The eyes of Texas have shifted from Austin to College Station over the last few years, and now those eyes are firmly entrenched on the quarterback battle at Texas A&M.
One of the hottest battles in the country is taking place in College Station this August, as sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen are vying for the job after former Aggie—and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner—Johnny Manziel moved on.
Needless to say, the winner of the battle in fall camp has big shoes to fill.
Not only did Manziel win the most prestigious individual trophy in sports, he ushered in a new era for the Texas A&M program—one that includes the move to the SEC.
Pressure? There will be some.
But replacing Manziel won't be as difficult as it seems, no matter who wins the job.
Does that seem crazy? It's really not. Here's why.
The Right Coach is in Place
If there's any coach in America who is prepared for a situation like this, it's Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin. He got to this point in his career by producing elite, consistent and—most importantly—flexible offenses.
The offenses he produced at Houston between 2008 and 2011 were second to none, almost literally. The Cougars led the nation in total offense in 2009 (563.2 YPG) and 2011 (599.1 YPG), and finished second in 2008 (562.8 YPG).
In each of those three seasons, quarterback Case Keenum topped the 5,000-yard mark through the air, tossed more than 40 touchdowns and completed more than 67 percent of his passes.
|Kevin Sumlin's Offenses as a Head Coach|
When Sumlin got the job at Texas A&M, Manziel fell into his lap. All Sumlin did with the dual-threat quarterback was turn him into the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and a player who led the SEC in total offense in 2012 (558.5 YPG) and 2013 (538.4 YPG), finishing in the top five nationally.
He's won with both styles of quarterback because his offensive scheme changes based on who's back there.
"It's our job to try to give them a plan that they can execute, No. 1, but No. 2 gets back to what I talked about earlier, about the other guys on the field," Sumlin said at SEC media days in July. "The other guys on the field making the offense quarterback-friendly, and the quarterback not having to do everything on his own."
That brings us to the next factor that will make the transition as smooth as silk.
If there's a criticism of Texas A&M this year, it has nothing to do with the weapons on offense.
Malcome Kennedy and Ricky Seals-Jones lead a talented receiving corps that also includes hotshot recruit Speedy Noil and tight end Cam Clear, who presents matchup problems for virtually anybody who covers him.
Tra Carson, a 6'0", 235-pound running back who saw spot duty last year, is more than a bruiser. He has speed to burn and is light on his feet in space, which makes him incredibly dangerous in this offense.
Behind him, speedster Trey Williams, the versatile Brandon Williams and redshirt freshman James White give Sumlin depth and options out of the backfield.
Up front, four of five offensive linemen return including Cedric Ogbuehi—who moved from right to left tackle and is projected as a first-round pick by many services, including NFL Draft Scout, Bleacher Report's Curt Popejoy and NFL.com's Gil Brandt.
With Ogbuehi, center Mike Matthews, right tackle Germain Ifedi and the rest of that group, the quarterback will be well-protected, and the running backs—who will take pressure off Hill or Allen—will have plenty of holes to exploit.
No, replacing a legend is never easy, but it's not like Texas A&M held open football tryouts like coach Ed Gennero in Necessary Roughness in search of the next Paul Blake.
Hill and Allen are both supremely talented football players with tremendous upside.
Hill was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2013, according to the 247Sports composite index. One look at his high school tape, and you can see why.
He has a big arm, is accurate downfield and, while he's not Manziel on the ground, is certainly capable of succeeding in a system that includes the zone read, a punishing running game and a passing game that takes advantage when safeties creep up.
Allen, a true freshman early enrollee who was the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2014, is more of a Keenum-type player who's effective in all facets of the passing game and able to take the top off of defenses after lulling them to sleep underneath.
With all of the weapons Allen has at his disposal, he should be able to ease into the role rather easily if he wins the job—especially since the offense was more suited to his style during the last week of spring practice, when Hill was suspended.
Matthews told 12thman.com (h/t Sean Lester of The Dallas Morning News) that a starter should be determined this week.
Whoever wins the job doesn't need to replace Manziel. He just needs to be himself.
The coaching staff, the players on the roster and the signal-callers' natural ability will allow them to be successful from the moment toe meets leather against South Carolina on Aug. 28.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.