Players to Watch in A&M’s Spring Game
1. Nick Starkel – sophomore (RS), quarterback
Nick Starkel started in four games and appeared in six as a redshirt freshman in 2017. He was carted off the field with a broken ankle in the second quarter of Texas A&M’s first game against UCLA. The Aggies would go on to lose, giving up a 34-point lead, and Starkel would not see action again until the last weekend in October against Mississippi State. He regained his starting job for the final four games of the season and threw for 1,414 yards and 11 TD’s in two wins and two losses.
He is expected to keep his starting role in 2018 but Kellen Mond will make it a battle.
Starkel was only a three-star prospect coming out of Liberty Christian in Argyle, Texas. He ran a spread offense in high school that had several similarities to Sumlin’s Air Raid so he’s never played in anything resembling the pro-style system that he’ll be running under Jimbo Fisher.
What Nick Starkel does have, and what makes him special, is incredible poise in the pocket, especially for a redshirt freshman as he showed last season. While he isn’t a big play threat with his legs, he moves well enough to avoid pressure and extend plays. He also does a phenomenal job of keeping his eyes downfield when he’s on the move or forced out of the pocket.
Starkel will have his hands full as he adjusts to the complexities of Fisher’s offense. The new system will require him to take more control of the offense making pre-snap reads and adjustments. He’ll spend plenty of time in shotgun formation but he’ll be under center at times as well, something he hasn’t done much of since before high school.
Fisher has a fantastic track record coaching and developing quarterback’s and Starkel has several qualities and aspects of his game that just can’t be coached. How well he can demonstrate a full grasp of the offense and how quickly he settles in will have a lot to do with A&M’s level of success in Fisher’s first season.
2. Jhamon Ausbon – sophomore, wide receiver
With Christian Kirk declaring for the NFL Draft after three straight seasons with over 900 receiving yards, there are big shoes to fill for whoever steps in as the number one receiver in 2018. The most likely candidate is sophomore Jhamon Ausbon.
Ausbon was the team’s second-leading receiver as a freshman last year. At 6’2″, 220 pounds, he is a physical receiver with great hands and can make plays on the outside as well as in traffic over the middle.
Ausbon also showed good chemistry with Nick Starkel, hauling in 25 passes for 308 yards including two 100-yard games in the final four games of last season with Starkel as A&M’s starter.
Whether he can build on that chemistry and step up as the number one receiver in 2018 is a key part of the team’s offensive success. And it’s imperative for Starkel’s confidence and development given the amount being placed on his shoulders as the starter in the new offense.