You can’t tell much about a team during the first day of spring football practice. All guys look good without pads and no contact, especially when you’re coming off a 9-4 season like Texas A&M.
But it was hard not to notice Wednesday that junior quarterback Kellen Mond looks light years better than he did last year at this time. He also sounds and looks like someone with championship aspirations.
Mond often mentioned leadership when he talked to the media after practice, but he also demonstrated it on the field earlier in the day when he told a slumbering sophomore tight end Glenn Beal to pick up the pace during a drill.
“My leadership role has had to take over this offseason with [running back Trayveon Williams] gone,” Mond said. “So it’s kind of me, [wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon] and [defensive lineman] Justin Madubuike on both sides of the ball to kind of lead and take us where we need to be.”
A year ago Mond couldn’t say that as he competed with Nick Starkel for the starting position, but Starkel is gone. He’ll transfer to Arkansas when he graduates. This is Mond’s team.
Last year Mond had a nice season, throwing for 3,107 yards and 24 touchdowns, adding another 474 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. But he was part of the supporting cast with the Southeastern Conference’s rushing leader Williams, All-America tight end Jace Sternberger and center Erik McCoy. Now with them gone, Mond will have to play a bigger role if A&M is going to have a successful season in 2019.
Mond had a strong offseason, working on his upper body strength. He weighs 215 pounds and hopes to play at about 220. He played at 210 to 211 last season. Mond worked out with quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego during spring break, focusing on fundamentals. Whitfield worked on making Mond stay off his toes “and just being able to help my deep ball on some touch stuff,” Mond said.
Fisher’s wish list for Mond’s improvement includes decision-making, accuracy and getting in and out of checks quicker.
Fisher said leadership for any player comes with consistency, and he sees Mond’s improvement.
“Learning how to prepare, you can see that definitely,” Fisher said. “He feels more comfortable with what we’re doing and is a lot more advanced. In the conversations we’ve had, you can just see it.”
Mond’s larger role as a leader isn’t a sudden change but part of his evolution as a third-year player.
“My focus is the same [as last year], making sure that myself and everybody else is on the same page this year, to get everybody to continue to grow,” Mond said.
That’s a pretty good way to start spring drills.
A&M’s 2019 season opener against Texas State has been moved from Aug. 31 to Aug. 29 for TV. The Thursday night kickoff will be televised nationally by the SEC Network (Suddenlink Ch. 40).
“There’s not many games that night, so you get a lot of attention, TV coverage.” Fisher said.
Fisher said the game probably would have had an early kickoff Saturday, so the move to Thursday night puts A&M in the spotlight.
“Then it allows you two more days preparation, then you go play Clemson [on Sept. 7],” Fisher said.
Texas State has a new head coach in Jake Spavital, who was A&M’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2013-15. Texas State went 3-9 last season, including 1-7 in the 10-team Sun Belt Conference to finish last in the West Division.
The game will be the third meeting between A&M and Texas State. The two played on a Thursday in 2005 at Kyle Field with A&M winning 44-31 in its third game of the season. The game was moved to Thursday because of Hurricane Rita.
The game will mark the third time A&M has opened the season on a Thursday since it joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012. The Aggies won 52-28 at South Carolina in the first game of the 2014 season, and last year A&M beat Northwestern State 59-7.