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Kellen Mond, Face of the Aggies

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Expectations are on the rise in College Station and Kellen Mond is a big reason why.

Any conversation about quarterbacks in college football starts with Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. Georgia's Jake Fromm is also one of the nation's best. The career of Jake Bentley at South Carolina, the rise of Feleipe Franks at Florida and the finish of Joe Burrow's junior season at LSU are all notable SEC talking points. In a league with an impressive list of signal callers, Texas A&M's Kellen Mond deserves his own line as well. Poised for a banner year, Jimbo Fisher's latest pupil may prove to be one of the premier players in the country.

Mond, already, has quite the resume. In leading the Aggies to nine wins as a sophomore, he threw for 3,107 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 474 yards and seven more scores. After beating out the talented Nick Starkel, now at Arkansas, for the starting job, Mond established himself as a dynamic playmaker, gaining acclaim for standout performances against some of the biggest names in the game. If Texas A&M is a trendy pick nationally, Mond, out in front, is the catalyst. 

The aforementioned multi-faceted production puts Mond in rare company. He joins Joshua Dobbs, Chad Kelly, Dak Prescott (2x), Blake Sims, Johnny Manziel (2x), Aaron Murray, Cam Newton, Tebow (2x) and Franks as one of just ten SEC quarterbacks the last 20 years with at least 24 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores. Always open, the "24-7 Club" is an exclusive group. Notably, the only players to do it as underclassmen are Heisman Trophy winners Manziel and Tebow and Mond and Franks.

Following a promising freshman campaign, one where he became the first Texas A&M true freshman to throw for over 300 yards in a single game, Mond made even more strides in his first season with Fisher. Mond's completion percentage boosted from 51.5% to 57.3%, his yard-per-attempt average jumped from 6.1 to 7.5 and, correspondingly, his passer rating improved over 26 full points to 134.98. Given Mond's talent and Fisher's track record for developing top quarterbacks, even another progression should be on the horizon.

Somehow, the biggest challenges brought out Mond's best. In one of the top individual performances of the season, he threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns against eventual national champion Clemson. Mond rushed for 98 yards and scores twice against top-ranked Alabama. In a record-setting, seven-overtime triumph over LSU, perhaps college football's game of the year, Mond threw for six touchdown passes, including a game-winner to Quartney Davis, and ran for another in a dramatic 74-72 victory.  

In games against Alabama, Clemson, Kentucky and LSU, all top 15 teams and top 25 defenses from a year ago, Mond threw for 1,139 yards yards and 12 touchdowns, rushing for 188 yards and two more scores. Texas A&M won two of those games and took the champs down to the absolute wire. 

Mond, ahead of a run through perhaps the toughest schedule in the country, may be the perfect player to lead the way.  

For all of abilities, Mond also has momentum. He led Texas A&M to four consecutive victories to end last year, the instant-classic with the Tigers included; remarkably, the Aggies scored 205 total points in that span. Mond and Texas A&M also turned heads in a Gator Bowl thrashing of North Carolina State, both ending last season with an exclamation point and providing a springboard into this fall. The Aggies won 52-13, with Mond running for a 62-yard touchdown on a second play of the ball. Neither he or his team looked back; a new-calendar continuation may be coming.    

Mond, ahead of upcoming showdowns with the likes of greats Trevor Lawrence, Tagovailoa and Fromm, has earned a spotlight all his own.

Expectations are on the rise in College Station and Mond is a big reason why. Texas A&M is poised to have a prolific passing attack. Mond returns every single wide receiver who caught a pass for him this past season, including proven producers Davis, Camron Buckley, Jhamon Ausbon and Kendrick Rogers. The Aggies are also welcoming in the nation's top-ranked tight end prospect in 6'6'', 240-pound Baylor Cupp. With a talented roster and a showcase schedule, Texas A&M, Mond specifically, will help shape the national narrative.    

All that Mond has accomplished has come before he has ever taken a single upperclassman snap. At a place where the likes of Manziel and Ryan Tannehill have recently starred, Mond is creating his own legacy. That ripple effect is ready to impact all of college football.

Texas A&M is ranked 11th in the pre-season Coaches Poll and the Aggies will play number one Clemson, number two Alabama, number three Georgia, number six LSU and 16th ranked Auburn this fall. Fisher is building a powerhouse at Texas A&M; Mond is a key part of that foundation.

The Aggies are coming. Mond is setting the pace. 

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports