1. Baylor Cupp is just as dominate as Jace Sternberger
Jace Sternberger brought a sure set of hands and reintroduced the tight end position to Texas A&M in 2018. Many thought the Oklahoma native was robbed of the John Mackey Award after dominating the stat sheet among tight ends.
Either way, Sternberger is now in the NFL, leaving a big pair of cleats to fill. Luckily, the Aggies have found a big-time recruit to fill them. Baylor Cupp should be taking over at tight end as a true freshman, but despite his youth, he could very well play just as pivotal of a role as Sternberger.
Standing in at 6’6”, the Brock, Texas native already brings something to the table that Sternberger naturally did not: length. Even though Jace measured at 6’4”, he was not super long relative to most tight ends. Since Cupp is naturally longer, he should be able to create more room as a blocker and have a larger catching radius.
An argument can be made that these two traits are the most important for a tight end to possess. Being able to extend your arms and secure another few inches of room for a speedy running back can be the difference between a two-yard loss and a thirty-yard explosion.
Cupp’s wingspan is going to allow him to be an exceptional receiver, even in tight coverage. How are guys like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski able to reach above defenders to make spectacular catches? It’s their length. While they may have the strength as well, it would be of little use without the wingspan to outreach defenders. Cupp’s strength will come with time, but the length will be there to stay.
Now, he does not have the separation ability that Sternberger does and rightly so. Cupp is only eighteen and will get quicker and faster as he matures. Naturally, his football IQ will increase every week too. This is where his length will especially come in handy. By not being able to separate as much, he will have to rely on his natural stretch to secure the catch. The true freshman will have another factor on his side as well: an even more refined Kellen Mond.
Matters of Mond
Witnessing the progression and development of Kellen Mond over the past two seasons has been a thing of beauty. After the UCLA debacle in 2017, most would have thought that Mond was just another rocket-armed kid with no sense of accuracy or poise. The lanky San Antonio gunslinger still has the rocket arm, but now he has learned to dial it in and his poise, while still not perfect, has improved exponentially from that cursed night in Los Angeles.
Mond’s greater passing ability gives Cupp some wiggle room. Cupp does not have to run a perfect route or be wide open for Mond to get him the ball. If there is a jump ball situation, do not be surprised to see Mond have faith in his giant freshman to try and climb the ladder and snag one from a shorter defensive back.
Not to mention, Mond is going to have a whole buffet of other targets for defenders to worry about. Mond’s favorite target, Jhamon Ausbon, is going to be at 100% this fall, as well as Quartney Davis, Cam Buckley, Hezekiah Jones, and Jalen Preston.
With Cupp, and fellow giant and touchdown machine, Kendrick Rodgers, the Ags should run a record amount of fade routes in the red zone. This arsenal of weapons is going to open the field up tremendously for the Aggie tight end. Defenders are going to be so busy worrying about slants from Buckley, comebacks from Ausbon and digs from Davis that there will be many times that the young buck will be looked over to be left alone just long enough for Mond to zip a strike to him.
For the first time in a long time, the Aggies offense has depth at the receiver position. It is that fact and Cupp’s sheer size and God-given ability that will give him the opportunities to do what Sternberger did in 2018. The position of tight end has been reinstated at Texas A&M and the bar has been set about as high as the bar will go. Still, it can be No. 88 who establishes yet another Aggie tradition of dominate tight-ends despite his youth.