School is almost back in session, so here’s a science question: What happens when you combine Shea Patterson and Bo Scarbrough?
The answer is Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond. Confused? Maybe it’s time for a tutorial.
Aggies players report to fall camp this week, including 20-plus bright-eyed freshmen, and no newcomer carries more mystique about him than Mond, the 4-star signee out of IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.). A former Baylor commit, he emerged as the nation’s No. 3 dual-threat prospect last year, and ultimately picked Texas A&M over Clemson, Auburn and a slew of other high-profile programs.
But more than the stars, rankings or scholarship offers, it’s what Mond did after earning those honors that opens eyes.
In 10 games at IMG, he tallied 20 passing touchdowns, 18 rushing touchdowns, more than 2,700 total yards and only 3 interceptions.
In doing so, Mond broke IMG’s passing touchdowns record, set by Patterson, and its rushing touchdowns record, set by Scarbrough, while playing arguably the toughest high school schedule in the country.
“When you find an all-star team like that, you’re not going to put up big numbers, because there’s so much talent around you,” Kellen’s father, Kevin Mond, told SEC Country. “For him to do that in one year, how in the hell is he not the national high school player of the year?”
Based on numbers alone, it’s easy to say Texas A&M has made an elite talent addition to its offense. And when it comes to the eye test, well, those who know him best aren’t afraid to play the quarterback comparison game.
Kevin Mond said he and his family are good friends with Deshaun Watson, and that he modeled his son’s game after the former Clemson star. But how does Kellen Mond compare to his college predecessor? His father pointed out two traits.
The Texas A&M web site lists Kellen at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Watson measured 6-2, 221 pounds at the NFL combine, where he ran 4.66 in the 40. Mond was the anchor leg on a 4×400 relay team that competed in the Texas state championships while at Reagan (San Antonio, Texas), his high school before transferring to IMG.
“Kellen is bigger than Deshaun and faster than Deshaun,” Kevin Mond said.
Kevin Wright, Mond’s coach at IMG, had a different college star in mind when sizing up his former quarterback.
“He’s a big, strong kid in the pocket,” Wright told SEC Country. He throws the ball really well vertically down the field. He’s got the ability to threaten people deep and go over the top. At the same time, if you over-commit to coverage, you really leave him 1-on-1 with a linebacker in scenarios where, if he pulls the ball down he’s going to hurt you. He has the ability to keep people in games.
“He gives A&M — when they had Johnny Manziel, they had a guy who could extend plays. Kellen can most certainly extend plays.”
Manziel is the type of talent coach Kevin Sumlin has been trying to find and keep at quarterback since arriving at A&M in 2012, when a Johnny Football-led offense upset Alabama and powered the team to an 11-2 record.
Sumlin has yet to repeat that performance in the four years following his debut season, going 15-17 in the SEC during that span. In that time, three high-profile quarterbacks have transferred out (Kyler Murray, Kyle Allen and Kenny Hill), while another one decommitted (Ohio State’s Tate Martell).
The departure of graduate transfer Trevor Knight leaves Texas A&M with a void to fill under center this season, and a fascinating three-way camp battle between Mond, Nick Starkel and Jake Hubenak will determine the winner.
With the pressure on Sumlin to win now, does Mond have what it takes to beat his more experienced teammates and lead an offense that just lost three of its top four receivers?
Wright, who said Mond will be “1A or 1B” in the preseason competition, thinks his former quarterback can deliver as a true freshman.
“He’s going to be right there,” Wright said. “I do think Kellen can help them [win this season].”
As for replacing A&M’s other departed talent, that’s where Mond’s commitment paid off in more ways than one.
Four months after Mond made his pledge, IMG teammate and current roommate Jhamon Ausbon — a 4-star receiver — joined the 2017 class. The program also signed IMG’s Santino Marchiol, a 4-star inside linebacker, and 4-star Stafford (Texas) receiver Hezekiah Jones.
