After two wildly-entertaining and ofttimes controversial years, the post-Johnny Manziel era at Texas A&M has officially kicked off.
The Aggies opened spring practice Friday evening, with most if not all eyes focused squarely on the beginning of what’s expected to be a months-long quarterback competition. The three-headed battle that will sort out a replacement for the 2012 Heisman winner and likely 2014 Top-Five NFL draft pick will include of fifth-year senior Matt Joeckel — Manziel’s backup in 2013 — true sophomore Kenny Hill and early enrollee true freshman Kyle Allen.
Joeckel has the kind of experience that might give him an edge over the other two. Hill showed flashes last season that lead some to believe he could, like Manziel two years ago, surprise observers. Allen comes in with the high-profile pedigree, a five-star member of the Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class rated as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position.
For his part, and least publicly, Kevin Sumlin is keeping an open mind as he embarks on his third spring in College Station. In fact, Sumlin took the play-it-way-down approach when asked about the early fight to replace Manziel.
“It’s just the first day. We’re running around in our underwear,” said Sumlin, presumably metaphorically. “We’ll figure it out. We’ve got another day of that. …
“I was pleased with the tempo, how they got their signals and how they operated the offense. As time goes on and we put more and more on their plate, we’ll see how they perform.”
It’s highly unlikely Sumlin will name a starter as the Aggies exit spring practice, instead allowing the competition to play out at least through the first portion of summer camp before pulling the trigger on a starter. Even if there’s a presumptive frontrunner among observers next month, that player may not be the one under center when A&M opens the season Aug. 28 against South Carolina in Columbia.
In late April of 2012, Jameill Showers exited spring as the odds-on favorite to some to succeed Ryan Tannehill in Sumlin’s first season in College Station. A little over four months later, it was Manziel taking the field as the starter for the opener against Louisiana Tech on his way to becoming the first freshman to stake claim to the Heisman.