10 takeaways from Texas A&M's media availability before hosting Lamar

Kellen Mond warms up before a football game against the Texas State Bobcats at Kyle Field on August 29, 2019, in College Station, Texas.

No. 16 Texas A&M will look to bounce back against Lamar at Kyle Field on Saturday night after falling to No. 1 Clemson 24-10 this weekend.

The Aggies’ offense struggled throughout the game against the Tigers and will look to fix those mistakes as they prepare for the Cardinals this week. The maroon and white were also hit with some big injury news on Monday.

Here are 10 takeaways from the Aggies’ media availability on Monday afternoon:

1. Jashaun Corbin is out for the season.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher announced that the Aggies’ starting running back will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. Corbin went down early in the second half against Clemson after catching a pass out of the backfield. The sophomore was tackled by safety Tanner Muse and landed awkwardly. To make things worse, 295-pound defensive tackle Tyler Davis landed on top of the sophomore at the end of the play.

“It’s a huge blow,” quarterback Kellen Mond said. “Just seeing how hard he’s worked, to see him go out like that with a hamstring injury is kind of devastating. But the next man has to step up, and I know Isaiah (Spiller) and some of those guys behind him are ready.”

It is a disappointing loss for A&M’s offense, as they had hoped Corbin could replace last year’s SEC-leading rusher Trayveon Williams.

2. Fisher believes Isaiah Spiller and Jacob Kibodi are capable of replacing Corbin.

Fisher made it clear that he is confident in the players they have behind Corbin on the depth chart.

“We’re just keeping the same rotation,” Fisher said. “Kibodi will be back this week. We’ve got Spiller in that group. We’ve got Cordarrian Richardson, and we’ve got Prince. We’ve got four really good players.”

The Aggies will still keep a two- or three-man rotation, now focusing around freshman Spiller and junior Kibodi. Fisher said that Spiller will be the starter right now.

“(Spiller) has played pretty well,” Fisher said of the freshman’s ability to run, catch passes and pass block. “He has all those skillsets. So does Kibodi ... All of our backs all have really good hands ... Obviously, Jashaun was doing it at a higher level and more consistently because he was the starter and he’d been there, but those guys are very capable and can do that very well.”

Spiller has shown flashes of his ability already this season, including an 86-yard run against Texas State in the season opener. 

“He came in as a guy that a lot of people didn’t really know exactly if he knew his role,” Mond said. “If he was going to be a scout team type person. But he’s constantly just been quiet and put in his work, and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.”

Although Kibodi’s time on the field has been limited so far, he has averaged 10.5 yards per rush and is well-respected in the locker room. Fisher said that the junior, who missed last week’s game with a minor injury, had a good camp and that this is a good opportunity for him.

“He’s always a guy that’s been consistent but always waited his turn,” Mond said. “I know he’s a talented guy, and we’re going to depend on him with Jashaun going down.”

Mond added that Kibodi will continue to provide a veteran voice in a young running back group.

“We have a lot of young guys, true freshmen,” Mond said. “I definitely think he’s going to be someone who’s going to step up vocally and on the field.”

3. Quarterback Kellen Mond held himself accountable for Saturday’s performance.

His play was not the only reason the Aggies struggled against Clemson, but it was one of the big reasons. Mond did not shy away from that.

“On the second play, I knew right after the play that I missed a touchdown or a big gain to [Camron Buckley], and then a drag route that I missed to Kendrick [Rogers],” Mond said. “There were just some passes that I wish I could have had back. As a whole, I feel like that led to receivers dropping stuff and some miscommunication between the backs. It just kind of went all downhill.”

Mond ended the game with 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception, completing 24 of his 42 passes (57 percent). It was his first-half play that really dragged him down, where he continually overthrew receivers and completed just five of his 14 passes for 51 yards.

“Just kind of the way that I started, I knew it wasn’t good enough,” Mond said. “Obviously, you don’t get things back, but that’s one of those things. I need to get off to a better start.”
The Aggies did manage to move the ball at times on Saturday. They had three drives that lasted more than five minutes. The first ended in a field goal, the second in an interception and the final one brought the first Aggie touchdown with six seconds remaining in the game.

Fisher admitted that his offense may have entered the game with the wrong mentality.

“Sometimes you go in, and all you’re focusing on is winning,” he said. “You shouldn’t be. You should go in focusing on playing well. When you play well, you win. That’s part of the growing experience, which hopefully we can learn from this. If we do, then we can progress, and we have plenty more opportunities as the year goes on.”

Either way, Fisher is definitely proud of the person Mond is.

“He takes accountability for everything,” Fisher said. “That guy is the hardest worker. The first guy on the field, the last guy off ... He’s a high quality, character young man that is so fun to coach and be around ... He’ll have success because he’ll work until he does it. He’s very talented.”

4. Texas A&M’s secondary has had a strong start to the season.

The only reason that the Aggies did not get blown out on Saturday afternoon was because of their defense. The front seven did well to hold Travis Etienne to just 53 yards, and the much-improved secondary held Trevor Lawrence to 268 yards, and one touchdown, and forced an interception.

