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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Belk Bowl shows bright future for A&M QB-WR duo

Redshirt+freshman+Nick+Starkel+takes+a+quick+snap+as+the+last+minutes+of+the+game+start+turning+into+seconds.
Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver

Redshirt freshman Nick Starkel takes a quick snap as the last minutes of the game start turning into seconds.

CHARLOTTE – Prior to the Belk Bowl, Texas A&M interim head coach Jeff Banks said he thought quarterback Nick Starkel was only in mid-season form playing in just his seventh game of the year.
If Friday’s game was only mid-season form for the redshirt freshman, who made a speedy recovery from a broken ankle in the Aggies’ season-opener, the future may be beaming bright for Starkel.
In a losing effort, Starkel was 42-of-63 for 499 yards and threw four touchdown passes, the second-most yards in a game in school history.
Still, Starkel had two turnovers near mid-field, and was unable to lead the Aggies to a scoring drive on their final possession of the game.
“It was a tough game, every game is not going to be a perfect game,” A&M running back Keith Ford said. “Nick played really great and left it all out on the field, and that’s all we ask for.”
Only playing half of the season, Starkel passed for 1,793 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. He currently ranks 10th in the SEC in passing. The numbers left many, including Banks, wondering what could have been had Starkel stayed healthy.
“Would’ve liked to see the season went how it went, but you can’t really go back and do those things,” Banks said. “This is college football and that’s just how it is. You get injured, it stinks it happened.”
With room for improvement, Starkel’s play proved to many, including his teammates, that his ceiling may still be higher if he gets a chance to play an entire season moving forward.
“I think he had a great performance,” senior wide receiver Damion Ratley said. “He still needs to work on things, he’s young. I mean, he’s only a freshman and he’s got so much ahead of him.”
While veterans Christian Kirk and Ratley were top targets for Starkel this year, a trio of freshmen followed close behind, particularly outside receiver Jhamon Ausbon.
Ausbon had a career day against Wake Forest, reeling in 12 receptions for 112 yards and one touchdown. The rapport between Ausbon and Starkel is a connection Banks feels will only grow larger.
“That’s going to be a battery between pitcher and catcher for a long time,” Banks said. “The future’s bright. Nick Starkel’s a great quarterback. He’s only going to get better.”
With Ratley graduating and Kirk likely leaving for the NFL, Ausbon would be the Aggies’ top returning receiver after recording 50 receptions for 571 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman.
“I expect to see great things from him moving forward,” Ratley said of Ausbon. “I believe he’s a tremendous athlete, I believe he’s a great receiver, and he’s still got a lot to learn, but he’s big and he’s physical and he might be a little fast.”
Behind Ausbon in receiving were fellow freshmen and slot receivers Camron Buckley and Roshauud Paul. Ratley said he was impressed by both this year, pointing out that Paul had a 100-yard receiving yard game as a freshman before he did as a senior.
Although playing many freshmen caused growing pains for a youthful A&M team this season, Ratley concluded that those underclassmen having an entire year of playing time will benefit the team collectively as the Aggies move into the Jimbo Fisher era.
“A lot of young talent goes a long way, a lot of young talent that we’ve had also got game experience,” Ratley said. “A lot of teams around the country never play their freshmen, they redshirt them. But game experience, that’s the only thing that grows people up really fast.”

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  • Freshman wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon reaches into the end zone to put the Aggies above the Demon Deacons in the 4th quarter.

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