The 50 most important college players in Texas in 2017 — No. 5: The Texas A&M QB
AS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON EDGES CLOSER, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MOST PIVOTAL PLAYERS FOR EACH PROGRAM'S RESPECTIVE SUCCESS.
The importance of a player is not always defined by their skill level. The most important player on a team or in a unit is not always the best player on a team. This list is designed to breakdown the 50 most important players in Texas college football for the 2017 season. It is not a ranking of the 50 best college football players in the state. Importance can be defined by position, need, skill or leadership. We’ll count down the list through the summer, all the way to No. 1.
50 – Lamar DE Daniel Crosley / 49 – TCU WR KaVontae Turpin / 48 – UTEP QB Ryan Metz
47 – UMHB RB Markeith Miller / 46 – Sam Houston State DE PJ Hall / 45 – Baylor WR Blake Lynch
44 – Texas Tech WR Jonathan Giles (transferred) / 43 – Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
42 – PVAMU WR Joshua Simmons / 41 – Rice RB Samuel Stewart / 40 – UNT WR Jalen Guyton
39 – Texas RB Chris Warren / 38 – Rice OL Trey Martin / 37 – Texas A&M Commerce QB Luis Perez
36 – Baylor DL K.J. Smith / 35 – Texas State LB Gabe Loyd / 34 – Texas State WR Thurman Morbley
33 – Houston DB Khalil Williams / 32 – Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks / 31 – SFA DL John Franklin
30 – SMU DE Justin Lawler / 29 – Texas State QB Damian Williams / 28 – ACU QB Dallas Sealey
27 – UTSA QB Dalton Sturm / 26 – Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams / 25 – UTSA WR Josh Stewart
24 – TCU LB Travin Howard / 23 – Texas Tech OL Travis Bruffy / 22 – Rice LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
21 – UNT DT Bryce English / 20 – TCU LB Ty Summers / 19 – UTEP LB Alvin Jones
18 – The Baylor QB / 17 – UTSA LB Josiah Tauaefa / 16 – Texas A&M OL Koda Martin
15 – Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek / 14 – Texas LB Malik Jefferson / 13 – TexasA&M WR Christian Kirk
12 – Houston QB Kyle Allen / 11 – SMU WR Courtland Sutton / 10 – SHSU QB Jeremiah Briscoe
9 – Texas QB Shane Buechele / 8 – UTEP OL Will Hernandez / 7 – Baylor RB Terence Williams
6 – UNT QB Mason Fine
Since Johnny Manziel left the Texas A&M program and entered the NFL Draft following the 2013 season, Texas A&M has struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position. Kenny Hill and Kyle Allen showed potential at times in 2014, but Hill transferred at the end of that season after being benched in favor of Allen. Then Allen and five-star recruit Kylar Murray split time in 2015 before both announced their decision to transfer within a week of each other that December. Trevor Knight was solid as a short-term option last season, but the Aggies were forced to go with Jake Hubenak late in the year when Knight suffered a shoulder injury.
In other words, the Aggies have had a lot of turnover at quarterback under Kevin Sumlin. The team will have a new starter under center again this season with Hubenak, freshman Kellen Mond and redshirt freshman Nick Starkel competing throughout the spring and into the fall for that job.
Hubenak is the only one of the group to have started a game in his career and he enters the competition with the most experience having started three games over the last two seasons. Hubenak threw for 884 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions last season. Mond was one of the top quarterbacks in the class of 2017 and was a four-star recruit out of the IMG Academy. As a senior, Mond accounted for 2,711 total yards and 38 touchdowns. Starkel spent last season as a redshirt at A&M and signed with the Aggies in the class of 2016 after throwing for 3,091 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior at Liberty Christian High School.
The three quarterbacks bring vastly different skillsets to the table for Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. If the team wants to play it safe, Hubenak brings experience and leadership to the table. He has spent two years in the system and is the only quarterback on the roster that has the benefit of competing against an SEC defense. While he struggles throwing the ball down the field, he can execute the short throws well, letting playmakers – namely Christian Kirk – do the rest.
Starkel may be the least talked about guy in the competition after redshirting last season, but he played well enough in the spring game to stay in the conversation heading into August. He has a lot of command in the pocket and can make the downfield throws that Hubenak struggles with.
Mond appears to have the biggest upside of the three and certainly brings the most excitement to the table as far as his offensive skillset. He’s a dynamic dual-threat option in the backfield and is extremely familiar with the run-pass option type offense that Knight succeeded with under Mazzone last season. He may provide the most seamless transition from Knight and give the Aggies something to look forward to over the next few years if he lives up to the hype behind his recruitment.
The stakes of the quarterback competition in College Station intensified when Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward all but put Kevin Sumlin directly on the hot seat back in May by saying Sumlin has to win this year. The Aggies don’t have their most talented roster this season, but there are a lot of high-upside players on the offensive side of the ball that can make some noise. The quarterback competition will go a long way towards deciding the success of the team this year as well as potentially determining the future of the team’s head coach, cementing it as one of the most important positions in the state in 2017.
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Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.