Texas A&M’s Puzzling QB Situation


It’s been nearly two years since Johnny Manziel finished his last game with Texas A&M at the Georgia Dome, and A&M has still not found a definitive replacement at quarterback.

There have been flashes of greatness, but consistency is the name of the game for Kevin Sumlin as opposed to sporadic success. “We’re looking for consistency out of the position and that’s what this week of practice will be about…” the Texas A&M Head Coach said in today’s press conference ahead of the Vanderbilt game.

“We’re looking for consistency out of the position and that’s what this week of practice will be about…”

Now that Johnny Manziel has taken his game to the NFL, the trio of Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen, and Kyler Murray have each had their moments of glory, but none have been able to sustain that success for an entire season. Here’s a look at what each has done.

Kenny Hill:

Oct 11, 2014; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill (7) during a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Threw for 511 yards (a Texas A&M record) in his first career start, a 52-28 whipping of South Carolina that broke the Gamecocks’ 18 game home win streak, yet five weeks later quarterbacked the worst offensive output of a Sumlin coached team in a 59-0 loss in Tuscaloosa. Later that week Hill was suspended and replaced by Kyle Allen.

Kyle Allen:

Led an unranked Texas A&M team to a 41-38 upset of no. 3 Auburn in 2014 in his second start, was the MVP of the Liberty Bowl with a five touchdown performance, and threw 13 touchdowns to two interceptions in a 5-0 start this season before three pick-sixes against the Crimson Tide and a poor showing against Ole Miss a week later.

Kyler Murray:

Nov 7, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kyler Murray (1) carries the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Replaced Kyle Allen and started against South Carolina. Murray became the first player since Cam Newton to have 100 yards and a touchdown both through the air and on the ground in his first career start, but then threw five interceptions in less than two full games of work against Auburn and Western Carolina.

The point being; Texas A&M has recruited elite talent to College Station, but until Sumlin finds a consistent player to take the snaps, Texas A&M won’t be able to contend in the SEC.

It is important to note that none of the above quarterbacks were even two years removed from high school when they played for Texas A&M. Consistency comes with experience, and even Johnny Manziel had three interception games.

Kyler Murray looked like the answer in his first start against South Carolina, then appeared far from it against Auburn and followed it up with a performance that was shaky at best against Western Carolina. The super-freshman by no means has taken control of the position, leaving the door open for Allen to make a comeback. Allen took advantage, going 6/6 for 88 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter.

Dec 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies offensive coordinator Jake Spavital speaks at a news conference for the Chick-fil-A Bowl from the Sheraton Hotel. Texas A&M will face off against Duke in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Years Eve. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

The situation has to be perplexing for offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, the man who has (deservedly so, in my opinion) taken a lot of the blame for Texas A&M’s lackluster offensive output. Grooming freshmen and sophomores in college to play the most important position in the game in the best league in college football while maintaining their confidence and relieving pressure from their shoulders is probably as impossible as it sounds. But, it’s why coach Spavital is paid so highly by Texas A&M. He must find the answer.

The timing is certainly not ideal for a quarterback controversy. When Allen was benched, the Aggies had three very winnable home games on the schedule, including a Spurrier-less South Carolina, a good-but-not-great Auburn team with a struggling defense, and FCS foe Western Carolina. Whoever the guy is for the Aggies will instead be expected to lead a victory in Nashville against a supremely underrated Vanderbilt defense and then hang close with Leonard Fournette and the LSU Tigers in Death Valley.

Texas A&M has recruited elite talent to College Station, but until Sumlin finds a consistent player to take the snaps, Texas A&M won’t be able to contend in the SEC

Keep in mind the only true road game Texas A&M has played this season resulted in a 23-3 loss to Ole Miss. Though Vanderbilt’s offense isn’t prolific, and LSU does not seem as daunting after two big losses to Alabama and Arkansas, either Allen or Murray will have his hands full.

Sumlin did not say who would start at quarterback against the Commodores, implying strongly that there was a chance for both guys to seize the job.

Nov 14, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk (3) scores a touchdown against the Western Carolina Catamounts during the second half at Kyle Field. Texas A&M beat Western Carolina 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

As of today, count me in among those in the Kyle Allen camp. Allen saw his first game action since Ole Miss this week, and looked worlds better than he did on that night. Connecting with Christian Kirk on two big plays was reminiscent of the beginning of this season, which is the kind of football A&M needs to get back to playing if they are going to finish 2-0. His play this week leaves no other logical explanation for his performance against the Land Sharks than an injury. Allen is a talented guy and a confident guy, as evidenced by his comments after the Alabama game. Now that Allen is again above Jake Hubenak in the depth chart, he appears to be healthy and should be the guy. Don’t forget that it was popular opinion in early October that Allen was the SEC’s best quarterback as a sophomore. Facts and opinions have changed over the last five games, but everything that Sumlin has said indicates that Kyle Allen is back to playing his best football.

Oct 17, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen (10) rolls out of the pocket during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Kyler Murray is no doubt a special talent, but what I have seen from the the Allen HS product the last few weeks is that he needs a little bit more time. Seven interceptions on the season for a guy with just two starts is not an endorsing statistic. Most have simply been freshman mistakes.

Murray’s picks have come from forcing the ball trying to spark the offense, underestimating the speed of defensive backs, and just not getting rid of the football when he should. I’d still advocate for Murray to come in for a series or two each game to throw a new look at the defenses, but I don’t think the Aggies can consistently rely on the freshman to break down the coverages and find throw more touchdowns than interceptions.

There was a telling play in the Alabama game, when Murray started the second half for Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide forced the Aggies into a third and long, and then employed one of the craziest stunts I’ve ever seen against the freshman quarterback. The play worked, as Murray was obviously confused, had no clue where to go with the football and was sacked to force a Drew Kaser punt.

Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M aren’t necessarily in must-win mode, but a win or two against two of the best SEC defenses could do wonders for recruiting momentum in the offseason. Kyle Allen gives Texas A&M the best chance in the last two games of the season.

The Texas A&M Aggies play at Vanderbilt, 6:30 on the SEC Network.

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Sep 13, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Caleb Azubike (55) sacks Massachusetts Minutemen quarterback Blake Frohnapfel (7) during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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