Sometimes we take for granted how difficult it is to replace a rare talent.
We've seen that play out at Texas A&M in the past year as it's gone from Johnny Manziel to Kenny Hill and now to Kyle Allen at quarterback, experiencing the highest of highs and lowest of lows along the way.
When we watched Hill step in for Manziel to great success at the start of this season (he broke Manziel's record for single-game passing yards in a win over No. 9 South Carolina), there were plenty of kudos offered to Texas A&M for its "system." Well, usually "systems" succeed because there are good players executing within them. Hill appeared to be more than up to the task early on.
Then things went haywire.
The Aggies rose to No. 6 in the CFB 24/7 Power Rankings after a 5-0 start with Hill leading them, but Hill's play declined sharply and TAMU unraveled, dropping three straight, including a 59-0 shellacking from Alabama. The Aggies fell out of the national rankings for the first time in two years and were truly feeling the pain of Manziel's absence.
Kevin Sumlin decided to make a change at quarterback, handing the reins to Allen, a true freshman. Hill compounded his issues by running afoul of team rules, earning a two-game suspension, and while he returns from suspension this week, Sumlin is sticking with Allen at QB a week after he helped the Aggies to an upset of No. 3 Auburn on the road.
Three-way battle awaits?
It's too soon to say whether Allen is the answer for Texas A&M. All indications are he gave Hill a run for his money during the fall camp competition between the two. Allen showed great promise vs. Auburn, and now Sumlin has to figure out what he has in these two QBs heading into the offseason, because he's expected to pick up another potential contender for the Aggies' starting job when the nation's top-ranked dual-threat QB recruit Kyler Murray, who has committed to TAMU, arrives.
Yes, that's right. We could see one heck of a QB battle this spring in College Station -- a three-way competition with two players that have put up big numbers and knocked off top-10 teams on the road could be in the offing. It could be that Texas A&M turns to its third different starter in less than a year as it searches for a long-term replacement for Manziel.
Before we get to that point, Hill will have to decide if he's coming back to battle to regain the starting job. That's what Sumlin wants to find out. He'll want to see if Hill has any "Manziel" in him. A big part of what made Manziel great was that he never accepted that anyone was better than him, whether he was redshirting as a true freshman behind a player who went on to become the No. 8 overall pick of the draft (Ryan Tannehill) or trailing Duke by 21 at halftime of the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season before going on to win. Manziel always bounced back.
Hill is being challenged in a big way. Will he fight back?
Faith in Sumlin
As for Sumlin, sure, he's endured a very poor stretch this season, but the Aggies (7-3) still have a chance to better their record from last season (9-4) if they win out and will match it if they lose one more game. I don't see much downside to his QB situation. Now he gets to watch whether Allen will play with the consistency that Hill didn't, and if neither steps up, he has Murray on the way.
Given Sumlin's track record, I have total faith that he'll pull the right strings.