Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin took a chance during the 2016 offseason, opting to focus recruitment on Kellen Mond out of IMG Academy, Florida.
The other quarterback Sumlin’s coaching staff focused on, Jarrett Stidham, opted to join the Auburn Tigers while being nearly two years removed from college football.
Mond’s ability to make plays outside the pocket and dynamic, deep threat throws down the field granted the 4-star recruit a place in College Station, Texas.
The San Antonio native has played in all games this season for the Aggies, completing 50.7 percent of his passes for 1,281 yards seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Despite his success in high school, the freshman has struggled with consistency.
During the Aggies’ season-opening loss to the University of California, Los Angeles, Mond completed three of his 17 pass attempts (17.6 percent). Four weeks later, Mond went 19-for-27 (70.4 percent) in a 24-17 win over South Carolina.
Then, four weeks later, Mond went 8-for-26 (30.8 percent) in a 35-14 loss to Mississippi State. The quarterback, whose team was one possession away from tying top-ranked Alabama at home, has yet to fit his feet in the shoes provided by Sumlin.
While Mond was a junior at Reagan High School, Stidham was getting his first taste of college football at Baylor University.
Two seasons later, they will play each other for the first time.
Stidham took time to assimilate to Jordan-Hare and football after being removed from the sport for nearly two years.
After completing 56.3 percent of his passes through the first two games -- including a 13-for-24 outing with 79 yards against No. 2 Clemson -- Stidham completed 58 of his next 70 pass attempts (82.9 percent) en route to leading the SEC in completion percentage (65.8 percent.)
Though Stidham has impressed at times with his accuracy, the quarterback has earned criticism for his inability to quickly release the football and failure to escape sacks.
Throughout the season, however, Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey says the quarterback has become more comfortable.
“He’s one of our better leaders, he’s pretty vocal and he has a great work ethic,” Lindsey said. “I think he’s got a nice touch on the deep ball.”
Lindsey added that Stidham has improved his pocket presence and footwork.
“He’s still got some work to do, but I like the progress he’s made and the direction he’s headed,” Lindsey said.
Two quarterbacks previously separated by a three hour drive down U.S. Highway 285 have traveled the same path in mannerisms and quarterback ability, and they both arguably hold the keys to their head coachs' job security.