By Jack Holmes, KPRC Contributor
No. 12 Texas A&M University hosts Texas State at Kyle Field on Thursday night to open their 2019 season. It will mark the start of Jimbo Fisher's second season in Aggieland.
Here are five things to look out for during the game on Thursday night:
1. JAKE SPAVITAL REUTRNS TO KYLE FIELD
The Bobcats' first-year head coach returns to College Station for the first time since being a part of Kevin Sumlin's coaching staff. Spavital was a co-offensive coordinator and quarterback's coach in 2013 before taking over play calling duties from 2014-2015.
"It's actually going to be a surreal moment for me because Texas A&M was the place where I got my first opportunity to call plays," Spavital said. "I was a young coach, and I learned a lot and grew up a lot … As a coach, you enjoy the setting beforehand then when the ball gets kicked off you get back into playing and get focused on the task at hand."
Spavital said he told his players that Kyle Field will be the loudest stadium they will ever play in and urged them not to get distracted by all of the tradition that surrounds football in Aggieland. He is excited for his new team to get some exposure on national TV (no matter how one-sided the final score might be.)
2. KELLEN MOND BEGINS HIS SECOND SEASON UNDER FISHER
Ironically, Fisher will be starting a quarterback that Spavital himself recruited and offered during his time at Texas A&M. Mond threw for 3,107 yards and 24 touchdowns in his first season with Fisher, leading the Aggies to nine wins, including a lopsided victory over NC State in the Gator Bowl.
His head coach said he has seen a change in Mond since he arrived in Aggieland.
"I think he's really become a student of the game," Fisher said. "I think where he's understanding is how a quarterback has to prepare, and the amount of decisions and knowledge which he has to have to make those decisions."
Fisher added that Mond has really gained the love and respect from his teammates that any quarterback needs. Junior wide receiver Camron Buckley agreed with his head coach's statement.
"Kellen has stepped up a lot since last year," Buckley said. "He wasn't that vocal last year. We were all still behind him, but this year we all had a team meeting and he stepped up and let them know that this year it's going to be different."
Mond said that he has seen a lot of improvement in the offense over the course of the offseason, and he has confidence in all of his teammates.
"I feel like with more knowledge of the game I'll just be more accurate," Mond said. "That comes with being more decisive and confident in my throws. Sometimes I was a little up and down that year, but I feel with more film study and more knowledge of the offense, which I feel like I've improved in greatly, just comes with more accuracy."
We will see how that knowledge transfers against a solid, but not great, Texas State defense on Thursday night.
3. TEXAS STATE WILL LEAN ON THEIR DEFENSE
Playing in the Sun Belt Conference, the Bobcats had the 55th ranked defense in the nation last season and were 38th against the pass. They are returning several veteran players that Spavital knows will be key to any success that his team has this season.
"[We] have a lot of sixth year seniors, fifth year seniors and fourth year seniors," Spavital said. "It's a pretty unique group that have been together and been through a lot. Some of them have been through three head coaching changes, four defensive coordinators and some have had five position coaches.
"It shows you the resiliency of that group. They stay tight and they stay together throughout all the transition in college football. It's the side of the football that we're going to lean on."
Again, they play in the Sun Belt Conference, but it will not be a complete cakewalk for Mond and the offense.
4. IT IS A CHANCE FOR SOMEONE TO EMERGE AT RUNNING BACK NO. 2
Fisher has made it clear that running back Jashaun Corbin, who ran for 346 yards and one touchdown in his freshman season, is the No. 1 running back heading into 2019. The sophomore has big shoes to fill after SEC-leading rusher Trayveon Williams was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, behind Corbin it will likely be a revolving door to start the season.
"There's different roles for what we ask them to do based on different packages," Fisher said. "[We're] trying to take young guys and utilize their individual talents and what they might be … There are certain things that they do better than each other, and so those things will be featured."
The running back position group is young, having only freshmen and sophomores on the roster. Others on the depth chart include sophomores Jacob Kibodi and Cordarrian Richardson, redshirt freshman Deneric Prince and true freshman Isaiah Spiller.
"I see myself as a feature guy, but I'll definitely have guys behind me who are capable of doing the same things that I can do," Corbin said. "From Isaiah to Cordarrian and Kibodi, everybody's very talented. We have a good group of guys."
The running-back-by-committee style may remain in place for the rest of the season, but Week 1 is as good a time as any for a player to show the coaching staff what he can do.
5. MYLES JONES WILL START IN PLACE OF DEBIONE RENFRO
The junior was left off the depth chart to start the season and will miss at least the first game due to a violation of team rules, Fisher said. Renfro has started 11 games in each of the last two seasons for the Aggies and was expected to contribute once again this season.
Jones will start in his place on Thursday night. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound junior has recorded 53 tackles, 17 passes defended and one interception in his first two years at A&M. Though Renfro will likely start when he returns from his suspension, it will be a chance for Jones to stake his claim to a starting position past week one of the season.