It wasn’t until days before the Aggies’ season opener that Taylor Hamm broke the news that Texas A&M has decided who will take the first snap Sunday against UCLA. Reportedly, Kevin Sumlin has chosen to go with redshirt freshman Nick Starkel to call the shots instead of mega-athlete Kellen Mond or senior Jake Hubenak.
Sumlin has my full support in this move. Hubenak brings leadership and some experience, Starkel brings more athleticism and a higher ceiling. With Sumlin on the hot seat, he knows whoever gets the start will have his job in their hands. As much leadership and experience as Hubenak has, his stats and performance aren’t going to put Sumlin or the Aggies in the best position.
Jake from Texas A&M
In his 11 appearances, the Aggies have won four games (Ball State, Prairie View A&M, New Mexico State and UTSA). Of those four games, there was only one occasion where he threw the ball more than 12 times. In fact, against Ball State, he only threw one pass. Granted, a win is a win, but you’d still like to see wins against more impressive opponents.
In Hubenak’s defense, he did quite well against Mississippi State when Trevor Knight went down, completing almost 65 percent of his throws. His start against Ole Miss wasn’t too shabby either. Unfortunately, the Aggies lost both games by a combined of only eight points.
However, Sumlin and the fans need wins. Of his three career starts, Hubenak has only produced one W which was against UTSA. His performance against them was not very encouraging. UTSA finished with the fifth best record in the Conference USA and lost their bowl game to New Mexico. New Mexico couldn’t even beat New Mexico State whom the Aggies obliterated 52-10. Against UTSA, Hubenak completed under 60 percent of his throws and only threw for one touchdown, leading the Aggies to a narrow victory against the, then, 5-5 Roadrunners.
Besides his passing completion issues, my biggest concern is that Hubenak is not known as a runner. In the past, the Aggies have always had a QB that can scramble around and make plays with their feet when they had to. If Hubenak could run a little better and was maybe more agile, then he would fill in great and resemble Knight in a lot of ways. But, if you’re going to be known as a pocket passer, you better complete more than 60 percent of your throws.
Fun Fact: The last QB to win a NCAA National Championship with a completion percentage lower than 60% was Matt Flynn of LSU in 2007.
To me, Nick Starkel has the opportunity this year to go from zero to 100. Sure, he’s younger and doesn’t have the experience that Hubenak has. However, Starkel does have his own advantages which are more relevant to what the Aggies need right now. I’m a huge fan of a leader who the team can look up to when they’re down, but right now, the Aggies need a light; a light of hope and opportunity for the years to come. Winning now would be great of course, but given the current situation, the Aggies need a playmaker who has the building blocks to develop into an elite quarterback. This is where Starkel wins the QB duel in my book.
The redshirt freshman is the more accurate of the pair and certainly has a higher ceiling. Looking at his spring game film, Starkel made some big-time throws including a back-shoulder touchdown pass on his first drive. It seems that he has little bit more zip on the ball and tends to release it quicker than the senior. Plus, with him being younger, I think the fans will be more forgiving of his mistakes as well as Sumlin’s.
Is he a great runner? No, but because he is more accurate and has a better arm, he doesn’t have to be. Trevor Knight never had a great completion percentage, but he knew how to run which sort of made up for it. It’s the same instance with Cam Newton. The Mannings were never great runners, but they never had to be. Their arm and brain are what carried them. This is what Starkel has going for him. He’s young, athletic, has an above average arm, seems to be pretty smart, and has a huge ceiling. Kevin Sumlin’s career could be on his shoulders as well as the hopes of Aggie fans everywhere. Can he be the breakout player everyone wants him to be?