College Station is buzzing with anticipation for the first game of the Jimbo Fisher era at Texas A&M to get underway. The team they face in Northwestern State may not be a world-beater, but no matter. Aggie fans and players alike are ready for the long wait to come to an end and the 2018 season to begin. Here are some players worth following closely on Thursday night:
Kellen Mond / Nick Starkel
The most important position to watch for any team coming into a season is the quarterback. In this case, Texas A&M have two to choose from. The same two from last season, in fact. Despite the announcement that Mond will start the season-opener at Kyle Field against Northwestern St., both players are expected to get playing time on Thursday night.
It will be interesting to see how the snaps are divided, and unless one outshines the other, there is a chance this quarterback battle will continue into next week’s marquee matchup against No. 2 Clemson. Throughout spring and then into fall camp, the word was that the two were hard to separate, but reportedly, Mond performed slightly better in team scrimmages and the closing stages of fall camp. Everyone’s eyes will be on the quarterbacks on Thursday night to see who can take control and lead the team under center in Jimbo Fisher’s inaugural season.
There is not another offensive player on this roster surrounded by more anticipation than Williams. The third-year back will lead Texas A&M’s rushing attack and has the chance to put up monster numbers in 2018. Williams has shown his ability over the past two seasons, rushing for 1,855 yards and 16 touchdowns. Even so, since the arrival of Fisher, Williams has developed tremendously as a player and a leader on this Aggie football team.
Under Fisher’s pro-style offense, fullback Cullen Gillaspia, the school’s 12th Man, will open holes that have not been there in previous seasons. This will provide better opportunities for Williams, who will want to get started on the right foot on Thursday night and springboard himself into what could be a career year.
The Aggies brought Sternberger in to be an attacking tight end that makes plays downfield. That paid off soon after he arrived in College Station, earning spring game MVP honors with a 147-yard, two-touchdown performance. His outstanding play has reportedly continued through fall camp and in team scrimmages. Sternberger is difficult to cover and knows how to get open. Even when he is not open, he can go up to get the ball and consistently come down with it.
Aggie fans will soon see that tight ends are a big part of Fisher’s offensive productivity, a big change from recent years under Kevin Sumlin. Expect a big game from Sternberger on Thursday night as he and the Aggie offense take on a less-talented Northwestern St. side in front of a raucous Kyle Field crowd.
Just watch all of them. The position group is young, talented and deep. The coaches need to see who they can trust heading into next week’s game against Clemson and on into the rest of the season. Sophomore Jhamon Ausbon will likely lead the way and is looking to build on a season where he caught 50 balls for 571 yards and three touchdowns. Also keep an eye on fellow sophomores Camron Buckley, who had a nice year in 2017, and Kendrick Rogers, who has emerged as a reliable target. Quartney Davis is back after fighting through a minor injury and should also get some significant chances on Thursday night.
Expect many guys to be involved over the course of the game, but whoever steps up and separates themselves from the pack could earn a starring role on the offense throughout the 2018 campaign.
This is another group with depth, and all are worth watching in the Aggie’s season opener. Kingsley Keke, who has played in every game since coming to College Station, is the leader of the group and will play both on the inside and outside while Michael Clemons is nursing an injury. The senior has made 91 tackles and five sacks since earning a starting role in 2016 and will look to continue making plays in 2018. Daylon Mack will also be a menace for the Northwestern State offense on the interior line. After promising this to be his breakout year, the senior will be hungry to get off to a fast start in 2018.
Landis Durham, who led the SEC in sacks last season, should continue to be a dominant force at defensive end. The senior will look to build on his 55 tackle, 11 sack year in 2017 and should be fun to watch on Thursday night. Along with Keke, Bobby Brown will help on the edge in the absence of Clemons. While the Brown is still adjusting to the collegiate game, the freshman has shown flashes of his ability throughout fall camp, and it will be worth keeping an eye on how he performs in his first game at Kyle Field.
With the depth and talent throughout this defensive line, it could be a feast for all the guys up front against Northwestern State with plenty of tackles and sacks to go around.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.