Matt Joeckel

No Manziel, but Texas A&M not lacking in QB options


Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has been rather fortunate when it comes to his starting quarterback situation over the years. Since first becoming a head coach at Houston in 2008 through the 2013 season, Sumlin has had to go in to a spring practice wondering who his starting quarterback will be for the fall just twice. That is a luxury most coaches rarely get to enjoy, and it is one not found in College Station, Texas as the Aggies wrap up their first full week of spring practices.

So, just who will get the chance to fill in the spot left vacant by Johnny Manziel, who has left to perhaps be one of the top picsk in the 2014 NFL Draft?

“Life after Johnny Manziel seems to be the growing theme around here,” Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said earlier this week, according to “But, I’ve been fortunate enough to have good quarterbacks everywhere I’ve been. And I’m looking for the next guy to come in to be their own man and step up and make a name for themselves.”

Aren’t we all? The Aggies will not have another player quite like Manziel, this much should go without saying, but they do have options to work with this spring and again in the summer training sessions leading up to the first kickoff of the season. Three players will be competing for the opportunity, but only one has any real experience to rely on. Senior quarterback Matt Joeckel is a more traditional pro-style quarterback, so he would certainly be a 180-degree flip in offensive style for the Aggies. Freshman Kyle Allen could be another option if the Aggies choose to go with a pro-style approach to the offense. Allen was a part of the most recent recruiting class but is already enrolled at Texas A&M. Joeckel has the experience, but Allen has the long-term potential. Sumlin has shown he has not been too timid when it comes to starting a young quarterback. Take his last two starting quarterbacks for example, Case Keenum at Houston and Manziel at Texas A&M.

One thing we learned while watching Manziel at Texas A&M is that it can serve well to have a player who can move around and make plays happen out of nowhere, or adjust on the fly. Maybe Joeckel or Allen could be capable of that, but the quarterback who has the dual-threat tendencies already is sophomore Kenny Hill. Hill was the fourth-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2013. If Sumlin wants to have a player who can open things up a bit, Hill may prove to be the best option available.

Whoever gets the eventual nod, a decision that may not come until much closer to the start of the new season, neither should worry about replacing Manziel. They each must embrace what they can do and try to stay within their abilities.

“I know the next guy to play is not going to be the next Johnny Manziel, but who knows, he’ll probably bring a different aspect to the game and he’ll probably be pretty good at what he does,” Spavital said. “There is no panic with me, the best thing is you gotta put him in the best position to succeed.”

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles
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Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

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It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.