Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, so it's high time the Heisman discussion starts, right? All right, so it's still a little bit early to pinpoint this year's outstanding player, but there is one name that must be recognized in any early conversation. That would be Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.
Sure, it seems like a bit of a stretch to consider Hill part of the Heisman discussion considering he wasn't even solidified as a starter before the season began, but one game can change things rather quickly.
Hill led the No. 21 Aggies to a 52-28 rout of the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks on Thursday after completing 44 of his 60 passing attempts for 511 yards and three touchdowns for a rating of 91.5. His yardage broke a Texas A&M single-game record that was previously held by a guy named Johnny Manziel.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the win is a pretty good omen:
Kenny Hill for Heisman? 3 of the last 4 Heisman Trophy winners made their 1st career FBS start during the season in which they won the award— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 29, 2014
The aforementioned Heisman Trophy winner was cheering on his successor during the game:
KENNY FOOTBALL!!! #GigEm— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) August 29, 2014
Although, Hill remained humble during a press conference with The Associated Press, via ESPN.com after the game, "I don't really like 'Kenny Football.'"
Hill successfully stepped out of Manziel's shadow in a big way in Week 1. In fact, there were NFL scouts in attendance who came away rather impressed with the sophomore signal-caller, according to Ryan McGee of ESPN.com (subscription required). Said one scout:
This was a perfect storm kind of deal tonight in that he had a lot of time to pick his spots, and the lanes in the secondary were huge. But he still had to drop it in there. I didn't see him make but one or two questionable decisions. Good quarterbacks take little openings and make them look huge with accuracy. He did that. That builds confidence. Now he has a month against second-tier competition to keep building that confidence.
That comment is a big reason why Hill should be mentioned in early Heisman discussions. Many analysts or causal onlookers could view his performance as a number-padding effort due to facing a very shaky defense and relying upon offensive weapons who do well with the ball in their hands.
Not so fast.
While Hill had plenty of time to work with in the pocket, he displayed nice velocity, placement, anticipation and poise in the pocket. Even more impressively, he wasn't rattled by the pressure of the limelight.
His first career start resembled that of another Heisman-winning quarterback:
This isn't to say the Texas A&M quarterback should be crowned after one performance. After all, early Heisman discussions include such enormous talent like Todd Gurley, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. But who's to say Hill won't remain among college's elite by season's end?
Fox Sports Live's Matt Leinart knows a thing or two about winning the Heisman, and he has Hill pegged as his dark-horse pick:
Heisman Dark Horse Picks Feldman: Leonard Fournette Klatt: Myles Jack Leinart: Kenny Hill— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) August 30, 2014
Yes, the season is very, very young. But there's every reason to think another Heisman could be headed to College Station much sooner than anticipated.