- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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So the Johnny Manziel era is over at Texas A&M.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner officially announced on Wednesday that he is declaring for early entry into the 2014 NFL draft and will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility. That means no more No. 2 in Aggieland.
As Aggies reminisce about Johnny Football's greatest hits over the last two years and all the historic accomplishments -- both individual and team -- that occurred during Manziel's 26-game tenure, many are asking "Who's next?"
The Aggies must turn the page to find their next signal-caller. Who will be the quarterback tabbed to succeed Manziel? Virtually nobody is going to expect Manziel's successor to match his well-documented accomplishments, which included him finishing with the two best single-season SEC total yardage marks and come 11 yards shy of 10,000 total in two seasons.
But the Aggies aren't hurting for quarterback talent. There are options in the pipeline that head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital feel good about. Let's look at the potential options:
Kenny Hill: Hill appeared in five games as a true freshman this season, all of which were blowout victories. He was 16-of-22 passing for 183 yards and a touchdown in his limited action. He competed with Matt Joeckel back in August for the right to be the backup quarterback, though Joeckel wound up getting the more meaningful playing time of the two, starting the season opener against Rice when Manziel missing the first half due to a suspension.
At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Hill is a dual-threat who has plenty of experience in the no-huddle, spread-style offenses. The soon-to-be sophomore played in one in high school at Texas power Southlake Carroll, where he won a state championship, and Spavital said earlier this year that he could tell Hill is a quick study.
"He's very calm, cool and collected," Spavital said. "He communicates discretely and that's something that I don't have to emphasize as much. When a true freshman comes in, you [usually] have to try to calm him down to execute. That's what he's pretty good with. He's got the communication and operation part down, we just have to keep working on his execution."
Matt Joeckel: Joeckel will be a senior next season and has the most experience among the possible candidates. He was usually the first one the Aggies turned to when Manziel was out of the game this season, including in the season opener when Manziel was suspended. Joeckel made his first start that day and performed admirably, completing 14-of-19 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in two quarters of play. For the season, Joeckel was 22-of-37 for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in four games of action.
Like it did during the season, you can bet the coaching staff will give Joeckel a chance to compete during the upcoming spring. Spavital said that he felt Joeckel "earned the right to get in there and compete" and start the Rice game on Aug. 31, so it's likely Joeckel will be given a chance to compete for the starting job in spring football and in the fall.
Joeckel is more of a pocket passer of bigger stature (6-4, 234) and doesn't feature the mobility of Manziel or Hill, but he's an accurate passer and has been in Texas A&M's offense longer than any other quarterback on the roster.
Kyle Allen: Allen will be a true freshman this fall and is a member of Texas A&M's 2014 recruiting class. He's an early enrollee who has already signed his financial aid paperwork. He'll be attending classes in January and will participate in spring football.
Allen is the highest-ranked quarterback recruit that Sumlin has hauled in since he has become a head coach. The 6-3, 200-pound Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) is the 55th-ranked player in the ESPN 300 and the third-best pocket passer in the country according to ESPN's RecruitingNation. A U.S. Army All-American, Allen has the skills that should fit the offense well. He threw for 8,201 yards and 86 touchdowns with 32 interceptions while completing 66.6 percent of his passes in his high school career.
Since he'll be a true freshman and doesn't have the experience that Hill and Joeckel do, it might be an uphill battle for him to start right away, but being around for spring football will increase his chances as opposed to if he were to come in the summer. He'll be on campus to do offseason work from January all the way to the fall. Don't count Allen out of this race, as Sumlin has always been a "best players play" coach, regardless of classification.
So the Johnny Manziel era is over at Texas A&M.The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner officially announced on Wednesday that he is declaring for early entry into the 2014 NFL draft and will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility.