Noel Mazzone, Texas A&M’s first-year offensive coordinator, understands the focus in Saturday’s spring game will be on quarterbacks Trevor Knight and Jake Hubenak as they seek to execute his new spread offense.
“It’s been a really good competition with Trevor and Jake,” Mazzone said, summing up the situation heading into the Maroon-White game at 5 p.m. in Kyle Field. “I think there’s enough in this offense that it kind of fits the talent of either guy at quarterback without us having to do a lot of major changes. Both of them have had success in the things we do.”
It’s been a really good competition with Trevor and Jake. I think there’s enough in this offense that it kind of fits the talent of either guy.
Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone
On the flip side, Mazzone cautioned that every player who lines up on offense for A&M remains in a learning curve as the Aggies seek to improve an attack that averaged just 27.8 points per game last season, the lowest figure in coach Kevin Sumlin’s A&M tenure.
The spring game is A&M’s first since 2013 because of recent off-season construction upgrades to Kyle Field.
Mazzone, who spent last season at UCLA, has installed a more up-tempo approach than the Aggies used last season when the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart (Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray) announced plans to transfer to other schools in December.
That elevated Hubenak into the starting spot for the team’s 27-21 loss to Louisville in the Music City Bowl, the lone start of his college career.
Knight, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, started 15 games for the Sooners but has played sparingly since his most recent start, a 40-6 loss to Clemson in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl.
2 A&M quarterbacks who started games last season and transferred to other schools in January: Kyle Allen to Houston and Kyler Murray to Oklahoma.
“They’re all going through growing pains because they’re learning a new offense,” Mazzone said. “I think every day they’re getting a little better at some of the things we do. … The misnomer to me about spread offenses is that it’s to throw the football. We’re a little bit different. We like to run the football.”
A&M plans to make that happen with a rebuilt offensive line tasked with replacing three NFL-bound former starters (tackle Germain Ifedi, center Mike Matthews and guard Joe Cheek). A stable of running backs will replace workhorse Tra Carson (1,165 yards, seven TDs last season), who also expects to hear his name called in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Mazzone has met similar challenges in recent seasons. In four years at UCLA, his offense produced the Pac-12’s leading rusher on three occasions: Paul Perkins (1,343 yards last season; 1,575 yards in 2014) and Johnathan Franklin (1,734 yards in 2012).
But he knows the immediate focus at A&M will be on establishing stability at quarterback.
Mazzone stressed that the past three quarterbacks who have started in his system have been efficient at the college level: Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, who signed a lucrative free-agent deal last month to become the new starter for the NFL’s Houston Texans, as well as UCLA’s Brett Hundley (Green Bay Packers’ backup) and Josh Rosen, the Bruins’ starter.
Mazzone hopes to bring similar consistency to the A&M quarterback spot. The public unveiling of that process begins Saturday.
Texas A&M Maroon-White game
5 p.m. Saturday, SEC Network