The 2020 season is the one many pointed to as the real start to the Jimbo Fisher era. Two seasons to build a roster that could compete with the elite teams in college football, i.e. the SEC West, many have pointed to 2020 as the year we begin to see real progress.

The Aggies lose 3 players on offense, including a pair of standout wide receivers, Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers, who elected to pass up their senior seasons for the NFL Draft. Another early departure on the defensive side of the ball leaves a big hole to fill at a tackle position. Replacing a talent like Justin Madubuike won’t be easy. He’s one of 3 who will not be back on defense.

So, while Fisher restocked with the No. 6-ranked recruiting class in the nation, here are the 5 most important returning players for Texas A&M heading into the 2020 season.

Quarterback Kellen Mond

This one is a no-brainer. Among SEC quarterbacks, only Florida’s Kyle Trask (2,941) returns with more passing yards than Mond, who threw for 2,897 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019. That was a slight decline over the 3,107 yards he threw for during the prior season.

Another 3,000-yard passing season could be in the works if the Aggies’ receiving corps rounds into shape with Jhamon Ausbon, the Aggies’ leading receiver last year (872 yards on 66 receptions) pacing the group, along with tight end receiving threat Jalen Wydermyer. But replacing Davis and Rogers won’t be easy.

Mond, along with Florida’s Trask, will be the SEC’s most experienced quarterbacks returning for the 2020 season. That should help in cutting down on interceptions. Mond threw 9 picks last season. Among SEC quarterbacks, only former Aggie Nick Starkel threw more (10 interceptions in 8 games).

The Aggies’ success next season rides on Mond’s experience and leadership.

Right guard Kenyon Green

The Aggies’ offensive line has taken more than its share of criticism over the past couple of years. If it’s ever to shine, it will do so in 2020. Three of the 5 starters will be returning seniors, and it could quite possibly end up that 4 seniors bolster the offensive line.

That’s where Green must turn an up-and-down freshman season into a solid sophomore campaign to round out what has the potential to be a very good group. Green started all 13 games as a true freshman and will use that valuable experience to full advantage as a sophomore in solidifying an otherwise senior-laden offensive line.

Defensive tackle Jayden Peevy

How do you replace the likes of Madubuike? Well, perhaps you don’t, but Peevy could slide right in and be a force. Peevy started for the Aggies in the Texas Bowl as Madubuike sat out in preparation for the NFL Draft. He didn’t have a particularly memorable game, was in on just 2 tackles, but gained valuable experience as a starter.

Peevy played in 12 games last season, chalking up 35 tackles, including 23 assists, which ranked 6th on the team. Five of those tackles were for loss, including 2.5 sacks, which ranked 3rd on the team.

Now he must turn it up a notch in the offseason to prepare for a much larger role along the Aggies’ defensive front.

Strong safety Demani Richardson

Named to the Freshman All-SEC Team, Richardson ranked 3rd on the Aggies in tackles with 71, including 38 solo stops, second most on the team next to Anthony Hines III (39). Richardson played in 12 games last season, earning a starting role in 11 of those after a stellar fall camp.

Richardson is among the new faces in the Aggies’ secondary who are laser focused on turning around the stigma that has plagued the group in recent years. He led the team with 8 tackles against Clemson, so big-time games don’t bother him. He will be a leader in an ever-improving secondary that very well could be the final piece of the puzzle to sends the Aggies to the next level.

Defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal

Another Freshman All-SEC Team selection, Leal displayed his versatility, moving inside to a tackle position for the Texas Bowl where he recorded 5 tackles. He played in all 13 games in 2019, making 7 starts. For the season he was in on 38 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and had 2.0 sacks. He came up with a season-high 6 tackles against UTSA.

His role looks to increase tremendously in 2020. It will be interesting to see if he remains inside or is moved back to defensive end. But one thing appears very clear — the 5-star is among the faces of the future of the Texas A&M defense.