“Those guys, I’ve seen them step up,” linebacker Anthony Hines said. “After last year, there was a lot of criticism towards those guys, and I’ve seen them take that and have a chip on their shoulder. They’ve attacked it every day, and they’ve improved leaps and bounds since then.”

Cornerbacks Myles Jones and Roney Elam stood out on the field. Jones, who was starting in place of the suspended Debione Renfro, was batting passes down all day, while Elam intercepted his second pass in as many games this season.

“I think they made some really nice plays,” Fisher said. “I think they are getting better and better each week in coverages, knowing where their help is, knowing each other and knowing how to play the coverage in different situations. They’ve played very well and played the ball for the most part very well.”

Even with A&M’s offense struggling, Elam said that there was never any finger-pointing, especially because the defense missed a couple of assignments.

“We should have kept them to under 10 points if we had done everything right,” he said.

5. Speaking of Elam, he is having a great start to his fourth year in Aggieland.

The senior cornerback is finally getting a chance to prove himself in a starting role. Fisher said he believes that a player like Elam is rare in college football these days. 

“That’s the thing about it, you don’t have those guys anymore,” Fisher said. “Guys don’t play much, and they want to leave. To me, it’s the greatest compliment to his development ... (It’s) what college football is about and why you do stick it out and stay in the program and keep playing. He is playing really good football right now ... I’m really happy for him.”

His teammates have taken notice too.

“He’s a prime example,” Hines said. “That’s a guy who I’ve seen really grind it out and work hard for this opportunity, and I’m really glad that he’s taking advantage of it.”

Elam had an interception in each game to start the season and said that he wants at least one per game for the rest of the season. He credited defensive coordinator Mike Elko for putting the defensive backs in the right places on the field.

“(I’ve been) more vocal and just trying to be a leader to the young guys to show them by example,” Elam said about the keys to his personal growth.

“(I’ve proven) that I’m a good player,” he added. “I can play the ball, and I’m a good tackler.”

6. Cornerback Debione Renfro will return from suspension.

While we are talking about the secondary, Fisher said that the junior cornerback will return this week after a two-game suspension due to a violation of team rules. As mentioned above, the secondary has played well in Renfro’s absence, but bringing his experience back into the fold should elevate their play even more.

“He’s going to be in the rotation playing and doing well,” Fisher said. “It gives you another body when you start moving guys into nickel and dime.”

7. Discipline will be a focus this week.

Penalties cost the Aggies on both sides of the ball against Clemson. They were flagged on nine penalties for 85 yards, which A&M could ill afford on the road against the top-ranked team in the nation. Fisher acknowledged that it will be a focus moving forward.

“No doubt,” he said. “In those games, it’s the little things, the discipline, the minute things that keep drives alive or on offense they kill them. They set you back … They all magnify themselves when you play good teams. You can’t have self-inflicted wounds. You have to play smart football.”

8. Injuries did not change how the defense played against Clemson.

There were an unusual amount of injuries for the Aggies on Saturday afternoon. Three defensive tackles, Jayden Peevy, Justin Madubuike and Bobby Brown, all left the game at some point. Several defensive backs and linebackers went down with injuries too. Obviously, Corbin’s season came to an end, and even Mond was struggling with cramps for some of the game.

“It is hot in Texas, so we’re used to the heat,” Elam said. “I feel like the tempo was different. There was more hurry up than usual.”

Even so, Hines said it did not change how the defense played.

“Honestly, we’re so locked into the game that we don’t notice,” he said. “Whoever is out there has just got to give it their all and live up to our standard.”

9. Lamar gives the Aggies a good opportunity to bounce back on offense.

Everyone watching the game on Saturday could tell that the Aggies were struggling on offense for most of the afternoon. With all due respect to Lamar, they are a much lesser opponent than Clemson, and facing them on Saturday night at Kyle Field will give Fisher and his offense an opportunity to wash this bad taste out of their mouths.

“It’s very important,” wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon said. “It’s how we are going to take these mistakes we made in Clemson, and are we going to make the same mistakes or are we going to build from those things and be the best we can be? We have to dominate this game.”

Mond echoed his wide receiver’s sentiments toward this week’s matchup. 

“We need to play well because it’s the next game,” Mond said. “That’s the only thing we need to focus on. Coach always talks about a faceless opponent. It doesn’t really matter who you’re playing, and that’s the way we look at it. We’re going to go in this week, find out what we did wrong last week, correct it and come out with another great week.”

10. Linebacker Anthony Hines is enjoying being back on the field.

Let’s end this thing on a happy note. After a promising freshman season in 2017 where he accumulated 33 tackles, six for a loss, three sacks and one forced fumble, Hines suffered a season-ending leg injury against Clemson last season and was red-shirted.

He has returned in good form this season, already totaling nine sacks, and is enjoying football again.

“It’s definitely been nice to be out there back on the field competing with my brothers at a high level,” Hines said. “I’m definitely happy.”

“I’ve been playing pretty good,” he added. “There is some stuff that I could improve on, a lot that we can improve on as a team, so I’m going to continue to keep working.”