Sitting through hours of watching spring football drills, any media member would have thought JUCO transfer tight end Jace Sternberger was in tight ends coach Tim Brewster’s dog house.
There was nary a repetition that was completed without a sharp-tonged critique of the route, catch or overall effort.
With only a slight eye roll that pulled his facemask heavenward, Sternberger would jog back to the beginning of the line — a short line of tight ends albeit — and run the route again.
And again. And again.
Saturday, in front of a school-record 48,129 fans, Aggie coaches presented Sternberger with the award for the most valuable player of spring practice for the grind he underwent through the training camp, an award voted on by coaches, no less.
He wasn’t in the doghouse after all. No, in all actuality, A&M’s coaching staff knows he might be the Aggies’ most important cog on offense.
“He was a real worker,” A&M defensive end Landis Durham said. “I’ve seen him take a lot of reps in practice, and he’s not complaining about anything. You see it paid off today and we’re really going to need it to continue to pay off down the road.”
If it wasn’t for former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s appearance at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sternberger would have completely stolen the show.
The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Community College transfer led all pass-catchers with 147 yards on eight catches. He also reeled in two touchdowns.
Most importantly, he has proven to be exactly what a good tight end should be — a security blanket for a quarterback in key situations.
Six of Stermberger’s eight receptions resulted in first downs. He was targeted three times on third down and caught two of the attempts. He was also Starkel’s final target as time wound down in both the first and second halves.
With two young quarterbacks gunning for the starting position this spring and the loss of top wide out Christian Kirk to the draft, Sternberger might actually be the best guy to replace some of Kirk’s production.
“[He’s] very, very valuable. He’s a playmaker,” A&M quarterback Nick Starkel said of Sternberger. “He’s been making those plays every day, ever since he got here. Coach Brewster’s on him really hard every day because he sees the potential in him. I see the potential in him. I tell him every day, ‘Man, you’re a great tight end. Let’s go be great out there.’”
And, to A&M fan’s delight, it wasn’t just Sternberger that got in quality action Saturday. Iola native Ryan Renick reeled in a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Mond. The score will certainly help fill out his empty, pictureless biography page on the A&M athletics website.
The last time the Aggies had two tight ends score a touchdown in a season was 2015 when Jordan Davis and Caden Smith tallied one apiece. So for those members of the 12th Man who are buying the old-school brand of football Jimbo Fisher is selling, you can expect to see a little more production out of a position that has been a void in A&M’s lineup the last handful of years.
On one A&M message board a week prior to the spring game, a poster offered the suggestion that all of Kyle Field give a standing ovation when a tight end catches his first pass of the game.
Starkel’s 7-yard connection with Sternberger didn’t bring the crowd to its feet, but it definitely created an elongated cheer that drew a few chuckles in the press box.
The gesture wasn’t lost on Starkel, who knows how important the spring MVP will be come fall.
“I figured some people would be pretty pumped up that we’re throwing to the tight ends now,” he said. “I really like it. I love throwing to them.”