Don't call him a favorite and don't even call him a dark horse, but if you're looking for the ultimate long shot for the 2014 Heisman Trophy, look no further than Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.
Hill, the 6'1", 215-pound sophomore from Southlake, Texas, was tabbed as Johnny Manziel's replacement as the starting quarterback for the Aggies over the weekend by head coach Kevin Sumlin.
“The competition was close and that competition will continue to help us improve,” Sumlin said in a release from Texas A&M. “I have talked to both quarterbacks as well as the team and we will prepare with Kenny getting the first-team reps.”
Hill completed 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions as the third-string quarterback last year, adding seven carries for 37 yards on the ground. He was rated as a 4-star prospect and the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2013 by 247Sports.
Surprised he was named the starter? I was.
I had been back and forth between Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen all offseason but settled on Allen, an early enrollee, as the winner as fall camp began.
Sumlin commented on the race to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle on Saturday afternoon.
Sumlin said Kyle Allen took news "maturely" and knows he's one play away from starting -- whether from "subpar play or injury."— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) August 17, 2014
Either way, though, the quarterback at Texas A&M is going to be successful. He has to be, and if you're looking for a long shot to win the Heisman Trophy, Hill is it.
It wasn't too long ago when a redshirt freshman was tabbed as the starter in Aggieland midway through fall camp. Manziel would go on to be the first redshirt freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, accumulating 11 wins, 5,116 total yards and 47 touchdowns during the 2012 season.
"Kenny Hill was able to sit around and watch Johnny Manziel, learn this offense and probably has much more command of this offense," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit told me. "With that offense, you make such quick decisions and the ball is out of your hand so quickly that it takes a guy who's a little bit more experienced."
Hill is perfectly set up to come out of nowhere to repeat the feat.
"Kenny throws a beautiful deep ball," TexAgs.com senior writer Billy Liucci told me at SEC media days in July. "In this offense, as we've seen the last two years, they're not afraid to take deep shots. They'll do that without [former wide receiver] Mike Evans out there."
As I wrote last week, Sumlin's teams have finished in the top 11 nationally in total offense in each of the last six seasons and tops in the country twice during his time as the head coach of Houston (2008-2011) and Texas A&M (2012-present). The offense has the weapons around Hill both up front and at the skill positions for him to step in and shine from the moment toe meets leather.
The biggest criticism of this Aggie team is its defense, which finished last in the SEC and 111th in the nation in total defense last year (475.8 YPG). On top of that, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder lost several key contributors unexpectedly, including defensive tackle Isaiah Golden and linebacker Darian Claiborne.
While that's a criticism of the team, it may help Hill's Heisman chances.
He has the dual-threat capabilities and the coaching staff to put up the video game numbers Heisman voters like, and, more importantly, he probably has to put up those stats if the Aggies are going to win games.
Where is Kenny Hill in the Heisman Race?
That's what will hold Hill up regarding the Heisman. The award has evolved into a quarterback-centric award that is reserved for signal-callers who are on teams that, at the very least, are competitive within their division or conference.
Texas A&M plays in the toughest neighborhood in college football in the SEC West—a division that has sent six teams to the national title game over the last five years. Hill will elevate from a "long shot" to "dark horse" if his defense fixes the glitch, which may be easier said than done but is certainly not impossible given the way Texas A&M has recruited over the last few years.
If you're looking for that long shot—that player out of nowhere who is beyond a dark horse but could put the pieces of the puzzle together to produce a Heisman-level season—it's Hill.
Several of those pieces are already in place. He has the coach, the system, the exposure and the defense that will bolster his Heisman case. Now he just needs the wins.
It seemed crazy two seasons ago, too, and look how that turned out.
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.