What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on in Aggieland?
In just two games, Texas A&M went from SEC West and possible College Football Playoff contender to out of the running in their division and facing a large amount of uncertainty at the quarterback position.
What a difference eight days make.
Kyle Allen looked like he was one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC earlier this month. Three pick-6’s vs. Alabama later and a performance on Saturday at Ole Miss were he went through a large stretch of “not being able to hit water if he fell out of a boat” adds up to, well, a lot of hand-wringing in College Station.
Of course, this isn’t all Allen’s doing. He’s had plenty of help. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital – perhaps you want to mix in a play or two that goes downfield? Ever hear of Speedy Noil? He’s wearing No. 2 over there on the left side. You do realize you have a tight end that really can catch on the roster, right?
Yes, Spavital won’t exactly win any popularity contests among Aggies these days. His play-calling has been under scrutiny since last season, when it seemed he was more in love with going east-west rather than north-south.
So the Aggies dropped a tough one in College Station 10 days ago to Bama. The good news – the defense really played well over the last three quarters; A&M actually had a chance to win the game, even with two pick-6’s. Not after the third one though.
That’s what’s such a head-scratcher about the Aggies – their defense is good-to-very-good and their once unstoppable offense is now the issue. They haven’t had a defense worth a flip in the last two seasons (and that is being kind). It cost Mark Snyder his job as defensive coordinator and resulted in the hiring of SEC defensive guru John Chavis from LSU. The defensive line is young and deep, with all-world end Myles Garrett leading the charge.
The offense is clearly the issue now, specifically at the quarterback position. Blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with two five-star signal-callers, Allen and true freshman Kyler Murray could probably start on just about any other team in the league. Allen won the job in fall camp (not surprising for a veteran incumbent with SEC wins under his belt). He’s looked very steady most of the season.
Kevin Sumlin insists that Allen is not playing hurt. I’m pretty sure he’s not “injured” but count me skeptical that he’s not playing with some sort of pain limitation. Allen hasn’t been the same since the second half of the Mississippi State game, and most of his balls are sailing on him. His performance on Saturday was abysmal, and it was shocking when he wasn’t pulled for Murray in the second half. And he sure isn’t pulling himself for fear he will never get the job back.
Sumlin won’t comment much on it, but reports of a dust-up between Murray and Spavital during the Bama game have surfaced and he was relegated to third-string duty for Ole Miss.
So now what? Sumlin announced on Tuesday that he sat down with all three quarterbacks (including Jake Hubenak, a highly regarded juco transfer) and told them that the job was wide open this week and all would be judged by everything they do this week, with a starter being named on Friday for the South Carolina game.
Now I’m sure that Sumlin is approaching this as a fair competition, but the fact is, it’s almost impossible for him to have Allen trot back out there as the starter on Saturday. And God bless Hubenak, but Murray will be getting the shot here, one he deserves that is not just a handful of plays or a couple of series.
Murray only went 43-0 as a starter for Allen High School, with three state titles. The kid simply knows how to win, something Sumlin hasn’t had since Johnny Manziel spun his magic a couple of years ago. Murray is a true duel-threat quarterback; Aggie fans have seen him run (and he’s faster than Manziel) but only has seen him make a couple of throws (and he can throw).
Who knows what to expect, but I’ll make the call right now – this Saturday is the beginning of a long career for Murray at quarterback for the Aggies. I think he’ll lead A&M to a high-scoring win over South Carolina and, barring injury, never relinquishes the job. He’ll also lead the Aggies to at least a 9-3 regular season record.
That’s the tough part about having two big-time quarterback recruits on the roster – both want to play, and have the talent to play. One will most likely be looking to transfer when the season is over, simply for that purpose – to play.
Tune in at 11 am on Saturday and see what happens. Here’s betting the kid wearing No. 1 makes you say “wow” a few times.