It’s March. Texas A&M is still four weeks away from its annual spring game. But there’s a harried sort of pace to prep for an early September date in the Rose Bowl.
There’s a special whirl of activity at the quarterback spot, the most important position on the field, with the Aggies looking for a new guy to direct them by the time their season opens Sept. 2 against UCLA in Pasadena.
In the past week, three quarterbacks — Jake Hubenak, Nick Starkell and Kellen Mond — have taken snaps with the first team to try out for the starting job.
“We’ve got plenty of arms out there,” coach Kevin Sumlin said last week, the day his team opened the first of 15 spring practices.
The arms may be live. The legs are fresh. Chances are, whomever earns the starting job against the Bruins will be playing in his first-ever college game.
Hubenak, the senior-to-be, got the first shot at the starting job. He’s been with A&M for two years, initially beginning his college career as a walk-on at Oklahoma State before transferring to Blinn College, then on to the Aggies. The former Georgetown High School standout has started three games at A&M, with one victory, in his two years in College Station.
He was the emergency starter for the 2015 Music City Bowl after A&M suddenly lost its top two quarterbacks — Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray — to transfer at the end of the regular season. Trevor Knight, who transferred from Oklahoma to the Aggies last January, beat Hubenak last spring for the starting job in 2016. Hubenak started two games late in the season when Knight injured his shoulder.
Aggies safety Armani Watts said this week that Hubenak’s leadership skills have grown as he tries to establish himself as the favorite for the job. Hubenak can run the offense.
However, the fact that Sumlin also is openly auditioning two freshmen surely doesn’t bode well for Hubenak’s cause. It’s why the talk this spring evolves around the two youngsters — Starkel, a redshirt freshman, and Mond, a true freshman — with the highest upside.
Starkel has the big arm. Coaches privately were praising him last fall, when he was manning the scout team. He was a one-time commitment to Oklahoma State but signed with the Aggies when Allen and Murray left a chasm in the quarterback depth chart.
Starkel also is drawing compliments from his teammates.
“You can see it every day that he wants that starting job,” said receiver Christian Kirk. “It’s exciting to see how bad he wants it.”
Then there’s Mond, who had been a pledge to Baylor before the school fired coach Art Briles. Mond played for San Antonio Reagan, then transferred to the IMG Academy in Florida. He was rated as one of the top dual-threat quarterback prospects in the country.
Kirk also likes what he sees from Mond.
“It doesn’t look like anything fazes him,” Kirk said. “He’s always calm. He puts the ball where it needs to be. He’s willing to learn.”
Sumlin typically waits until August to announce his starting quarterback, although he made an exception last year and anointed Knight in April.
Expect the pace to stay frenetic between now and August as the Aggies determine their starter.