The Trill is gone: Kenny Hill's future at Texas A&M in doubt
From hero to zero in two months.
This season’s been quite the emotional rollercoaster for Texas A&M sophomore Kenny Hill.
No player in recent SEC history has taken such a precipitous dive from stardom, a quarterback who stole the spotlight and captivated the college football world for six weeks following an opening night masterpiece at South Carolina in his first career start post-Johnny Manziel.
The savior, as some called him for Texas A&M’s offense, Hill was a quick thinker and let plays develop through his progressions unlike the Aggies’ previous enigmatic, freelancing quarterback.
A notch below his predecessor on the talent scale, Hill was set on winning the Heisman a different way, as a pocket passer, and was poised to lead the Aggies to the SEC Championship Game on a team projected to struggle during Year 3 under Kevin Sumlin.
The impressive rise to a No. 6 national ranking was short-lived as the rapid decay began during a mistake-filled mess in Starkville on Oct. 4. It was the first loss during a brutal three-game stretch against Western Division elites that brought Texas A&M down from the stratosphere and into overrated hell.
The drop reignited the fall practice quarterback battle with Kyle Allen and immediately drew questions concerning Sumlin’s inability to beat good teams, fostering doubt at nearly all starting positions, but especially under center.
Hill’s trainwreck of a Heisman campaign brought previous character issues to the forefront as well.
Suspended indefinitely for public intoxication in March after being found passed out in a planter outside of a local restaurant, headlines were now centered around Hill’s immaturity instead of questionable decision-making on the field. He lost his started job to Allen a few days later, shortly before it was revealed Hill had been suspended again for violating team rules and university policy.
Sean Salisbury, former NFL quarterback and current Houston radio host, reached out to the beleaguered quarterback offering advice for the challenges Hill had faced in recent weeks. Ken Hill Sr. later rebuked the story and said his son’s conversation with Salisbury began and ended with one phone call.
As you can see below, Hill’s demise began in October, a dreadful month for himself and the Aggies.
Timeline of Kenny Hill’s sophomore season
- Aug. 28 —Breaks Johnny Manziel’s single-game passing record with 511 yards at South Carolina
- Sept. 20 — Heisman campaign alive and well after leading Aggies to first 4-0 start since 2006
- Sept. 27 — Orchestrates overtime win over Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington
- Oct. 4 — Gets humbled at Mississippi State in first loss after entering October ranked No. 6
- Oct. 18 — Struggles in third straight loss to a ranked team from the West; A&M’s bubble bursts
- Oct. 29 — Benched for Kyle Allen after Alabama defeat, bye week
- Nov. 1 — Suspended two games for violating team rules and university policy
The Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray effect
Before the season, many close to program believed Kyle Allen, the most sought-after quarterback in the country out of Desert Mountain High in Arizona, would out-play Hill during fall practice and win the starting job following Matt Joeckel’s transfer to TCU.
Instead, with no intentions to redshirt, he lost a spirited battle with a player who had the advantage of previous playing experience in 2013 with a firm grip of Jake Spavital’s Air Raid scheme.
Now that Spavital has come out and said publicly that the quarterback job is Allen’s to lose, what happens to Hill?
In his first start against Louisiana-Monroe, Allen drew instant criticism in a noticeably slower and somewhat handcuffed offense. He finished with just 106 yards through the air — the team’s lowest total during Sumlin’s tenure — and the Aggies managed just two first downs in the second half.
The impending road trip to third-ranked Auburn looked unwinnable considering the circumstances.
But with Hill serving the second game of his suspension, Allen received a second chance and delivered with a national offensive player of the week performance. He tossed four first-half touchdown passes and helped the Aggies move the football efficiently in the second half to escape Jordan-Hare with a 41-38 victory, Texas A&M’s best win of the season.
Hill once again became an afterthought during a game that really kicked off the Allen era for Texas A&M fans.
Since his benching, there’s been no reports of Hill wanting to transfer or internal issues with teammates, but would he accept being relegated to third-team duties as a junior once the Aggies welcome five-star true freshman Kyler Murray to campus next season?
When Murray committed in May, ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill wrote that Hill or Allen would likely leave depending on who lost the quarterback race this fall. Murray’s a strong-arm dual threat with a running prowess much different than Allen, the Aggies’ projected starter in 2015. Wrote Luginbill:
Given the youth at the position for the Aggies, this is the type of commitment that could lead to a transfer for somebody on that roster at some point in the future. If one of those two cements himself as a starter this fall, could that affect Murray’s commitment? Time will tell.
He also mentioned Murray in the same breath with Johnny Manziel and Russell Wilson, high praise for a 17-year-old out of Allen, Texas, who turned down several offers from several uptempo spread programs such as Auburn and Oregon to sling it around with Sumlin.
(He’s like) Russell Wilson as a passer and Manziel as a runner. If Murray met the measurable standard you’d like to have at the position, he’d be a unanimous No. 1-ranked overall player for us in the 2015 ESPN 300.
If Hill does decide on leaving Texas A&M, he certainly has the talent to compete for the starting job wherever he lands and would still have two years of eligibility remaining. It’s a safe assumption that such a dynamic player would struggle with being buried on the depth chart in College Station behind an incumbent and dual-threat of the future.
The Trill’s gone, but the ability never left and that’s a promising sign for a quarterback whose days could be numbered on his current team.