Texas A&M opens up QB competition after Allen struggles
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M is looking to solve its problems on offense by opening up the quarterback competition.
Coach Kevin Sumlin said he told Kyle Allen, who has started each game this season, freshman Kyler Murray and Jake Hubenak that they’d compete for the job this week and he’d name a starter on Friday for Saturday’s game against South Carolina.
He shared some of what he told the three players in a meeting on Monday morning.
"Looking for consistency across the board at quarterback," he said. "Cutting down on turnovers. This week you’ll be evaluated not only based on practice, percentage in drills and everything else, but also evaluated in your leadership skills, communication with teammates and the coaching staff and general overall play and demeanor."
The Aggies opened the season 5-0 before consecutive lopsided losses to Alabama and Mississippi. Allen threw 13 touchdown passes with two interceptions in the first five games but has thrown only one touchdown pass with four interceptions in the last two games. In the 41-23 loss to Alabama, all three of his interceptions were returned for scores.
Sumlin was asked why he didn’t bench Allen until the fourth quarter on Saturday night considering how much he was struggling.
"(It’s) hard to play that position looking over your shoulder all the time," he said Tuesday. "A lot of other positions you can yank guys in and out. But without confidence it’s hard to play quarterback. You kind of want a guy to play himself out of it, but it wasn’t happening and we made the change."
Allen completed a career-low 35.3 percent of his passes on Saturday for just 88 yards. The performance came after he had two games earlier this season where he completed 75 percent or more of his passes.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital talked about what they’ll need to see from Allen this week for him to keep his job.
"Has to show more consistency. Take care of the ball," Spavital said. "I’m really focusing in on timing, precision, communication, leadership. Not qualities of execution. Just all the `it’ factors in what we’re looking for."
Murray has appeared in five games this season and Hubenak threw for 4,052 yards and 47 touchdowns at Blinn Junior College last season. Hubenak took over for Allen late in Saturday’s game and was 6 of 11 for 46 yards. It was the first extended action of the season for Hubenak, who started his career at Oklahoma State before transferring to Blinn. He had thrown just one pass in the first six games of the season.
Spavital raved about Hubenak.
"Has done a great job for us ever since he stepped foot on campus," Spavital said. "Can operate offense effectively. Can communicate. Can throw the football around. Went out and showed great poise Saturday and executed it cleanly. Thought he did great job for us at Ole Miss."
Murray, a dual-threat player, has shown some promising flashes this season. But he had to work his way back into the good graces of the coaching staff after getting into a heated sideline exchange with Spavital during the Alabama game two weeks ago. Sumlin discussed the incident on Tuesday without addressing specific details of what happened.
"Kyler has done the things necessary that we’ve asked him to do based on what happened on the sideline," Sumlin said. "Hopefully that’s been a learning experience for him. Since that time … he has come back has practiced and is doing the right things. That’s why he was part of discussion (Monday) in this competition."
Murray came to A&M after going 43-0 in leading his high school in Allen, Texas, to three state titles. Murray is the son of Kevin Murray, who played quarterback for the Aggies from 1983-86 and was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. The younger Murray threw for 14,500 yards and scored 186 touchdowns in his three championship seasons but Allen beat him out for the job in camp.