This year’s SEC media days might feel like a case of deja vu for Kevin Sumlin, playing Phil Connors in this college football version of Groundhog Day. Filling in for Ned Ryerson: SEC media, “bing’ing” Sumlin about the Texas A&M quarterback situation.
In 2012, Sumlin had just taken over for Mike Sherman. The Aggies were coming off a disappointing 7-6 campaign, and had just lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a first-round pick in the NFL draft.
At that year’s media event, Sumlin was still weeks away from naming Tannehill’s replacement. Sound familiar?
Sumlin is faced with a reply of the situation this year, only the departed first rounder this time is Johnny Manziel. Otherwise, the story plays out in much the same fashion.
Sumlin: “Didn’t come here to tell you who would be starting QB, so we can eliminate those questions” Decision couple weeks before opener
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 15, 2014
"I didn't come here to tell you who the QB is gonna be. That situation will play itself out." – Kevin Sumlin
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 15, 2014
Sumlin says questions about his starting quarterback in Week 1 can be "eliminated." Good luck.
— Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports) July 15, 2014
Johnny Manziel and Jameill Showers were locked in a competition that ended just days before the Aggies were scheduled to face Louisiana Tech. The game was postponed a month-and-a-half due to a hurricane, and the Bulldogs became an integral background player in the meteoric rise of Manziel.
But in the initial build-up to Week 1, Manziel was an unknown–save his run-in with police officers that summer.
2 years ago at SEC Media Days when asked by media who'd be A&M's QB, I'd respond: "Oh, Jameill Showers, take it to the bank." #Bankrupt
— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) July 15, 2014
Manziel’s successor cannot be fairly judged after just one week, as Manziel’s Heisman season reminds us. He opened his college career with a decent showing against the stout Florida Gators defense, though decidedly unspectacular at 23-of-30 for 173 yards with 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The 2014 Aggies open in similar fashion, taking on a foe from the SEC East, South Carolina. Playing in Williams Brice Stadium on the first-ever SEC Network telecast is a bright spotlight for the next Texas A&M quarterback. But for Sumlin, the process of acclimating a new quarterback is new hat.
Below are the first-year stat lines of his last four quarterbacks. Houston’s Case Keenum is the only player with game experience prior to working under Sumlin’s tutelage.
|Year||Quarterback||Pass Completions/Attempts (Pct.)||Pass Yards||Pass TD/INT||Carries||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
|2007||Sam Bradford||237/341 (69.5)||3,121||36/8||31||7||0|
|2008||Case Keenum*||397/589 (67.4)||5,020||44/11||76||221||7|
|2010||David Piland||201/345 (57.1)||2,929||16/12||23||28||0|
|2012||Johnny Manziel||295/434 (68.0)||3,706||26/9||201||1410||21|
And even Keenum saw an immediate improvement in his first year playing for Sumlin. His statistics as a freshman were pedestrian at best, despite playing in Art Briles’ system: 14 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and 2,259 yards.
But in 2008, Keenum’s first season under Sumlin, he passed for 44 touchdowns and a ridiculous 5,020 yards.
Keenum was injured early in 2010, forcing Sumlin to start David Piland. While Piland was not up to par with his predecessor, he still managed
Perhaps the most promising takeaway the new Texas A&M quarterback can take from Sumlin’s previous first-time starters is the stark contrast in stat lines from Bradford, Keenum and Piland to Manziel.
At Oklahoma and Houston, Sumlin obviously preferred his quarterbacks to operate strictly as passers. Demarco Murray, Allen Patrick and Chris Brown shouldered the rushing burden for Oklahoma in 2007; while Keenum rushed some for Houston in 2008, Bryce Beall was the ground game focal point.
But with the athletic Manziel, Sumlin tapped into a new dimension of his prolific scheme, unleashing Manziel’s uncanny rushing ability. Not that Sumlin completely re-wrote his playbook, mind you: Manziel’s pass attempts still ranked No. 23 in the nation, and the running backs still shouldered a considerable load with Ben Malena, Christine Michael and Trey Williams combining for almost 320 carries.
Kyle Allen and Kenny Hill are the Manziel and Showers (or Showers and Manziel) of this year’s Texas A&M quarterback competition.
“Kyle is more of a pocket guy,” offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi told Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. “Kenny is a little bit more mobile. I see a lot of similarities, in that they’re both playmakers, as well.”
Allen was 247Sports.com’s top-rated pro-style quarterback in the 2014 signing class. Should he win the starting job, the Aggies’ offense will look much different than the last two seasons with Manziel quarterbacking it.
And given Sumlin’s track record, the Texas A&M quarterback is going to be just fine.