*This column was originally published on The Sports Fan Journal.
This year has certainly been an interesting one for Texas A&M quarterbacks. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman-winning Aggie and most prolific quarterback on and off the field in school history, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the NFL draft. We all know how dramatic and disappointing his rookie campaign went. With Manziel’s absence, perhaps the biggest question mark heading into the college football season was who would be the next Texas A&M quarterback.
Eventually, sophomore Kenny Hill, who had his own Manziel-esque alcohol problems, won the starting job over true freshman Kyle Allen. In his first career start, Hill broke a school record by throwing for 511 yards, adding three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 52-28 victory over South Carolina. The next A&M star had arrived. Heisman hype arose along with the nickname “Kenny Trill.”
Hill continued to rack up monster numbers and lead his team to a 5-0 record. Over the first five games, Hill threw for 1,745 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Then, it all went downhill.
The Aggies lost their next three games to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama. After Alabama dominated A&M 59-0, Hill was benched and then suspended for the next two games for a violation of team rules. Apparently the Manziel comparisons were all too real. Hill wound up riding the bench in favor of the freshman Allen, and the youngster looked like the face of the franchise on the biggest stage, in a 45-37 victory over West Virginia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Allen came into A&M as a highly touted recruit, being named the No. 1 quarterback in the nation by Rivals. In his first start, Allen led his team to a 21-16 win over Louisiana Monroe but wasn’t eye-popping on the stat sheet. His true coming-out party was in a huge upset win, defeating Auburn 41-38, at Auburn. On the day, Allen went 19-for-29 for 277 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
After the Auburn game, the Aggies lost their next two games to Missouri and LSU, but in the two games, Allen combined to go 41-for-62 with 381 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The regular season was certainly a disappointment for a young A&M team, going 7-5 until the bowl game, but Allen showed promise.
Against West Virginia, the Manziel flare wasn’t there but wasn’t needed. This was the Kyle Allen show. He looked like a seasoned veteran, controlling his offense and making the biggest plays in the biggest situations. What was more impressive was Allen playing his best ball after throwing a pick-six to give West Virginia a 17-7 lead. Allen was responsible for five touchdowns, four passing and one rushing, throwing for a season-high 294 yards, and his 33 yards rushing were a best for Allen, too.
At the beginning of the year, Allen was best known for flirting on the sidelines. By the end, he showed he is the next great quarterback under Kevin Sumlin’s tutelage.