- Quarterback Kellen Mond and the Aggies will have their hands full with one of the nation's toughest schedules this fall.
Our college football 2019 season preview issue is here, which means we're checking in with all 25 teams from SI's official preseason Top 25 ranking. What do you need to know about each of this year's top contenders, from top-ranked Alabama down to Stanford? We'll be rolling out scouting reports for each team over the next two weeks, all of which are being collected here. Next up, it's No. 13 Texas A&M.
THE BIG STORY
Before last season, Texas A&M made a bold investment in Jimbo Fisher, hiring him away from Florida State with a monster $75 million contract. The early returns were promising: The Aggies won nine games for the first time since 2013, beat LSU for the first time in eight years and notched their first bowl game win since '14. A&M has the look of a power in the making.
Fisher showed great success at turning QBs into stars at Florida State, and Kellen Mond could be next. He burst onto the scene last season with the Aggies' near upset of Clemson. He was erratic overall despite putting up impressive numbers: 3,107 passing yards and a 24/9 TD/INT ratio. The dual-threat QB will be given more freedom as a junior, with Quartney Davis as his top target.
The Aggies' run defense, a strength of the team last season, will take a step back this year after losing its top six tacklers (and that doesn't include defensive lineman Daylon Mack, drafted in the fifth round by the Ravens). As many as five underclassmen could be starting for the Aggies in the season opener. The Aggies do have highly touted recruits on the roster—but can they make an immediate impact?
It's rare that specialists are game-changers, but punter Braden Mann is one. In the Aggies' 20–14 OT win over Kentucky last season, for example, Mann notched an 82-yard punt, the school's longest in 74 years—and that was after booming a 65-yarder the same night, another punt that flipped the field in a close game. Mann—who had five punts against Alabama for 304 yards, a 60.8 average—set the FBS season record for punting average at 51.0 yards a boot. Mann passed on the NFL draft; he wants to improve his 38.0% success rate on punts inside the 20-yard line. In a conference where the margins are razor thin, an even better Mann will give the Aggies a distinct advantage.
OVER OR UNDER?
Under 8.5 wins. The Aggies are talented, but the schedule ranks as one of the most treacherous in the country: road games at Clemson, Georgia and LSU, with the latter two closing out the regular season. Oh, and Alabama comes to town as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE
After an underwhelming stretch under Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies are trending the right way with Fisher—who continues to bring in elite talent with top recruiting classes—at the helm.