QBs Starkel, Mond say new Texas A&M head football coach is very hands on

It’s been a whirlwind offseason for Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond as they adapt to Jimbo Fisher’s quarterback-driven offense.

“I love Coach Fisher,” Starkel said after the sixth spring practice Wednesday. “He’s brought a whole new intensity here, a whole new mindset.”

Mond said anyone watching practice notices the difference with the hands-on approach by Fisher, who is involved in play-calling though Darrell Dickey has the title of offensive coordinator.

“If we do something wrong, he’s on us,” Mond said. “If we do something right, he’s on us, because there’s a better way to do stuff. He’s trying to hold us accountable, trying to depend on us to lead the whole entire offense, the whole entire team.”

Fisher has the same approach in the quarterbacks room.

“Him and Coach Dickey are running our meetings,” Starkel said. “He’s not your typical head coach where your head coach really isn’t in position meetings. I mean, he’s up there running our position meetings. He’s running the clicker, fast forwarding, rewinding, pointing this out, pointing this out, and it’s a lot different, but it makes it so much more personal. It really makes me want to play for him. You really want to compete for him.”

Starkel said Fisher throws at least one nugget his way daily, increasing his knowledge of how the game is supposed to be played. And when it comes to play-calling, Fisher is an uncanny teacher with total recall.

“Just today we’re in the film room watching film,” Starkel said. “Coach Fisher is the type of guy where we’re talking about one play, and he went, ‘Oh, yeah. We ran that play, LSU offense, 2003, third quarter against Tennessee, going from left to right on the film.’ And sure enough, we pull it up and it’s right there.”

A&M’s quarterbacks this spring have watched film of former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell running plays from Fisher’s time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who led Florida State to the national title that year; and current Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois.

“It’s been insane how much I’ve learned from him, breaking down one play so much more than what I’ve seen before,” Mond said.

In the past, a play call might have been dictated off just one variable, but now it’s based on multiple components.

“This is like a total pro-style offense,” Starkel said. “It’s completely different than what we were running. We would have two-word plays and everyone knew what to do in our old offense. Now it’s a paragraph when you’re saying a play and then check, and then it’s another paragraph.”

Fisher runs a lot of the same things A&M did under former head coach Kevin Sumlin, but Fisher utilizes tight ends and a power running game with a quarterback able to take snaps under center. That’s changed the offense’s approach and terminology.

“He’s breaking it down a lot more than we’ve ever seen,” Mond said.

Mond and Starkel both said they feel comfortable with the offense so far and expect to have a better grasp of it by the end of the spring drills.

Mond and Starkel met with the media after Wednesday’s practice, the first time Fisher made players available. Senior defensive tackle Kinglsey Keke and junior linebacker Tyrel Dodson joined the sophomore quarterbacks who talked to the media for the first time in their careers since Sumlin typically didn’t allow freshmen to be interviewed.

Starkel said taking a redshirt in 2016 allowed him to make more progress and master the playbook, but he agreed he’d play against Ole Miss in the 10th game of that season if needed after Trevor Knight was injured the week before. Jake Hubenak, though, made his first start of the season in a 29-28 loss, allowing Starkel to keep his redshirt.

“So [last] spring when I came out to start competing for the job, it was a lot better of a transition,” said Starkel, who wasn’t an early enrollee in college. “So I came in the summer, and I was not ready to play. Then halfway through the season I felt like I might have been ready, but that redshirt year just helped me develop mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

Starkel started the 2017 season opener but broke his ankle. He returned to start the final four games. He threw for 1,793 yards on 123-of-205 passing with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Mond, a true freshman last season, threw for 1,375 yards on 117-of-227 passing with eight touchdowns and six interceptions.

NOTES — The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Starkel believes Fisher’s offense suits him better than A&M’s previous offense. “Just in terms of a mobility standpoint,” he said. “I’m not going to tell anyone I’m the most mobile person, so maybe the zone read isn’t the best for me, but I know if I have to do that. I can do that.” … Keke said A&M is tweaking its 4-2-5 alignment under defensive coordinator Mike Elko, who was hired from Notre Dame. The 305-pound Keke said he’s lost 18 percent body fat under strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt. Keke said he’s got the energy to handle three or four more plays at a time. … Dodson said Schmidt has helped improve his mindset and preparation. The 242-pounder has lost 16 pounds of fat under Schmidt.

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