Let's just get this out of the way: Kenny Hill is not Johnny Manziel.
And it doesn't matter.
The latter may be one of the most electrifying players in the history of Texas A&M—and possibly even college football—but the former is built to run head coach Kevin Sumlin's offense.
He proved exactly that on Thursday night, going into a raucous Williams-Brice Stadium and trampling No. 9 South Carolina. After throwing for a silly 299 yards and a pair of scores in his first half as a starter, Hill finished 44-of-60 for 511 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies' 52-28 win, rewriting the record books in the process:
School records falling in Columbia. Kenny Hill most passing yards ever by A&M QB, South Carolina allowed most yards in school history— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) August 29, 2014
Kenny Hill is the third quarterback in SEC history with 40 completions in a game (Tim Couch 5x and Eli Manning 1x) #TAMUvsSC— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 29, 2014
Texas A&M entered the game as a 10-point underdog, per OddsShark, and while that seemed a little harsh for a team that has thrived under Sumlin, the spread was understandable. The Aggies lost a great deal of talent in the offseason, most notably Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans, while South Carolina had won 18 in a row at home and was expected to be in the mix at the top of the SEC East.
Yet Hill and this offense made Steve Spurrier's defense look like Abilene Christian. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman put it simply after Hill's incredibly easy-looking first-half performance:
Kenny Hill is dealin' ... like he's playing on #TAMU practice field not vs a team that's won 18 in a row at home: 27-35 for 299 yds— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 28, 2014
It was the perfect game plan from Sumlin because, for the most part, it was simple. A number of Hill's completions came on quick throws and short pitch-and-catches, allowing his wide receivers and running backs to do the rest.
That seemed to help get him into an early groove. Hill's first drive went 67 yards on nine methodical plays, resulting in an emphatic statement that quieted a crowd that was absolutely electric just minutes earlier.
ESPN's Sam Khan Jr. summarized that drive, while the nickname jokes already began surfacing, via CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd:
Call him Kenny Legacy.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) August 28, 2014
Hill's unforgettable starting debut was not just the result of conservative play-calling, though. He looked incredibly poised and confident. When he had time, he threw lasers out of the pocket. When he was pressured, he showed the quickness to escape easily, but instead of tucking the ball and running, he kept his eyes downfield and delivered accurate throws.
“You can tell he was raised in a spread, no-huddle system,” Texas A&M quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said before the game, per Khan. “That comes pretty much second nature to him.”
Clearly. He moved the ball flawlessly, surgically cutting up the defense at a breakneck pace.
Kenny Hill seems unfazed when the pass rush gets close to him. Doesn't panic; no problem sidestepping and evading. #TAMUvsSC— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) August 29, 2014
He looked nothing like an inexperienced sophomore, let alone one playing on the road against a quality SEC opponent.
You can say what you want about South Carolina's young defense, but this performance should put the rest of the conference—and the country, and the Heisman voters—on notice. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer offered his assessment of A&M's showing:
Have to completely reset expectations - at least mine - on A&M. This is pretty damn special.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) August 29, 2014
With the size and talent of Ricky Seals-Jones, the electrifying quickness of Speedy Noil, the reliability of Malcome Kennedy, the three-headed rushing attack and the dominant offensive line, Hill doesn't have to be perfect.
He just has to push the pace, take what the defense gives him, play with poise and know when to make plays with his legs.
Judging by just four quarters of scintillating play Thursday night, he clearly knows how to do all of those things. This is a special offense, and it's being led by a special player with a special blend of physical gifts and mental aptitude.