Consider this football demographic: There’s not a receiver on scholarship at Texas A&M older than a sophomore.
The receivers weren’t much of a factor last fall. Christian Kirk, in his final season, was the proven all-star. The rest were meager and green role players as A&M struggled to find consistency with its quarterback.
But in the Aggies’ near-upset of Clemson last Saturday, the receivers had their way with a team that’s typically very stout in its air defense. Although the season is only two games old, A&M’s receivers offered clues that despite their inexperience, they could be an offensive strength.
The Aggies (2-0) play host to Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday at Kyle Field. They shouldn’t need a spirited, Clemson-type effort to beat the Warhawks. However, it’s another chance to work on patterns and timing as A&M prepares for its Sept. 22 road date against top-ranked Alabama.
It’ll be difficult to forget last Saturday. Quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 430 yards, the most allowed by the Tigers since Jameis Winston had 444 in Florida State’s 51-14 win in 2013. And all the A&M receivers made at least one significant play.
Lanky Kendrick Rogers, the redshirt sophomore who is 2 inches taller than his listed height of 6 feet 3, caught seven passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. His final score pulled A&M to within a two-point conversion of tying the game.
He also had a catch that is guaranteed to make the season highlight reel. Mond scrambled to his left and heaved the ball toward Rogers, who jumped for it. A Clemson defensive back hit Rogers at thigh level, and the receiver nearly did a back bend to secure the catch. He bounced up and tried to run for more yards.
Sophomore Camron Buckley caught four passes for 93 yards. Sophomore Quartney Davis had his first two career catches. One was a 23-yard touchdown. The other ended in a controversial call. Davis was diving for the end zone but fumbled as he was trying to score. Officials ruled the fumble rolled out of the end zone for a touchback and gave the ball back to Clemson.
And sophomore Jhamon Ausbon, who was attracting most of the Tigers’ attention, responded with three catches for 61 yards.
The aerial show prompted ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, its lead college analyst, to post on Twitter: “put me down as a huge fan of Kellen Mond in Jimbo Fishers offense. Man, he (and his young WR’s) are gonna be tough to stop in this scheme.”
Rogers is the recruiting gem. He wasn’t even a top-100 prospect in the state when he was starring for Frankston, a small town near Tyler. He considered SMU, Houston, North Texas and Memphis before signing with A&M.
He wears No. 13 in homage to Odell Beckham Jr. and former A&M standout Mike Evans. Until Clemson, there wasn’t much talk that Rogers would be expected to live up to the number.
But in practice, he’d been impressing with his leaping ability.
“That’s something he’s been doing since I got here,” Mond said. “A lot of people start seeing it now, but it’s something I saw in spring ball when I first got here. His performance really wasn’t a surprise for any of us.”
Fisher also appreciates Rogers’ downfield blocking. Clemson curbed A&M’s running game, but in the season opener, the Aggies rushed for 503 yards.
Ausbon was expected to be the best among the receiving group. He earned a starting job last season as a freshman. And he’s also Mond’s roommate. The two were teammates at the IMG Academy in Florida when they were in high school.
“He sets the tone for those guys,” Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher said of Ausbon during his weekly radio show. “He’s really brought those guys along, and they’ve listened. They’re doing a tremendous job.”
Part of the growing process in football is leaving games, no matter the results, in the past. Running and knowing when to throw a block will become as familiar as a favorite pair of shoes.
“It was a great game, but I have to move on … and get ready for what’s coming up next,” Rogers said. “I’ve known I can do it. I just had to show other people I could do it.”
Louisiana-Monroe at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m., SEC, 1370