The expectations are back in College Station for Jimbo Fisher’s second season.
The Aggies were ranked ninth in the preseason Amway Coaches’ Poll, their first time in the top 25 since 2014 and highest preseason ranking since Johnny Manziel’s sophomore season in 2013.
Manziel is long gone, but the Aggies again have an exciting, mobile quarterback with previous success against Alabama; junior quarterback Kellen Mond has 21 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns against the Crimson Tide over the last two years.
Where Fisher expects the most improvement from Mond, though, is in expanding his post-snap processing beyond basic reads and decisions.
“You take Algebra 1. Algebra doesn’t change, but Algebra 2 gets more complicated,” Fisher said at SEC Media Days. “You just keep adding more to the formula as you go.”
Having two 6-foot-2 receivers who exceed 200 pounds is like cheating off the smart kid in algebra class, but that’s exactly what Mond has in juniors Jhamon Ausbon and Quartney Davis.
Mond is also the team’s leading returning rusher after 1,700-yard rusher Trayveon Williams graduated. Sophomore Jashaun Corbin now leads the running game behind a physical and experienced offensive line.
Stopping the run, though, will be a different story. The Aggies must replace nearly their entire front six having lost the top six tacklers from a defense that ranked No. 2 in rush defense last year.
On the other hand, Texas A&M has three starters returning from a secondary that ranked last in the SEC in pass defense.
Piecing together the defense will be a challenge for second-year defensive coordinator Mike Elko, but the team does have four freshmen who were top-100 players in their class, according to the 247Sports Composite.
When asked about Elko receiving interest as a potential head coach candidate, Fisher affirmed his confidence that the program can live up to the suddenly lofty expectations.
“I don’t think the task to keep him on board is that tough,” Fisher said, “because I think you look at A&M and what we have and what we’re building and the players we have coming, and he knows what the future of this program is going to be.”
2018 record: 9-4 (5-3 SEC/finished T-2nd in SEC West)
All-time SEC championships: 0
All-time bowl appearances: 40 (18-22)
Aug. 30 Northwestern State W 59-7
Sept. 8 Clemson L 28-26
Sept. 15 Louisiana-Monroe W 48-10
Sept. 22 at Alabama L 45-23
Sept. 29 Arkansas* W 24-17
Oct. 6 Kentucky W 20-14 (OT)
Oct. 13 at South Carolina W 26-23
Oct. 27 at Mississippi State L 28-13
Nov. 3 at Auburn L 28-24
Nov. 10 Ole Miss W 38-24
Nov. 17 UAB W 41-20
Nov. 24 LSU W 74-72 (2OT)
Dec. 31 NC State^ W 52-13
^TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Starters returning: 12 Offense: 6 Defense: 4 Specialty: 2
Starters lost: 12 Offense: 5 Defense: 7 Specialty: 0
Returning offensive starters: Jhamon Ausbon (WR, Jr.), Quartney Davis (WR, Jr.), Dan Moore Jr. (OT, Jr.), Ryan McCollum (OG, Jr.), Carson Green (OT, Jr.), Kellen Mond (QB, Jr.)
Returning defensive starters: Justin Madubuike (DL, Jr.), Debione Renfro (CB, Jr.), Charles Oliver (CB, Sr.), Derrick Tucker (S, Jr.)
Returning statistical leaders
Rushing Att Yards Avg TD
Kellen Mond 149 474 3.2 7
Passing Att Yards Avg TD
Kellen Mond 415 3107 7.5 24
Receiving Att Yards Avg TD
Quartney Davis 45 585 13.0 7
Tackles Total Int Sack TFL
Justin Madubuike 40 0 5.5 10.5
Aug. 29 Texas State
Sept. 7 at Clemson
Sept. 14 Lamar
Sept. 21 Auburn
Sept. 28 Arkansas*
Oct. 12 Alabama
Oct. 19 at Ole Miss
Oct. 26 Mississippi State
Nov. 2 UTSA
Nov. 16 South Carolina
Nov. 23 at Georgia
Nov. 30 at LSU