Knight atop group of graduate transfers making impact in SEC
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) When both of Texas A&M's top quarterbacks left the school within days of each other in December, the Aggies were left scrambling to find someone to run Kevin Sumlin's high-powered offense.
They found it in Trevor Knight , who came to the school as a graduate transfer in January after a successful career at Oklahoma. Knight stepped in as Texas A&M's starter to become the most successful graduate transfer in the Southeastern Conference this season. Plenty of other schools in the league have received contributions from graduate transfers, too.
Knight started 15 games in his first two seasons with the Sooners, with the highlight coming when as a freshman he earned MVP honors in a 45-31 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama by throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns. But he was benched in favor of Baker Mayfield last season, and instead of spending the rest of his career on the bench, he decided to test his luck with the Aggies.
''Our situation with Trevor is a good one,'' coach Kevin Sumlin said. ''Gave him another chance to play at this level, maybe another shot at playing professionally. Filled a void for us. Don't know there's lot of bad things about it.''
Knight has thrown for 1,911 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 583 yards and 10 more scores in helping the 10th-ranked Aggies to a 7-2 record this season. But he will miss the rest of the regular season after injuring his right shoulder on Saturday. Sumlin hopes he can return to play his last college game for the Aggies in their bowl game.
Though some question if these transfers should be allowed, Sumlin doesn't see any problem with them. And this comes from someone who not only benefited from a graduate transfer, but who has let players like this go in the past when it was clear that it was a better situation for them.
Jameill Showers was with Sumlin for three seasons, playing behind Ryan Tannehill and then Johnny Manziel before graduating in 2013 and transferring to UTEP, where he became a starter. Matt Joeckel, another backup quarterback for Sumlin, left A&M to play at TCU after graduating.
''I've seen both sides of it,'' Sumlin said. ''To me my thought process is if a young man comes to your university and does everything you ask him to do, has been a great teammate and graduated from your university, which is the number one thing he came there for, and for whatever reason wants to leave, why not give him chance to go somewhere else to live out his dream? If someone wants to be part of that and they need a quarterback for a year, an older guy, why not?''
The most controversial graduate transfer this season was the move by defensive back Maurice Smith from Alabama to Georgia . The transfer was at first refused by Alabama coach Nick Saban before being referred to the SEC office, which approved it in August.
Smith wanted to transfer after failing to get significant playing time in three seasons with the Crimson Tide. Things have been much different this year with the Bulldogs, for whom he's appeared in nine games with seven starts. He's tied for fifth on the team with 35 tackles and has an interception and a sack.
''Mo (Smith) has done a good job as a senior, a guy who walked in the locker room and earned respect by the way he practices,'' Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. ''There's a good core group of kids on this team that want to do well. It's important to them to do well. That's why we're able to keep the continuity of the team together because so many of them are good kids.''
A look at the contributions of other graduate transfers in the SEC this season:
– Alabama receiver Gehrig Dieter . He played at both SMU and Bowling Green before joining the top-ranked Crimson Tide this season. He was a star for Bowling Green last season, finishing with 94 receptions for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. His impact has been much more modest for Alabama this year, when he has appeared in seven games and has eight receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown.
– Auburn linebacker T.J. Neal. Neal joined the eighth-ranked Tigers after a career at Illinois, where he had 245 tackles in 25 career games. This season, he's played in six games and has 20 tackles, highlighted by a season-high nine tackles in a win over Vanderbilt last week.
– Texas A&M tight end Kalvin Cline. He came to A&M after playing at Virginia Tech. His best season there came as a freshman in 2013, when he started seven games and caught 26 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns. This season he's played in all nine games but has mostly been used as a blocker and has just one reception for 17 yards.
– Mississippi linebacker Rommel Mageo . In three years at Oregon State, Mageo had 157 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. This season he's appeared in eight games with two starts and has 28 tackles.
– Arkansas offensive lineman Jake Raulerson. He earned his degree in finance at Texas in three years while appearing in 23 games for the Longhorns. This season he's stepped in to start eight games for the Razorbacks at left guard. He has one year of eligibility left following this season after redshirting during his first season at Texas.
AP Sports Writers Charles Odum, John Zenor and David Brandt contributed to this report.
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