Texas A&M Football in Confounding Disarray Under Sumlin

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Three years ago this week, Johnny Manziel was named Texas A&M football’s first Heisman Trophy winner in six decades. The Aggies were 10-2, just a month removed from beating the eventual national champion on its own turf, and in another few weeks would dominate the kingpin of their former conference home.

Three years ago this week, Texas A&M appeared on the verge of becoming college football’s next, great super-power. Instead, the Aggies are stuck in disarray.

Rumors of a meeting between head coach Kevin Sumlin, 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray, and Murray’s family circulated Tuesday. Those evolved (or devolved, depending on your perspective) into reports Wednesday that Murray will transfer.

Should the coveted 2015 recruit leave the Texas A&M football program, he’ll be the third Aggie quarterback to have transferred in the last calendar year. Kyle Allen, also a 5-star recruit when he signed with Sumlin in 2014, split College Station a week ago. 2014 Week 1 starter and very brief Heisman favorite Kenny Hill exited last year, after losing his job to Allen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated at 3:01 p.m. PST. The plot thickens.


A&M’s mounting failures at quarterback since Manziel left for the NFL are troubling from two different perspectives. The first and most obvious is that Sumlin was a celebrated quarterbacks and offensive guru upon his arrival in College Station nearly four years ago. He’d worked with Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford as an offensive coordinator before becoming head coach at Houston in 2008.

Case Keenum became the nation’s most prolific passer under Sumlin’s watch, and the breakout performance of Manziel in 2012 only further fueled Sumlin’s quarterback-coaching reputation.

The misfires at the position and exodus of transfers since cast doubt on Sumlin’s most celebrated quality, while also clouding his other most well-reputed attribute as a recruiter.

Sumlin parlayed the success of 2012 with victories on the recruiting trail. Equipped with an investment into Texas A&M football’s long-term health, which included renovations to Kyle Field and his own $5 million/year contract, Sumlin landed the Lone Star State’s most ballyhooed signing classes in 2013 and 2014, and finished 2015 just one spot behind Texas.

Losing a steady stream of highly touted quarterback prospects could be dismissed easily enough — Alabama’s had no shortage of celebrated recruits transfer out, for example. But the Crimson Tide continue to win. Recruiting stars aren’t turning into victories for the Aggies.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated 1:31 p.m. PST: The below is the de-commitment notice, tweeted by ESPN Top 250 recruit Quartney Davis.

This year’s A&M team finished 8-4, giving Sumlin three straight seasons with at least eight wins. However, in that same stretch, the Aggies have yet to finish above .500 in the SEC.

In that same three-year span, every other SEC West program finished on the right side of .500 at least once. Arkansas and Mississippi State did so despite recruiting classes ranked behind those of A&M every year Sumlin’s been in College Station.

It’s not just the SEC where Texas A&M is struggling, either. Sumlin’s arrival coincided with an era of tumult at Texas, which continued through Charlie Strong’s second year. The regression of Longhorn football under Mack Brown and mess Strong inherited opened a prime opportunity for a new power to take over the state — and programs like Baylor, TCU and even Houston have capitalized, arguably more so than A&M.

Meanwhile, A&M’s misfires could help further those programs along. Hill already landed at TCU, spending a season as understudy to quarterback dynamo Trevone Boykin. Allen is rumored to be in play for Houston, where he’d get a season to learn behind Greg Ward Jr.

Should Murray transfer, Texas is a rumored destination. Strong and his staff pursued Murray heavily out of high school. Landing at Texas would be the ultimate salt in the wound for Sumlin losing another quarterback.

Three years ago this week, the future of Texas A&M football looked so bright. Now, even its next season is shrouded in uncertainty.