Johnny Manziel has left the Texas A&M Aggies football program in a dark attic. The uncertain status of the redshirt sophomore quarterback due to an alleged NCAA investigation has caused a media circus to go spiraling out of control. Whether or not Johnny Football will start or even play against Rice in eleven days has taken on a whole new life of its own, and everybody in Aggieland wants answers. The question at the heart of the matter is if Manziel gets suspended, which of Kevin Sumlin‘s other three scholarship quarterbacks does he open up the season with?
When beginning the possible quarterback carousel at Texas A&M, the closest thing to a sure thing is redshirt junior Matt Joeckel. Joeckel’s twin brother, Luke was selected as the second overall pick in last April’s draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Luke is the blindside tackle for Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville, standing at 6-foot-6 while Matt is 6-foot-4. Joeckel, along with his brother, came to A&M to run the pro-style offense for former Aggies head coach Mike Sherman. However, Joeckel was forced to pick up the new regime’s up-tempo spread offense and never succeeded right out of the gate.
Joeckel, a conventional drop back passer separates himself from the rest of the contenders at quarterback. He possesses an above average arm with very good pocket presence, and some believe in this wide open Air Raid offense Joeckel could put up the most passing yards in school history for a season. In Saturday’s scrimmage, Joeckel showed off those capabilities scoring his team on long drives twice. Joeckel is the only quarterback in the race to have taken a live snap in a college game. In mop up duty he has attempted 11 passes in his career, five of them went for completions. Last season, Joeckel served as the number three quarterback behind Manziel and current UTEP starting quarterback Jameill Showers.
Joeckel is getting pressured by two extremely gifted underclassmen as the backup, redshirt freshman Matt Davis and true freshman Kenny Hill. Davis and Hill are both considered dual-threat quarterbacks and were recruited to run the offensive similarly to that of Manziel.
It’s strange to think how much difference a year makes, especially for Davis. Davis came into his first fall camp within striking distance of kneeling the starting role over Manziel and Showers. He graduated from Klein (TX) Forest High School a semester early and received much valued experience in spring practice last season. However, Davis’ climb to the top, was a little premature and so the coaching staff put a redshirt on him to polish up his raw talents in his first year on campus.
Davis came to College Station as a highly coveted dual-threat quarterback out of the high school ranks, being placed as a 4-star recruit by all the major recruiting services. Standing at 6-foot-2 200 pounds, Davis has proven to be wild at times and has put together a lot of three and outs on offense through fall camp.
Joeckel and Davis not finishing off spring ball with a statement allows for the freshman, Hill, to become another viable option for A&M’s potential life without Manziel this season. Hill was the only one of the three to play a series with the first-team offense during Saturday’s scrimmage. Hill has a surplus arm and has had time in a similar offensive scheme at his high school, Southlake (TX) Carroll.
As the 2012 AP Texas Class 5A Player of the Year, Hill is built to run zone reads extensively the way Texas A&M wants to. He threw for 3,369 yards with 27 touchdowns and also rushed for a total of 1,421 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. Hill brings a different facet to the game than Joeckel does, but would that be enough to burn a redshirt with him? If Hill doesn’t redshirt, count him as one of 18 freshman on the two-deep on offense.
With either one of Manziel’s three successors, Texas A&M should still be good enough to contend for a bowl game. The Aggies’ chances to compete in the SEC and nationally would be highly questionable with a first year starter. Even with what Manziel did a year ago.