Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond drew some raised eyebrows with his bold preseason declaration that he is the SEC’s best quarterback. His 7.4 yards per attempt (tied for ninth in the SEC) and four interceptions in five games have done little to quiet the skepticism, but the University of Alabama is paying it no attention.
UA coach Nick Saban remembers well his last trip to College Station, when a freshman Mond completed 65 percent of his passes for 237 yards; the following year, Mond ran for 98 yards against the Crimson Tide. Saban thinks highly of Texas A&M’s quarterback going into Saturday’s game against him.
“Kellen Mond does a really, really good job of executing their offense. He’s very capable of making every throw that he needs to make as well as can make plays with his feet as a runner,” Saban said. “He played really well against us last year, so we have a lot of respect for him as a player. I think that his total understanding of what they’re trying to do has enhanced his performance to some degree.”
Texas A&M punter Braden Mann is one of the best in the country. The 2018 Ray Guy Award winner is second in the country, averaging 48.4 yards per kick.
There is good news, however.
Of Mann’s 20 punts, seven were returned (100 total yards, 14.3 yards per return). Mann’s long punts give return guys like Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle more field to work with and more chances at explosive returns.
“Sometimes when you have a really good punter it creates a good opportunity for you too,” Alabama coach Saban said. “If we get an opportunity we have to take advantage of them.”
Waddle returned two punts for 27 yards each in the Crimson Tide’s last game and is averaging 17 yards per return this season.
“If the opportunity comes you just have to make a play,” Waddle said.
Saban said UA’s lone player considered questionable for the Texas A&M game would be starting center Chris Owens, and the media viewing period of Monday’s practice held up to that assertion.
Owens, dealing with a minor knee injury, had his knee tended to by a trainer before he joined his position group, but did not see any reps in the viewing period. In that same time, Deonte Brown was seen practicing as a right guard next to Jedrick Wills Jr. at right tackle. If that were to be the case against Texas A&M, the presumption is Landon Dickerson would move to center in Owens’ place, as he did against New Mexico State.
Kicker Will Reichard was warming up normally. Saban said this practice would be a significant test for him.
“He hasn’t done anything for a couple of weeks, so today will be the first day where he actually will kick a ball. So we’ll evaluate that,” Saban said. “That will be day-to-day. There is competition at the punting position, but it’s difficult to say right now whether he’ll be capable of punting or what exactly his role can be in this game. Maybe he can kick, maybe he can punt, or maybe he can kick off. I don’t know at this point and we’ll have to evaluate it through the course of the week.”
Nose guard DJ Dale was also a full participant in the media viewing period, after limited reps in the open week. He was the first team nose guard with Raekwon Davis and Byron Young at the end positions; Phidarian Mathis was the second-team nose guard.