Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Aggies confident, no matter who's at QB
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The saga involving Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel and the NCAA investigation into allegations that he profited from signing autographs saw a resolution Wednesday, as it was determined that Manziel will be suspended for the first half of the Aggies' season opener against Rice on Saturday.
While the investigation was ongoing, many turned their attention to the quarterbacks on the roster not wearing No. 2 on the chance that one of them might have to play. With Manziel missing a half, the Aggies will begin Saturday's showdown against the Owls with either junior Matt Joeckel or true freshman Kenny Hill calling the signals.
With Johnny Manziel suspended for the first half of the season opener, the Aggies will turn to Matt Joeckel or true freshman Kenny Hill.
So who are these quarterbacks?
Both were engaged in a three-way backup quarterback competition during preseason training camp, one that included redshirt freshman Matt Davis, who last week decided to transfer to Tyler (Texas) Junior College, leaving just two contenders. On Tuesday, coach Kevin Sumlin did not name a backup and said the battle between the two is an "ongoing competition."
What does each player bring to the table?
Joeckel's advantage is experience. Though he doesn't have much game experience -- appearing in five games and attempting 11 passes last season -- it's still more than Hill, and Joeckel has already spent a season working in the Aggies' offense, serving as the No. 3 quarterback last season. He's more of a traditional pocket passer.
"He's a big kid [6-foot-4, 234 pounds] but not the most mobile guy, so you'd probably call the game a little differently than with Johnny in the game than him," Aggies quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said earlier this month.
The 6-1, 215-pound Hill, who has no collegiate experience, comes from a Texas high school powerhouse, Southlake Carroll, known for producing Division I quarterbacks. Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy, Kyle Padron and David Piland are among those who signed with Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the past decade.
"He's talented," Texas A&M offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney said. "He was the Gatorade Player of the [Year in the] state. He's a dual-threat guy. With what they did at Southlake Carroll -- a lot of the Texas high schools are going to a similar offense to what we're running. I think it prepares guys like him to play at this level. The operation of it is real similar to what he's already done."
Spavital has made sure to give Hill plenty of practice repetitions during camp to help him grasp the offense. Teammates say both have competed well in training camp.
"Both of those guys have really done great things when they've had their opportunities during practice," senior running back Ben Malena said. "Both of those guys are really smart guys, and they've both had their opportunities to make plays and they have. It's great competition at the backup quarterback spot."
"As [Hill has] progressed, he's really proven to me that he's a real good quarterback," Matthews said. "He can move around the pocket. If it comes down to it, he can scramble and run with the ball, and he's also been throwing the ball pretty well. Matt, he's an older guy, 6-5, more of a pocket passer, so I'm confident with both of them."
Sumlin said he has tried to rotate each quarterback with the first team in certain instances during training camp. It's something he has done in the past simply so his backup quarterbacks can build a camaraderie with the first unit should they ever be pressed into duty.
Hill and Joeckel's teammates are confident they'll play well no matter who is calling the signals.
"The backup quarterbacks are putting in the time and effort," Matthews said. "I believe in them. Matt and Kenny, they come in every day and they put the work in, so I'm confident in the quarterbacks that we have. So if it turns out that [Manziel] isn't able to play, I'll be confident in our backup quarterback."