With our look at the highest-graded returning players on the best teams in college football underway, it’s time to turn our attention to another team hoping to unseat Alabama in a crowded SEC West, Texas A&M.
They ran eventual National Champion Clemson close in the second game of the season in 2018, with a failed two-point conversion with under a minute left that would have likely forced overtime in an eventual 28-26 loss. They’ll get the chance to avenge that loss in the second game of this season, but they’ll be more than aware of how tough a challenge that will be.
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Their highest-graded returning players on offense are:
RB Jashaun Corbin – 79.5
QB Kellen Mond – 78.1
WR Kendrick Rogers – 75.6
WR Camron Buckley – 68.1
WR Jhamon Ausbon – 65.6
WR Quartney Davis – 64.9
OT Carson Green – 63.9
OT Dan Moore Jr. – 57.4
WR Hezekiah Jones – 55.4
OG Jared Hocker – 55.0
They don’t return a single player with a PFF grade of 80.0 or higher from a year ago, with their top two offensive players in tight end Jace Sternberger and running back Trayveon Williams now trying to make a name for themselves on Sundays. They also lost center Erik McCoy to the NFL and overall return just three players with a PFF grade of 70.0 or higher who played a significant role in 2018. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that quarterback Kellen Mond is one of their top returning players, coming off a season where he made life difficult for opposing defenses as a passer and a runner. He was at his best on throws between the numbers and between 10 and 20 yards downfield, completing 34 of 58 attempts for 596 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, he forced 19 missed tackles, with 479 of his yards coming on designed runs and another 178 on scrambles.
The highest-graded returning players on defense for Texas A&M:
DI Justin Madubuike – 84.2
S Keldrick Carper – 75.3
CB Debione Renfro – 73.5
S Larry Pryor – 72.5
DI Jayden Peevy – 71.1
CB Roney Elam – 70.1
LB Buddy Johnson – 7.0
Edge Bobby Brown III – 67.3
Edge Tyree Johnson – 62.1
CB Charles Oliver – 59.8
Texas A&M lost Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke to the NFL but return their top interior defensive lineman, and top defensive player overall, in Justin Madubuike. Madubuike was their top run defender and pass rusher up front last year, racking up 44 total pressures, including eight sacks, from 398 pass rushing snaps, and with 20 of his 22 solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop in 2018. With big performances against Clemson and Kentucky a year ago, along with PFF defense grades of 74.0 or higher in each of the past two seasons, he’s a prime candidate to take an even bigger step forward in 2019.
Safety Donovan Wilson is another player who is plying his trade in the NFL now, but in Keldrick Carper and Larry Pryor, the Aggies have the players in place to mitigate that loss too, provided they can do what they did in limited work in 2018 on a higher snap count this season. Carper produced a PFF coverage grade of 77.7 from 118 snaps in coverage, while Pryor was at 70.9 from 210 coverage snaps.
PFF's highest-graded returning players series for 2019
Clemson | Alabama | LSU | Georgia | Notre Dame | Ohio State | Oklahoma | Florida | Washington | Iowa | Penn State | Texas | Auburn | Texas A&M | Mississippi State | Syracuse | Missouri | Michigan | Kentucky | Virginia | Iowa State | Utah | Washington State | Northwestern | Stanford