How should Texas A&M handle its quarterbacks?
Saturday’s loss to Alabama, Texas A&M’s first of the season, has hardly ruined the season for the Aggies, which are now ranked No. 15 in the latest AP Poll and one of four teams still jockeying for the SEC West title along with Alabama, Ole Miss and undefeated LSU.
But the thrashing at the hands of the Crimson Tide did expose a major problem for the Aggies going forward at quarterback. Sophomore Kyle Allen and freshman Kyler Murray combined to throw 4 interceptions against the Tide with neither one consistently able to move the ball against the stout Alabama defense.
Allen and Murray, both top quarterback recruits coming out of high school, are both young and relatively inexperienced with tons of potential for improvement, so perhaps asking either to carry a championship-level team is too much at this point. However, Texas A&M happens to be loaded at nearly every other position this season, and without better quarterback play going forward, 2015 could amount to a squandered opportunity for the Aggies.
Allen has been mostly solid since taking over the starting job halfway through last season. So far in 2015, he’s completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,537 yards with 14 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Alabama represented one of his first real tests against a top-notch defense, and Allen failed with 3 interceptions returned for touchdowns. Outside of the picks, he completed just 20 of 40 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown and kept the ball 8 times for a loss of 19 yards.
The sophomore hasn’t been quite good enough to ward off the threat of Murray taking the job, and with the freshman stepping in and taking snaps throughout most of the games this season it’s been hard for either quarterback to truly get comfortable in the job.
The temptation to give Murray a series here and there is understandable. For one thing, Murray was the top dual-threat quarterback in the country as a high school senior last year, and Kevin Sumlin and his staff surely want to keep such a valuable recruit happy. His running ability also adds an element to the offense that’s been missing since Johnny Manziel’s final season in 2013.
But Murray hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to show off his arm this season, completing 17 of 31 passes for 167 yards.
At this point, it looks like Allen is the better option. Despite the mistakes against Alabama, Allen appears more capable of getting the ball into the hands of A&M’s impressive stable of wide receivers, and he has a particular connection with fellow Scottsdale, Ariz., product Christian Kirk.
But as he gets ready to take on an Ole Miss team with an outstanding secondary led by cornerback Trae Elston, Allen — who has always shown a strong arm — must continue to develop into a precision passer with better decision-making.
As the head coach at Houston and Texas A&M, Sumlin was fortunate to inherit Case Keenum and Manziel as his quarterbacks. Allen has an opportunity to become the first quarterback recruited and developed by Sumlin to turn into a star.
But he has work to do to get there, and the Aggies would sure like to see it happen sooner rather than later.