Amid QB battle, Texas A&M running backs shine in spring game

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M's fans' attention this spring -- and for the remainder of the offseason -- will be on the Aggies' quarterback battle.

It's understandable because of the importance of the position.

But if the Aggies' annual Maroon-and-White game served as an indication, while who QB1 is will be vital, that person will have several reliable players to hand the ball to when things get hairy.

The strength of this offense resides in the running backs.

While quarterbacks Nick Starkel, Kellen Mond and Jake Hubenak had their ups and downs during the Aggies' spring game Saturday at Kyle Field, the deep collection of tailbacks showed why they could be even more of a focal point than they were last season, when the Aggies showcased a solid one-two running back punch with then-true freshman Trayveon Williams and former Oklahoma running back Keith Ford.

Williams and Ford were both productive with the touches they received (Ford finished with 52 rushing yards on 12 carries, and Williams averaged a team-high nine yards per tote on five carries), but what became clear was the Aggies are even deeper than those two.

Kendall Bussey, a sophomore, showed glimpses of why he might contribute more this season, leading the Aggies on Saturday with 54 rushing yards on eight carries. Rakeem Boyd, a redshirt freshman who has drawn positive reviews this spring, caught three passes out of the backfield. Walk-on Kwame Etwi had the day's longest play, a 71-yard reception on a wheel route. The Aggie running backs finished the day with 279 yards from scrimmage in basically two-and-a-half quarters of play (one full half and a running 10-minute clock for the second half).

Williams and Ford will likely remain the primary options in the backfield, and rightfully so. Williams ran for more than 1,000 yards last season, and Ford is a veteran who served as a perfect complement to the home-run threat that Williams is. But it won't just have to be those two, and the depth in the backfield gives the Aggies' some options offensively.

Could it mean the Aggies run the ball more than usual? Only twice since joining the SEC have the Aggies run the ball more than 500 times in a season (2012 and 2015), though they came close in 2016 (484 rushes). Who the quarterback is factors into that total (Starkel and Hubenak or more the pocket passer-types; Mond is a true dual-threat), but there's reason to believe the Aggies will emphasize running the ball.

None of the quarterbacks are a sure thing (only one, Hubenak, has started a college game), and nobody truly separated from the pack in the quarterback race on Saturday. There are still four months to go before coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone are likely to name their starter.

Whoever it is, it would be wise for that quarterback to lean on the Aggie running backs to make life easier.