Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond was sacked 33 times in 2019.
However, throughout the first three games of the 2020 season, he has only been brought down by opposing defenses once. The offensive line is tied for third-fewest sacks allowed in the nation.
The offensive line’s improvement has allowed Mond to step up his game and lead the entire offense to success.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said returning most of his offensive line from last season has proven to be an advantage this year.
“It’s amazing what maturity [can do],” Fisher said. “You’ve got maturity, you’ve got guys knowing, they’ve played games, they recognize blitzes, they recognize stunts, they know how to pass them off. Guys can’t always do it as freshmen. Your quarterback’s more experienced, so he can read, get the ball out quicker.”
Last weekend’s game in which the Aggies upset then-No. 4 Florida was proof of the improvement of both Mond and the offensive line.
During the game, Mond became the Aggies’ all-time leader in career passing yards, and on Sunday, he was named SEC co-Offensive Player of the Week — the first time an Aggie has earned the honor in two years.
Following the game, Mond said he gives credit for his success to the teammates he has played with throughout his career.
“It’s such a big mark that I hit, and I just look back and think about all the coaches that I had, all the players that I played with, guys who have helped me get to that point,” Mond said. “I couldn’t thank those guys enough. I plan on continuing to move forward and continue to push these new guys.”
In his second year playing alongside Mond, sophomore tight end Jalen Wydermyer said the honors are a testament to Mond’s growth over the past two years.
“Kellen has grown a lot,” Wydermyer said. “I knew he had it in him to have that performance, and I’m glad he did. We really needed it. He’s a very vocal leader and has so much passion for the game, so I’m so happy to have him as my quarterback.”
Fisher said the entire offense came together to help Mond earn the honors.
“Our receivers were playing well, our running backs were running well, our offensive line was outstanding,” Fisher said. “It’s amazing how when the people around you play well, how your performance goes up. Football is such a team game. One can’t live without the other.”
The success of the offensive line is a testament to the improvement of the offense as a whole, senior center Ryan McCollum said.
“I think it’s just our whole offense clicking together,” McCollum said. “If one of us messes up, the other one picks up the slack, whether it’s the offensive line missing a blitz and a receiver makes a great play or Kellen makes one guy miss and then gets his eyes back downfield and makes the play. I don’t think it’s anything to do with just us up front. I think it’s a whole offense effort.”
Sophomore defensive end DeMarvin Leal said he isn’t surprised with the improvement the offensive line has seen this fall.
“I knew it was coming,” Leal said. “I’ve already known the potential of our offensive line. These guys are monsters. They just proved it. They showed everybody what they were about.”
Though many may be quick to blame the offensive line for the struggles it had last season, Fisher said a lot more goes into the unit’s performance.
“Maybe a receiver runs the wrong route,” Fisher said. “Maybe he went too deep, maybe he didn’t get open in one-on-one coverage and made the quarterback hold it. Maybe the quarterback held it or made a bad read. The obvious to everybody is not the obvious. Sacks don’t always go on the offensive line.”
Along with successes, there have also been plenty of lows for the offense, specifically at wide receiver. After going into the season missing senior Jhamon Ausbon due to opt-out and junior Hezekiah Jones due to injury, the wide receiving corps took another big hit last weekend when sophomore Caleb Chapman went down with a knee injury in the third quarter against Florida.
Fisher announced on Monday, Oct. 12, that Chapman would likely miss the remainder of the season. However, Jones is “close” to being healthy enough to return.
Fisher said that while the situation is unfortunate, there is a silver lining.
“That’s ball. I’ve been in this game long enough, you’re always snake-bit,” Fisher said. “That’s the way it always is. We have great opportunities for young guys to come up. We’ll figure out what we’re going to do and go forward.”
Wydermyer said the offense’s success without its veteran players is a testament to the talent of its youth.
“It shows that our offense is really growing,” Wydermyer said. “Even all the young players that we have, they’re stepping up to the plate, and they’re stepping in where people left off.”
The secret to maintaining that success lies within their mental endurance, Wydermyer said.
“All offense is, is confidence,” Wydermyer said. “You have to have a lot of confidence to play in this league, and once you get that confidence, it’s hard to put it out.”
Despite the success the Aggies have seen on offense thus far, McCollum said there is still a long way for the offensive line to grow.
“We don’t really look at the sacks because Kellen still got hit,” McCollum said. “That’s not okay with us. [The] perfect game for us is he never gets touched, and we run the ball as much as we can. There’s still a lot of room to grow because he’s getting hit too much.”