Friday, February 21, 2014
Position battles to watch: Quarterback
By Sam Khan Jr.
Editor's note: This is the fifth and final part of a weeklong series looking at five position battles to watch in spring practice, which begins Feb. 28 for Texas A&M.
Texas A&M has several areas where it needs improvement or will have to replace an outgoing veteran who was productive and reliable. Spring practice is a place where those things can be accomplished.
But for all the new faces and position battles that will ensue, there's one that Aggies will watch the closest: quarterback.
Matt Joeckel will be among the Texas A&M QBs battling to replace Johnny Manziel.
The last two seasons the Aggies were fortunate to have one of college football's best to ever play the position at this level, Johnny Manziel. Spring will be about a lot of things, but what will garner the most attention is who will be the successor to the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and how will all the candidates perform throughout the competition.
Joeckel and Hill battled for the backup quarterback job -- and the right to start a game -- last fall while Manziel was under investigation by the NCAA for allegations that he profited from signing autographs. When Manziel was suspended for the first half of the season opener against Rice, Joeckel got the starting nod. He was solid, completing 14-of-19 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in two quarters of play. For the season, Joeckel, the twin brother of former A&M left tackle and current Jacksonville Jaguar Luke Joeckel, was 22-of-37 for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in four games of action.
At 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds, Joeckel doesn't feature the mobility of a dual-threat quarterback, but he's an accurate passer. He has also been in Texas A&M's offense longer than any other quarterback on the roster.
"He's the most experienced out of all of them in terms of running this offense," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said. "I was pleased with how he handled himself."
Hill, a Southlake (Texas) Carroll product, also received playing time during the 2013 season, even though he didn't get to appear against Rice. In five games, he was 16-of-22 passing for 183 yards and a touchdown and showed well in his college debut, which came in the second half of a blowout win over Sam Houston State.
Hill, a 6-1, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback, has a lot of experience in spread, uptempo offenses and has made positive strides in practices throughout last fall.
"Bowl preparation was good for him," Spavital said. "When Johnny was gone at awards shows it gave him a chance to run with the [first team] and get used to them. He has come a long way."
Allen comes in with plenty of credentials for a high school prospect. He was the No. 1 pocket passer in the country and has good size at 6-3 and 200 pounds. Spavital said he was impressed with how Allen handled himself publicly, his intelligence and his physical gifts.
"His playmaking ability, he has a very strong arm, a quick release," Spavital said. "He has a hell of an arm."
All eyes are on the quarterback anyways, but when these three begin competing, Aggies everywhere will be paying attention.