appears to be a legitimate complement to the group of standout receivers.
Offensive line: B-
More than a few view the offensive line as perhaps the Aggies’ biggest liability for the upcoming season. And if the Ryan McCollum experiment at center fails to pan out, they will be correct in their assertion.
But early indications are that McCollum is the right man for the job. He had an outstanding spring — he was the offensive MVP — while moving from guard to center, a position he is not unfamiliar with having played there sparingly last season.
“I’m filling some really big shoes,” McCollum told reporters after the spring football game. “I was trying to just step up to the plate and knock it out of the park. I don’t want to be as good as (Erik McCoy). I want to be better than him.”
Run defense: C+
The potential is there and if spring standouts like Justin Madubuike continue to improve that grade could easily rise a couple of letters when all is said and done, especially among the group of linebackers.
Madubuike had 40 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and 5.5 sacks last season and looks to bolster a defensive line that is very young but very deep and talented. Bobby Brown and Jayden Peevy are among those on that list. Brown has beefed up to 330 pounds and moved inside, and if DE Michael Clemons is healthy (and he appears to be) he could be a force as well after missing all of last season with a foot injury.
It’s really the linebackers that will ultimately decide the grade for this group. Juniors Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines must provide leadership if the Aggies are to equal last year’s run defense that finished second in the SEC to Mississippi State, allowing an average of just 95.23 rushing yards per game in 2018.
Passing defense: C-
If the Aggies are to improve on a dismal pass defense in 2018 it will need athletes like Leon O’Neal to step up as he did this spring. He provides hope to a secondary that ranked 12th in the SEC last season against the pass.
You’ll remember O’Neal started in the Gator Bowl, made 6 tackles and intercepted a pass. That’s the kind of effort the Aggies will need for a full season in 2019.
Also garnering attention this spring were CB Devin Morris, junior corner Moses Reynolds, who intercepted two passes in the Maroon & White Game, and junior Clifford Chattman, who also had a big game with seven tackles, a sack and an interception.
Special teams: B-
Consensus All-American punter Braden Mann returns after a record-setting season. But the Aggies must improve in the kicking game. Seth Small ranked 11th in the SEC in field goal percentage (71.4). True freshman Caden Davis booted a 45-yard field goal in the Maroon & White Game, but place-kicking remains a question mark.
Needs improvement: Backup QB
Aggieland will hold its collective breath every time Mond drops back to pass or takes off from the pocket until a backup is established. The drop-off at this point from Mond to the group of prospects is too wide to consider.