The 2016 season is over, and SEC football rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but the conference has starters coming back at 12 of the 14 schools. The turnaround should be immediate. Unfortunately, Texas A&M is one of the schools that could be in some trouble.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous quarterback installments:
Alabama Crimson Tide | Arkansas Razorbacks | Auburn Tigers | Florida Gators | Georgia Bulldogs | Kentucky Wildcats | LSU Tigers | Mississippi State Bulldogs | Missouri Tigers | Ole Miss Rebels | South Carolina | Tennessee Volunteers | Vanderbilt Commodores
Texas A&M Aggies
Key returners: Jake Hubenak (senior)
Key departures: Trevor Knight (graduation)
Key additions: Kellen Mond (true freshman), Nick Starkel (redshirt), Connor Blumrick (true freshman)
Returning production: 61-104 for 884 yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs
Departing production: 194-363 for 2,432 yards, 19 TDs, 7 INTs; 103 carries for 623 yards, 10 TDs
Texas A&M is in a critical position having to replace a legend in the program. He brought consistency and charisma on and off the field to a program in desperate need. The Aggies have a tall task trying to find his replacement.
But enough about Conner McQueen.
After arriving from Oklahoma as a graduate transfer, Trevor Knight immediately changed the tenor of the program. Most of the 2015 season was spent trying to parse through Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen, a pair of five-star quarterback recruits. Within weeks, both players left the program. For the bowl game, former junior college quarterback Jake Hubenak was the only scholarship signal-caller on the roster. Recruiting slipped a little bit too, from No. 11 in the nation in 2015 to No. 8 in the SEC with the 2016 class.
But when Knight joined, he brought a calming influence. As someone who covered the Big 12 while he was at Oklahoma, Knight is an inconsistent quarterback. However, he’s one of those rare players who actually lives up to the clichés. Knight does bring more off the field than on it. He is a tremendous locker room guy. His presence did change the culture.
Knight also played a couple of excellent games. Against Tennessee, Knight threw for two touchdowns and ran for three more in a critical double-overtime victory. He also broke away for 157 rushing yards and a pair of scores in a win over Arkansas. Despite an inconsistent arm, Knight knew how to make the most of his abilities.
It appears Hubenak will have every shot to win the starting job, but Texas A&M seems hesitant to hand him the reins. The Aggies pursued transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham hard after his year at McLennan Community College in Waco. Obviously, they wish they could do better.
Hubenak started two games, against Ole Miss and UTSA. He also had to play a bigger role against Mississippi State, as Knight went out with a shoulder injury. He was generally inconsistent in those spots. Against Ole Miss, Hubenak fell apart in the fourth quarter as Texas A&M surrendered a 21-6 lead in the closing minutes. He completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes against UTSA.
Hubenak is a pure pocket passer, so the offense will have to move away from the spread option that Knight ran to perfection.
He will have some competition for the starting job. Incoming freshman Kellen Mond is the No. 108 player in the class of 2017, and started at IMG Academy in Florida. He threw for 19 touchdowns and ran for another 17 for the No. 2 high school team in the nation. Nick Starkel and Connor Blumrick weren’t as highly touted as recruits, but could also factor in.
There are a couple options, but none appear to be especially satisfying at this point. Combined with wide receiver attrition, this position group is one of the most critical in the SEC. If one of these players doesn’t step up, Texas A&M’s 2017 season is in trouble.