Monday, February 24, 2014
A&M spring predictions: Marathon QB race
By Sam Khan Jr.
Editor's note: This is the first part in a weeklong series of predictions for Texas A&M spring football practice, which begins on Friday.
Those who have paid close attention to Kevin Sumlin's history with quarterbacks know one thing is certain when it comes to picking a new starter: Patience is required.
Since Sumlin's head coaching career began in 2008, he has overseen two preseason starting quarterback competitions. One constant existed in both: The starter wasn't picked until midway through fall training camp.
If history is any indication, don't expect Matt Joeckel or any of the other Texas A&M quarterback candidates to be awarded the starting job in spring practice.
So while Texas A&M fans will discuss and dissect ad nauseam the three primary candidates to become the Aggies' starting quarterback, a spot now vacant with Johnny Manziel pursuing NFL dreams, Sumlin, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital and the rest of the A&M coaching brass will likely preach patience.
We can attempt to glean clues from spring football practice, which the Aggies begin on Friday, but if you think the heir apparent to Manziel will lay claim to the quarterback thrown in April once Texas A&M wraps up spring drills, you'll be disappointed.
This quarterback race will be a marathon, not a sprint.
Senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen will take the field in the coming weeks, battling it out for the right to succeed A&M's second Heisman Trophy winner.
As they rotate repetitions with the first-team offense and showcase their skills during practices and scrimmages, it will be easy to make assumptions based on their performances. Player X leads, Player Y needs to improve in these areas, etc.
But if the last battle Sumlin and his staff oversaw was any indication, it's unwise to base entire opinions on spring football. Many believed that Jameill Showers led Manziel in the race to become the starting quarterback in 2012 based on their respective spring performances. While that might have even been true, it didn't mean it was Showers' job. As we all know now, Manziel made enough improvement over the summer that when training camp arrived in August, he earned the confidence of the offensive coaching staff and was ultimately tabbed the starter roughly two weeks before the Aggies opened the season. Showers became the backup, and Manziel went on to make history.
Sumlin even seemed to take pleasure in letting the media know that "I didn't name a starter [after spring]; y'all did."
Spavital has even said, flatly, that the timeline for announcing a starter will be the same as it has been in Sumlin's recent history.
"We're not going to announce until the fall, a week and a half, two weeks before the game," Spavital told ESPN.com earlier this month.
All three quarterbacks will get a fair shot. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, which have been documented well. Joeckel brings size and experience, Hill brings a dual-threat ability and history of competing in an up-tempo, spread-style attack, and Allen brings the physical tools coaches look for in a quarterback as well as leadership qualities, even though he's the youngest and greenest of the group.
It will be a long spring and summer as Aggies wait for the competition to play out. The result, no matter what it is, will be full of intrigue.