“[A&M receivers coach] Aaron Moorehead and I were laughing,” Wright said. “He said, ‘Yeah, if he could do that every year that’d help me out a lot.’ If you’ve got a quarterback, you’ve got a chance. Everybody’s looking for one. When other players recognize that you’ve got someone that’s a high-caliber player, that automatically is a draw.”
Not your average freshman
Those close to Mond have called him unassuming and quiet by nature. The physical gifts have been with him since birth, but not everyone is a natural-born leader. Mond was so much better than the competition he faced at Reagan High, they say, he didn’t need to be an outspoken guy in the locker room or on the field.
His time at IMG changed that.
“What you saw with him is his personal growth. They’re naturally going to follow you, because of your physical talents,” Wright said of Mond’s former Reagan teammates. “And then you come into a place where you basically have to establish yourself. One of the ways you’ll establish yourself is being verbal. Two, it’s how hard you work and it’s whether you make the guys around you better. Those became more and more important to him as time went on.”
Mond isn’t afraid to speak his mind when it matters, though. At a time when players tend to be more publicly guarded than ever, rarely straying from the tried-and-true script of praising teammates and focusing on the next game, Mond has shared opinions about race relations in America more than once on social media.
"If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do" 💯 pic.twitter.com/eFZIwtUdA8
— K.I.D (@TheKellenMond) July 7, 2016
Recent seasons in the SEC have seen a remarkable number of true freshmen take snaps under center. In 2016 alone, fans saw Jalen Hurts, Jake Bentley, Jacob Eason and Shea Patterson debut for their respective teams. Both Allen and Murray saw significant time for A&M as freshmen. A year-round cycle peppered with offseason camp circuits, high school all-star games and sessions with personal trainers has quarterbacks arriving on campus more prepared than ever for the college game.
Mond certainly fits the bill. His physical skills made him an elite prospect, but most top dual-threat recruits have a nice blend of size, strength and speed. What sets Mond apart are his poise — he only threw 11 interceptions in high school, and his “greatest strength,” which according to Kevin Mond is down-and-distance.
“He is the ultimate chain-mover,” Kevin Mond said. “He is the hardest guy to stop on third down you will ever find, because he’s so dynamic, whether he can run, throw. He can make plays.”
A quarterback who takes care of the football and converts on third down — call it a football coach’s dream.
Mond had flashed those traits while starring at San Antonio Reagan, but even so, he and his family felt Kellen needed to further hone his game at IMG.
The transfer decision was difficult. Not only were the Monds sending their son to Florida for a year, but they would do so without the complete support of everyone at home. The idea of a Texas high school star leaving the state ruffled some feathers around San Antonio, including former Reagan coach David Wetzel.
Ultimately, Kevin Mond felt he needed to do what was best for his son.
“The IMG experience is tremendous,” Kevin Mond said. “It’s not like he’s a freshman. He’s like a redshirt freshman. IMG to me is the equivalent of a JUCO.”
Consider the grueling IMG experience for a moment: Mond spent a year away from home, at a boarding school full of star athletes who he faced in practice every day. His natural athletic talents alone couldn’t carry him anymore. He had to compete to win the IMG job, and when the Ascenders went 11-on-11 in practice, Mond had four of the country’s top defensive linemen in his face.
That, as his former coach said, “expedites” the development of a young quarterback.
“What we do is not for everybody,” Wright said. “You have to be intrinsically motivated, but the payoff is great for a guy like Kellen who can walk right in during January and start to compete.”
All things considered, perhaps Kellen Mond is the guy to save Sumlin and A&M in 2017. Maybe he’ll need more time to adjust.
Nobody around College Station is giving anyone a glimpse, either way. So for now, Aggies fans will have to be content watching the SEC’s most intriguing quarterback competition play out over the coming weeks.
“They all bring different skill sets to the mix,” Kevin Mond said. “Jake’s got the experience. Nick’s got a pretty big-time arm.
“Kellen’s upside is limitless.”