I spoke with Rush Roberts, a managing editor over at Good Bull Hunting for this Q&A piece. They really are a top-notch site over there, and I can’t recommend enough going to check out their weekly “The Tailgate” feature.
1) Sitting at 3-2, I’m sure most Aggie fans are a little disappointed with A&M’s record when contrasted with the preseason expectations. That said, the two losses were to top-10 teams in Clemson and Auburn. What is the general feeling from fans right now? Is there hand-wringing going on, or are you guys more on the optimistic side?
We’re in a weird place right now. No one really treats the Alabama game as make-or-break for the season, so that takes a little of the pressure off, but by the same token, heading down the back stretch of the season at 3-3 is not a very appealing prospect. If Jimbo takes care of business against the teams he’s supposed to beat and manages to steal another win somewhere, people will generally be happy. If the team continues to look sloppy and inconsistent, that could change. The hands aren’t wringing yet, but they’re almost touching at this point.
2) It’s now Kellen Mond’s third year, so it’s no longer an experiment. The numbers suggest he’s significantly improved this season (particularly in completion percentage), but his performance in the Clemson game definitely left a lot to be desired. Do you feel that, as a junior, Mond has what it takes to be a top QB in the SEC? Or is he just going to be a stop gap until the next QB?
Heading into this season, most Aggies believed he was poised for a breakout year. That hasn’t been the case yet. He’s played well at times, but his improvement over last year so far hasn’t matched expectations. Mond is clearly Jimbo’s guy and has his complete faith and trust, so most of us are just hoping the patience pays off at this point.
3) What’s the state of your running game? Everyone knew Trayveon Williams (it felt like he led the SEC in rushing for like 5 straight years), but most of us outside of your fanbase don’t even know who your running backs are.
Many of us inside the fanbase were in a similar boat when our starting RB, the explosive Jashaun Corbin, went down for the season with a hamstring injury against Clemson. Since then, the bulk of the carries have been split between sophomore Jacob Kibodi and true freshman Isaiah Spiller. Kibodi is more of an every-down back. Spiller is a bigger back with surprising quickness, but he’s been plagued with the fumble bug. Neither has really been able to have a breakout performance yet against quality competition.The offensive line push so far against SEC competition has been fairly anemic, so we’re not counting on a breakout run game this weekend.
4) Who is the best player in each of your defensive position groups (defensive line, linebackers, secondary), and what can you tell us about each of them?
DL: Justin Madubuike is coming off a great sophomore season in 2018 and hasn’t let up so far this year. He had his first interception against Arkansas, and as Alabama fans know, watching a 300-lb guy returning a pick is a delight to watch (unfortunately he didn’t score).
LB: Buddy Johnson is by far the most experienced linebacker. He’s played well against the top competition this year.
DB: Sophomore safety Leon O’Neal is the heart and soul of the secondary. He stepped into the starting role late last season and many think he can be another Donovan Wilson-type guy who can cause problems all over the field.
5) Are there any freshmen having a real breakout year, or at least poised to do so?
Wide receiver Ainias Smith has come on strong over the past few games and is second on the team in touchdown catches. Jalen Wydermyer is a huge target at tight and and has also made some key contributions so far. Demani Richardson has stepped into the starting strong safety role and has picked up the system like a veteran.
6) What are some other more unknown players that you think could make a big play or two against Alabama?
I could see Roshauud Paul make a big return in the kicking game.
7) What’s your prediction for the game?
Pain. But not too much. Something like 35-20, but it feels like more of a blowout than it is.
8) Finally, what’s your predictions for Texas A&M’s final record for the season?
I would love to say 8-4, but it might be more like 7-5. Belk Bowl, if you’re reading this, remember how much fun we had last time.
Again, thanks to Rush for taking the time to talk to us, and go check out their site for some quality #content as well.