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Cessna: Jhamon Ausbon's decision to opt-out a head-scratching one

Cessna: Jhamon Ausbon's decision to opt-out a head-scratching one

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Texas A&M vs. Arkansas football (copy)

Texas A&M’s Jhamon Ausbon, right, is tackled by Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw after a 5-yard reception in the second quarter of the Aggies’ 24-17 win over the Razorbacks.

The Texas A&M football team needed Jhamon Ausbon, but the wide receiver needed the Aggies just as much, if not more.

Ausbon announced Sunday he’ll forgo his senior season to prepare for the NFL Draft, a decision that makes about as much sense as everything else that’s happened in 2020.

Ausbon wasn’t just the team’s top veteran wide receiver, he was really the only one. He also was a team captain who the young, talented receivers could lean on. He has the savvy and size at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds to handle a grueling 10-game Southeastern Conference schedule. His absence will be costly. It won’t be measured so much in the game-winning catches or number of catches, but rather is his day-to-day presence. Players with 35 career starts don’t grow on trees.

But it could prove more costly for Ausbon, who walked away from a sweet situation. He already was the go-to receiver, and that was before juniors Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rogers opted not to return and A&M lost tight ends Baylor Cupp and Blake Smith to season-ending receivers. Ausbon’s targets would have been off the charts this season from quarterback Kellen Mond, who already looked for his roommate in a pinch.

There’s more to Ausbon’s head-scratching decision that will bloody many Aggies’ heads.

Ausbon threw nothing but positive vibes during a Zoom conference on Aug. 20. He looked forward to finishing what he started four years ago. He took pride in being a leader. He loved the guys he came in with and the young receivers he was mentoring. Ausbon was part of an incoming class that has weathered a coaching change and is in position to help A&M possibly have its best season since joining the SEC in 2012. Those all are moments some players never get to experience.

Ausbon also needs to improve his draft status by playing, not sitting. Last month, Ausbon didn’t make USA Today Draft Wire’s top 35 wide receivers for the 2021 draft. So Ausbon’s not going to hear his name called on the first day or second day of the NFL Draft. Heck, he probably won’t even hear it on the last day. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase opting to pass on the season made sense. He’s projected to be the top receiver taken. He had 84 receptions last year for 1,780 yards with 20 touchdowns, but LSU’s offense also lost nine starters. Ausbon had 66 receptions for 872 yards with five touchdowns. He could have improved those numbers with a veteran quarterback returning along with four offensive linemen, a tight end, a running back and an improving defense.

So what’s the deal? Did he fall prey to a sweet-talking agent? Was his talk about looking forward to the season and leadership compliments and praise from head coach Jimbo Fisher window dressing? Was he really not that happy? Did Ausbon feel threatened by the young receivers or did the injuries to Cupp and Smith scare him? As the go-to receiver, was he worried about taking a beating in 10 SEC games, especially if the offense isn’t that potent? Would it be better for him to make an NFL team as a completely healthy free agent? Did the restrictions caused by COVID-19 contribute?

Ausbon’s decision, which would have made more sense a few months ago, will be debated. Most of the theories, if not all, will be wrong. But it’s something that cries for more than what we know.

That being said, first and foremost, it was Ausbon’s decision; more power to him. He’s earned that right. He’s a first-class individual. He’s represented A&M well and he’s getting his degree this fall. Isn’t going to college all about getting an education? At least, that’s what I read.

Hopefully, it’ll work out well for him and for the Aggies, but right now, it looks like a lose-lose situation. And if that happens, it’ll be a shame.

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