Ryan Tannehill was selected with the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Losing a top 10 pick from under center can be devastating to some programs, but the Aggies may actually be better off without Tannehill than with him.
That statement will seem odd to Aggie fans who watched Tannehill set school records for passing yardage in a season and career completion percentage. Tannehill was a very good college quarterback, but he also made mistakes that cost his team wins.
Tannehill threw multiple interceptions against Oklahoma State and Texas in 2011 which cost the Aggies the game. The Texas game was particularly egregious because the only way Texas could score in that game was if A&M committed turnovers. Tannehill turned the ball over and let them back into the game.
A&M will face SEC defenses in 2012 that feast on turnovers. It will be advantageous for the Aggies to play a quarterback who will simply run the system and try to limit turnovers, rather than a gunslinger who will try to fit the ball into tight windows.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has shown in the past that he can get immediate results from his quarterbacks. He took over as offensive coordinator at A&M before the fourth game of the 2002 season. Dustin Long threw for 205 yards in the next game and set an A&M record with seven touchdown passes against Texas Tech in Sumlin's second career game as an offensive coordinator. Long passed for 2.509 yards and 19 touchdowns in limited action that season.
During Sumlin's first season as the head coach at Houston, Case Keenum completed 67 percent of his passes for 5.020 yards and 44 touchdowns. Keenum and backup quarterback Cotton Turner was lost to injury against UCLA in 2010.
Sumlin started third-string quarterback David Piland in the next game at Starkville against Mississippi State and responded with 301 yards passing and two touchdowns with two interceptions. For the season, Piland completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,641 yards with 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Sumlin has repeatedly shown that he can get his quarterbacks ready to play in his offense no matter what the circumstance dictates. Aggie fans should feel confident that either Jameill Showers or Johny Manziel will be effective as first year starters in the SEC in 2012.
With the Aggies depth at the running back position, Sumlin may not have to lean on his quarterback much in 2012. Christine Michael is ahead of schedule in his rehab from an ACL injury and backup Ben Malena had an outstanding spring.
Trey Williams will arrive in the fall and offer Sumlin a variety of ways to use his speed out of the backfield.Sumlin has never coached a team with a backfield with this kind of depth and talent.
The Aggies also return six offensive linemen with starting experience. They should have one of the top offense lines in the country. Whoever lines up under center for A&M, will line up with a veteran offensive line in front of them and outstanding talent at running back behind them. They just need someone to step in an limit mistakes while running the system.
The Aggies are going to play teams in the fall like Florida, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State who struggled to score points in 2011. It would behoove the Aggies to be conservative on offense in those games and let their running backs work. Unless those teams show they can consistently score points, the Aggies should run the ball and try to limit mistakes.
When a team is entering a new conference under a new coaching staff there are going to be changes even if you are returning your starter at quarterback. Sumlin has repeatedly proven that he can produce effective play from his quarterback no matter the circumstance. With the offensive line and running backs the Aggies have returning, the offense does not have to rely on the quarterback as much as with some other teams.
The Aggies will survive and likely excel at quarterback with Tannehill in the NFL.