Mond gets opening nod; question is who will start vs. Bama

August 28, 2018

Kellen Mond will start Texas A&M’s season opener against Northwestern State on Thursday. That answered one question, but bigger ones remain. Does Mond or Nick Starkel take the first snap against Clemson and who will be the team’s starting quarterback on Sept. 22 against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference opener?

Comments by the quarterbacks and coach Jimbo Fisher at Thursday’s press conference indicated both signal-callers would play against Northwestern State and also against second-ranked Clemson. All parties didn’t blink at the notion competition between the quarterbacks could last well into the season.

Then news broke Monday that Mond would take the season’s first snap, fueling speculation he’d separated himself from Starkel. But has he? Maybe. You can make the case he’s certainly more mobile than Starkel, proving that last season in victories over Arkansas, South Carolina and Florida. If the young offensive line needs a quarterback who can buy an extra second or two in the pocket, then Mond’s the guy, especially against Clemson and Alabama. Clemson sacked Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham 11 times in last season’s 14-6 victory. A&M knows firsthand how much of an advantage it is to have a mobile quarterback playing in Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. Johnny Manziel led the Aggies to victory in 2012, but in the last two games there A&M quarterbacks have been sacked 11 times and thrown two interceptions.

Of course, Mond would have to be more than mobile to win the job. Fisher at Thursday’s press conference twice said Mond completed 80 percent of his passes in a recent practice. Fisher also gushed about Mond’s progress. Now, the first-year coach has done the same when asked about Starkel, who has the big-time arm and is a good fit for Fisher’s pro-style offense. But for tea-leaf readers, if you add up that Mond is taking the season’s first snap, his play has progressed from spring to summer to fall camp, and top it off with that 80-percent completion day, well, Mond has to be the starter.

There’s more. Players seemingly make their greatest jump in the second year. Both are in their second season playing games, but Starkel benefitted from an extra year in the program, yet hasn’t separated himself. Mond played as true freshman while Starkel redshirted. Starkel beat out Mond last year to go into the season as the starter, but Mond had done enough to earn playing time from the get-go.

Things got better for Mond when Starkel was injured in the season opener against UCLA, paving the way for him to make eight straight starts, going 5-3. Mond struggled in losses to Mississippi State and Auburn, but so did most of the team. Starkel started the last four games, torching bad, bad New Mexico and an average Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl to go 2-3 as a starter. If they are truly even in camp, doesn’t Mond have more of an upside?

It sounds logical, but the number one fact remains Fisher has split the quarterbacks’ time with the first unit during fall camp right down the middle. Could it be that Mond starts against Northwestern State, then Starkel starts against Clemson? Maybe we need to stop reading tea leaves, it can be habit forming. Let’s just stick with the facts.

Mond will take the first snap Thursday. I’m more interested in who jogs out with the first unit in Tuscaloosa.

• Robert Cessna’s email address is robert.cessna@theeagle.com.

Update hourly