Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, who gives some words of wisdom to quarterback Kellen Mond (11), has the Aggies on the rise with their second big win in a row. [Laura McKenzie / Bryan-College Station Eagle]

Football

Our 12th annual preseason Top 25: No. 14 Texas A&M, Mond still trying to figure out how to put it all together

Kellen Mond is back for a final season, and with big goals to go.

Posted July 12th, 2020

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The 2020 college football season is two months away. Right? As it approaches with question marks, our 12th annual countdown series of our preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff, breaks down who we think are the top teams in the country.

Last year’s eventual College Football Playoff semifinalists ranked first, fourth, fifth and sixth in our 2019 poll.

No. 14 Texas A&M

The Aggies went 8-5 in Jimbo Fisher’s second season, a lukewarm outcome given that A&M was picked to finish third in the SEC West behind Alabama and LSU but ended up fourth. And the 50-7 loss at LSU in the regular-season finale was, in a word, humbling. But the Aggies rebounded a month later with a come-from-behind win in the bowl game. Senior quarterback Kellen Mond has NFL aspirations, but he’ll really have to ascend to make that a reality. He ranked second in the SEC in total offense, but he lacked consistency and his overall numbers dropped from 2018. Running back Isaiah Spiller came up 54 yards short of a 1,000-yard season. The defense was good last season, but must replace playmaking tackle Justin Madubuike, now in the NFL. The Aggies must go to Alabama and Auburn but get LSU at home.

Texas A&M was ranked 12th in our preseason poll last year.

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About the Aggies

2019: 8-5, 4-4 in the SEC; beat Oklahoma State 24-21 in the Texas Bowl

Coach: Jimbo Fisher (100-32 overall, 17-9 in two years at A&M)

Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense

Shoes to fill: DL Justin Madubuike (led team in sacks); WR Quartney Davis; WR Kendrick Rogers; P Braden Mann (2018 Ray Guy winner)

 

Catching up

It’s been a news-filled summer. The nationwide protests reached College Station, too. Several Black players, including seniors Mond and Jhamon Ausbon, actively marched as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. A number of A&M athletes are calling for the removal of the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross in front of the Academic Building; Ross, a former Texas governor and university president, also was a Confederate general. A petition has grown to more than 24,000 signatures. … And this past week A&M was placed on one year’s probation for recruiting violations and breaking athletic-related activity rules. … New staff hires:  T.J. Rushing comes in from Florida State to replace secondary coach Maurice Linguist, now with the Dallas Cowboys. Tyler Santucci was hired from Wake Forest to coach the linebackers. The former Aggie graduate assistant replaces Bradley Dale Peveto. Tommie Robinson comes over from LSU to coach the running backs. He replaces Jay Graham, who left for Tennessee. And James Coley comes from Georgia to coach tight ends. He replaces Joe Jon Finley, who left for a job with Ole Miss.

 

Texas A&M wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon led the Aggies in receiving last year. He should be quarterback Kellen Mond’s top target downfield this season. (John Glaser/USA Today)

Returning leaders

Passing: Kellen Mond (led team), 258-419-2,897 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INTs; Zach Calzada (2nd), 12-24-133 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Rushing: Isaiah Spiller (led team), 174-946-10; QB Kellen Mond (2nd), 126-501-8

Receiving: Jhamon Ausbon (led team), 66-872-5; TE Jalen Wydermer (3rd), 32-447-6

Tackles: LB Buddy Johnson (led team), 77; LB Anthony Hines III (T-2nd), 73; DB Demani Richardson (3rd), 71

Sacks: DL Tyree Johnson (2nd), 4

Interceptions: DB Myles Jones (tied for team lead), 2

 

Returning all-conference

Offense: None

Defense: None

 

FYI

Keep Mond clean: Mond is a really good scrambler, but Aggies quarterbacks have still been sacked 69 times over the last two seasons. Four starters are back up front, including sophomore Kenyon Green, who may move from the interior to left tackle. Expect good competition at center between Ryan McCollum (back from an injury-plagued 2019) and sophomore Luke Matthews, the latest product off the first family of A&M offensive lineman.

It’s Ausbon’s time: With Davis and Rogers in the pros, Jhamon Ausbon will take on much bigger responsibility at wideout, but the man who led the team with six catches of 30 yards or more will need help. Senior Camron Buckley has played the background his entire career. This is his chance. Keep an eye on sophomores Dylan Wright and Caleb Chapman.

Sacks needed: The Aggies had only 25 sacks during the regular season, which ranked ninth in the SEC. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko wants more athleticism on the edge so he is moving sophomore Demarvin Leal from tackle to end. Look for newcomers Donell Harris and Fadil Diggs to compete for time as well.


2019 national stat rankings

Where A&M ranked nationally in various statistical categories last season — and how the Aggies ranked in 2018.

Scoring: 62nd (2018 — 19th)

Scoring defense: T-36th (47th)

Total offense: 72nd (15th)

Total defense: 29th (32nd)

Passing: 64th (44th)

Pass defense: 41st (98th)

Rushing: 68th (21st)

Rush defense: 30th (3rd)

Red zone offense: 41st (60th)

Red zone defense: 67th (15th)

Turnover margin: T-100th (110th)

Time of possession: 11th (3rd)

 

Our Top 25 — so far

No. 25: Boise State figures to keep its perch atop the Mountain West

No. 24: Might this pandemic lead to not one, but two Iowa State-Iowa games?Inside the Cyclones

No. 23: Will Kirk Ferentz emerge from Iowa’s summer of discontent unscathed? / Inside the Hawkeyes

No. 22: Cincinnati’s picking up recruiting in 2020 where it left off in 2019 / Inside the Bearcats

No. 21: Former Gamecocks quarterback hopes to take over at Utah / Inside the Utes

No. 20: Central Florida, Darrell Wyatt are reloading with receivers / Inside the Knights

No. 19: Recruits are raving about Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck / Inside the Gophers

No. 18: A Q&A with North Carolina coach Mack Brown / Inside the Tar Heels

No. 17: Jim Harbaugh is fighting for Michigan, college football / Inside the Wolverines

No. 16: Oklahoma State’s Hubbard finds his voice / Inside the Cowboys

No. 15: USC is Zooming its way up the recruiting rankings / Inside the Trojans

No. 14: Texas A&M Aggies

 

Coming tomorrow

Our No. 13 team. Want a hint?

This perennial Big Ten contender also ranked No. 5 on BestCollege.com’s 2019 list of the best party schools — three spots ahead of Texas.

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