Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin named sophomore Kenny Hill the Aggies’ Week 1 starting quarterback, a role following one tough act to match.
As promised, Texas A&M’s replacement for 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was revealed Saturday, Aug. 16: the date Sumlin had initially pinpointed.
— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) August 17, 2014
The sophomore Hill beat out 5-star freshman Kyle Allen. In doing so, Hill’s duty now is to keep Texas A&M in the national spotlight and competitive in the nation’s toughest division. To do that, all he must do is approach the standard is predecessor set–a standard that made Manziel arguably the most celebrated playmaking quarterback in college football history.
No pressure there.
Pop quiz: Without Googling, can you name the quarterback who succeeded Michael Vick at Virginia Tech? How about Matt Leinart’s replacement at USC? Perhaps the much more recent successor to Tim Tebow at Florida?
If the names elude you, it’s understandable. Grant Noel, John David Booty and John Brantley couldn’t match the statistics, success or star power of their high-profile predecessors. They’re not alone, either.
Because of eligibility rules, college rosters are constantly refreshing. Coaches are tasked with building their teams for the future simultaneous to putting together the best team they can for the present.
Sometimes the talent of the present is transcendent. When those talents become the past, the
Rare are the situations like at Texas when two-time Heisman finalist Colt McCoy followed Vince Young at Texas. At Texas A&M, Kenny Hill will try to become an exception to the rule.
Hill’s efforts start with a vote of confidence from his coach, Sumlin. It also doesn’t hurt Kenny Hill that Sumlin has a proven track record for developing stat sheet-stuffing quarterbacks.
A&M’s system has Hill in a situation perhaps more comparable to that of Baylor when it replaced Robert Griffin III, rather than Virginia Tech when it replaced Vick.
Griffin’s immediate replacement, Nick Florence, finished 2012 with some of the gaudiest individual statistics in the nation. Bryce Petty has kept the good times rolling for Baylor quarterbacks.
But Hill’s job is about more than simply putting up big numbers. Johnny Manziel didn’t just rack up yards or score touchdowns; Manziel returned A&M to football relevance.
When Manziel was in the same position as Kenny Hill two years ago, Mr. Football, Esq., was stepping into some big shoes in his own right.
Ryan Tannehill threw for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2011 and was a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
But working in Manziel’s favor was that despite Tannehill’s impressive individual play, 2011 was a disappointing season for the Aggies. They finished 7-6, suffering numerous second-half meltdowns along the way.
Manziel was an unproven commodity, selected by a new head coach in the Aggies’ first season in a new conference–a conference they were expected to get drilled by on a weekly basis, at that.
When Manziel exploded onto the scene, it was wholly unexpected. His play was integral to A&M winning 20 games the last two seasons and reemerging as a nationally recognized program. And now that Aggie faithful have experienced being included among college football’s elite, they’ll want to remain there.
And it’s not just that Manziel succeeded that makes Hill’s job so difficult; it’s how Manziel succeeded.
He played with a panache at A&M that transformed Aggies games into Must See TV.
Manziel’s style is so mesmerizing, it prompted millions to tune into a preseason NFL game. A preseason Cleveland Browns game, at that.
Kenny Hill is stepping into a bright spotlight, and much of the glare is radiating off Johnny Manziel’s star. If he can keep from sweating under the pressure, Hill’s career won’t be a footnote in Texas A&M history remembered via Google search.
On the contrary; if Hill can flourish after following Manziel’s act, he can push the standard even higher for the next Aggies quarterback.