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Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin

5 things to watch at Texas A&M’s spring football game

It seems like an eternity since we’ve seen real college football action. Texas A&M’s spring game on Saturday afternoon doesn’t quite count, but it’s a great excuse to sit down and watch some future stars play.

The Aggies play their intrasquad scrimmage at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday at Kyle Field. ESPNU will broadcast the game live. Here are a few of the story lines fans should be looking for during the game:

New format

For the first time in years, Texas A&M will have a true spring game. Head coach Kevin Sumlin named Christian Kirk and Armani Watts captains, and they apparently picked teams playground style in advance of the game on Saturday.

In addition to being infinitely more fun than a glorified practice, having a true spring game will give fans the opportunity to see the entire roster in live game action. With Kirk and Watts picking teams, it should also significantly raise the competitiveness factor for both sides. No one wants to lose an opportunity at bragging rights to close out spring camp. 

Quarterback battle

Texas A&M boasts four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: Jake Hubenak, Nick Starkel, Kellen Mond and Connor Blumrick. Out of that group, only Hubenak has ever thrown a pass in a college football game. Mond and Blumrick are true freshmen, while Starkel redshirted last season. All have a legitimate shot at the job this offseason.

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Depending on how the teams are split up, Mond and Hubenak will likely start at quarterback for each squad. Those two seem to be the favorites to eventually win the job, with Hubenak likely having a narrow advantage with his experience.

The offense in the spring game will be exceptionally vanilla. However, it will be interesting to watch whether the Aggies call the game differently for the dual-threat Mond vs. the pocket-passing Hubenak. Increased versatility could play a part in the decision. 

Early contributors

This will be the first opportunity to get a look at several Aggies in uniform. In fact, nine 2017 recruits enrolled at Texas A&M this past January. That number is by far the most of any freshman class since Sumlin arrived. The extra semester of development should help them find early playing time for the Aggies.

Saturday will be the first opportunity for these players to appear in a Texas A&M uniform, even if it’s just a practice jersey. In addition to the aforementioned quarterbacks, linebackers and wide receivers could play meaningful snaps as true freshmen. Linebacker Anthony Hines is the best player in the class, while wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon separated himself from the pack of offensive options at IMG Academy last season. Saturday will give fans a better idea of which players have the chops to contribute right away.

Replacing superstars

Nine Aggies were invited to the NFL combine, which tied with Miami and national champion Clemson for fourth most out of any program in the nation. Defensive end Myles Garrett will almost certainly be the No. 1 overall draft pick. That means the Aggies have several recognizable names who will need to be replaced in 2017.

With Garrett and Daeshon Hall’s departures, the entire defensive end rotation is open for the taking. Spots at linebacker and wide receiver could open the door for young players to step in right away. With the randomized teams, fans won’t necessarily get a look at starting rotations playing together. Instead, look for raw talent and performance at these key positions.

Bigger, faster, stronger

Everyone knows the jokes — the Aggies always seem to peak early and fall apart in November. Whether through fatigue or injury, the season always seems to end in disappointment.

To try and address it, the athletic department reassigned longtime strength coach Larry Jackson this offseason. The move cleared the way for Texas A&M to poach Florida State strength coach Mark Hocke to fill the same position.

While results won’t manifest in a short spring game, fans should watch whether physicality has improved and whether players are avoiding injuries during the scrimmage.