COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Johnny Manziel has left Texas A&M for the NFL and coach Kevin Sumlin has yet to decide who will replace the Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.
With less than three weeks before the opener, sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen are vying for the job.
Whoever gets the job will be left with big shoes to fill, but Sumlin isn’t expecting that player to be Johnny Football and has talked to his veterans about helping the starter adjust.
”It’s incumbent on the other 10 guys who are on the field to make the offense quarterback friendly,” Sumlin said. ”Our guys understand that because whoever that is, is going to be a young guy going into a very hostile situation in Columbia the first game of the year.”
The Aggies open their season Aug. 28 with a Southeastern Conference game against South Carolina before playing their playing their three game non-conference slate.
Hill had very limited action last season, appearing in four games and finishing with 183 yards passing. Allen was one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation after throwing for more than 8,000 yards and 86 touchdowns in his career at Desert Mountain high school in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Manziel threw for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns and had 759 yards rushing with nine scores in leading Texas A&M to a 9-4 record in its second season in the SEC before darting to the NFL with two years of eligibility remaining.
He was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and brought a level of excitement to College Station that had been missing for many years with his daring improvisational style of play.
His replacement will be decided soon, but Sumlin wouldn’t tip his hand as to which way he’s leaning and said this weekend that the race is ”dead even.”
Five things to know about the 2014 Aggies:
The Aggies have some questions on defense after several players were dismissed or left the team following off-the-field issues this offseason. The biggest loss was linebacker Darian Claiborne, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman team after piling up 89 tackles, including a team-leading seven for losses last year. He and lineman Isaiah Golden were dismissed from the team after being arrested on drug charges. Golden had 32 tackles last season. Defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury left the team after being arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault. He started 10 games last season and had 47 tackles and three sacks.
STRONG OFFENSIVE LINE
Texas A&M has had an offensive lineman chosen in the top-10 of the NFL draft for the past two years after the Jaguars selected Luke Joeckel second overall in 2013 and Jake Matthews was taken by the Falcons with the sixth pick this year. Despite these big losses, the unit should continue to be a strength of the team. The leader of the group is Cedric Ogbuehi, a three-year starter who will move into the left tackle spot left open with the departure of Matthews. He is expected to be a first-round pick in 2015. The unit also features Jake’s younger brother Mike Matthews, who started 13 games at center last season.
WHO WILL STEP UP AT RECEIVER?
Mike Evans was Texas A&M’s top receiver in 2013, finishing with 1,394 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns before also leaving early for the draft. Senior Malcome Kennedy is the veteran of the group after starting 10 games last season and finishing with 658 yards receiving. They also have the quick LaQuvionte Gonzalez, who is expected to start this season after appearing in each game as a true freshman in 2013.
RUNNING BACK DEPTH
The Aggies return three junior running backs competing for the starting job. Trey Williams led the three in rushing last season with 407 yards and six touchdowns and Tra Carson was right behind him with 329 yards and seven touchdowns. Williams added 269 yards rushing and a score. Sumlin calls the trio ”exceptional.”
The Aggies will play on Thanksgiving again this season after missing the formerly annual tradition for the last two years with their move to the SEC. They’ve replaced longtime rival Texas with LSU in 2014 and will host the Tigers in a night game on Nov. 27.