One of the more intriguing position battles this spring and summer will take place in College Station where the Texas A&M Aggies have to replace arguably the most valuable player in college football over the last two seasons in Johnny Manziel.
While Manziel hopes to be taken with the first overall selection in May’s NFL draft, the Aggies won’t know their fate until deep into the summer with Matt Joeckel, Kenny Hill and highly-touted freshman Kyle Allen competing in a three-man race to succeed Manziel.
“Everybody’s going to get a fair shot,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “I think competition brings out the best in everybody. I can tell you that the [quarterback meeting] room is not very comfortable right now, but that’s what I want. They all want that starting job. Let’s see who wants it the most.”
Joeckel is the veteran of the bunch and started in place of Manziel in last year’s season opener after that silly first-half suspension Manziel was dealt after an investigation into his selling his autograph, but doesn’t possess the upside of Hill or Allen because of his limited skill-set.
Hill has some dual-threat ability and currently would be my favorite to sit atop the depth chart once spring practice concludes based on how he fared in practice at the end of the season and his familiarity with the style of offense.
“Kenny has come a long way. You can tell he was raised in a spread, no-huddle system. That comes pretty much second nature to him. He’s starting to understand the offense, he’s good at the communication and the operation part of it, which is a big deal.
While Hill is my pick to be the favorite to land the job once spring practice wraps up, my pick to earn the job for the season opener is five-star recruit and the No. 1 quarterback prospect of a year ago in Allen. He is already on campus and the extra reps he will receive in the spring will accelerate his development and could be the starter for the next three years and put up Manziel-like passing numbers.
When you see the praise Allen is already receiving from Spavital, it’s easy to see that Allen is the most physically gifted quarterback on the roster, but they won’t rush him and feed him to the wolves in the SEC if he’s not mentally prepared, but the praise is effusive for Allen and I think he’ll be the starter in 2014.
“He has a very strong arm, he has a quick release, he’s a bigger kid, about 6-3, 200 pounds. He’s big in stature and he has a hell of an arm. From a coaching standpoint and how we handle it, you can look at that and there’s a lot of good quarterbacks out there that can throw a ball and they can make a highlight tape look good. But when you talk to the kid, he’s a very intelligent kid and I liked his confidence and the way he carried himself. That was what separated him from everybody else.”
Allen won’t be handed the job and Joeckel and Hill won’t bow out because of his high recruiting ranking, but you can’t deny the high upside that Allen brings to the offense and Kevin Sumlin once started a redshirt freshman with zero experience under his belt and won a Heisman Trophy, so he won’t be afraid to start another freshman and that will be Allen.