When No. 12 Texas A&M hosts Texas State on Thursday night, it will be the first time the teams have met since 2005.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher will begin his second season in Aggieland with an offense that has one year of experience under his direction. Led by quarterback Kellen Mond and running back Trayveon Williams in 2018, the Aggies ranked sixth in the SEC in scoring last season, fifth in passing yards and third in rushing.
The Bobcats, who play in the Sun Belt Conference, had a defense that ranked 55th in the nation last year and are returning several experienced players. They will allow A&M’s offense to test what they have installed over the last month in camp.
“Some of them have been through three head coaching changes, four defensive coordinators and five position coaches,” Texas State head coach and former A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said of his defense. “It shows you the resiliency of that group. They stay tight and they stay together throughout all the transition in college football. ”
Mond, who was recruited by Spavital during his time in College Station, threw for 3,107 yards and 24 touchdowns last season and returns as the Aggies’ starting quarterback. Fisher said he believes his signal caller has improved since arriving in Aggieland.
“I think he’s really become a student of the game,” Fisher said. “He’s understanding how a quarterback has to prepare, and the amount of decisions and knowledge which he has to have to make those decisions.
“It’s how the other guys feel with you. You’re never the quarterback until your team will go through hell for you.”
Mond said he is confident in all of his teammates and he has seen a lot of improvement in the offense over the offseason. He also said he feels that his play will improve on the field.
“I feel like with more knowledge of the game I’ll just be more accurate,” Mond said. “That comes with being more decisive and confident in my throws.”
The quarterback will have several experienced receivers to target on Thursday at Kyle Field. Quartney Davis, Kendrick Rogers, Jhamon Ausbon and Buckley are all returning for their junior seasons, though Rogers is day-to-day with a lower leg injury.
Davis (585 yards and seven touchdowns) and Rogers (336 yards and five touchdowns) led the way for the Aggie pass catchers last season.
“I feel like we have a lot of depth at receiver,” Buckley said. “A lot of guys have versatility to move around. You don’t know where you’re going to get us from. We move around a lot so you can’t really game plan against us.”
Fisher added that their young receivers, like redshirt freshmen Jalen Preston and Caleb Chapman have played well. He said the fresh faces will do their best to contribute on offense this season as well.
The Aggies’ arsenal did take one big blow in camp. The team was hoping to replace All-American tight end Jace Sternberger, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, with five-star freshman Baylor Cupp, though the youngster will likely miss the season after breaking his leg during fall camp.
“Even though we lost a tight end, he was still a young tight end,” Fisher said. “[Glenn] Beal has been outstanding. [Jalen] Wydermeyer’s been outstanding. [Camron] Horry has really come over and done a good job. I don’t think it will really vary how we call plays in that regard.”
Sophomore running back Jashaun Corbin will take over the No. 1 spot for Williams, as last year’s SEC rushing leader is now with the Cincinnati Bengals. Corbin totaled 346 yards and one touchdown in his freshman season.
“I see myself as a feature guy, but I’ll definitely have guys behind me who are capable of doing the same things that I can do,” Corbin said. “From Isaiah [Spiller] to Cordarrian [Richardson] and [Jacob] Kibodi, everybody’s very talented. We have a good group of guys.”
Both Mond and Corbin will be counting on their offensive line to create movement and provide protection up front. Fisher said he is happy with how his linemen have not only improved physically but mentally, in understanding the scheme better and knowing where their help comes from.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Kyle Field on Thursday, and despite facing some more formidable foes in coming weeks, Fisher said the Aggies are not looking past Texas State.
“We haven’t talked about Clemson one time,” Fisher said. “And we won’t.”