The Aggie football team isn’t very good this year. I was worried about that going into the season, and it has been confirmed over the last two weeks. I’m going to start off this post talking about that, and then I’m going to do something that might surprise those who know me. I’m going to tell you why I don’t think it’s the end of the world. There are some things that concern me. And I want to point those out. But I think there are some things to look forward to, and I want to make sure those are discussed as well.
The Aggies got way ahead of themselves, and for this I blame Kevin Sumlin. No, this isn’t going to be a post about how I think we need to fire Sumlin after two losses. He’s a great coach, and there’s no need to go into how the Aggies are better with him than without him. I think any reasonable A&M fan knows this. However, I think Sumlin, for the lack of a better cliche, let the hype get to him. And more importantly, he let it get to his players. I started worrying, even before the season started, with the new football facilities, the new football stadium, the discussion of Sumlin visiting recruits in what became known as the “Swaggercopter,” and so on. It’s so easy to get caught up in all that and to lose perspective, and I think that’s what happened here. Yes, I know a recruit nicknamed the helicopter the “Swaggercopter” and it’s a great recruiting tool. But it just fits with all these other things that show how the team and the coaches got a little “full of themselves” (again for a lack of a better cliche) and it ultimately hurt the team this season.
They beat South Carolina. And they didn’t just beat them, they whipped their butt. Now we know that SC was a pretty poor team. But at that time we didn’t. I was concerned about it. I even said as much on Facebook and was told by several Aggies that I was wrong. In the aftermath, ESPN started hyping Kenny Hill as a Heisman candidate. We saw story after story about how A&M hadnt lost a step after losing Johnny Manziel. And then the nickname. For the love of God, the nickname. Kenny “Trill.” It makes me sad inside every time I hear it.
Let me step back a bit and explain my perspective on this. I love Texas A&M. Love it. For example, my daughter is 4 and hates the Longhorns. In fact, she went camping this past weekend in the Wichita Mountains with my parents. They saw longhorns at the wildlife refuge there and it made her mad. When they went to a gift shop, she bought a stuffed buffalo because the only other thing they had was a longhorn and she refused to get one.
During the late 2000s, when I attended A&M, the Aggies were not very good. They were mediocre at best, and we kind of got used to it. We never liked it, but it was just expected. Then came Johnny. I said this after Johnny left, and it’s worth repeating again. Johnny was lighting in a bottle. A once in a lifetime football player. And maybe a catalyst. We will see how much he changed Aggie football. But, the odds of A&M (or any team) having two QBs back-to-back like Johnny Manziel are 0%, and we should have realized that, and set our expectations accordingly. We may not see another Johnny Manziel in our lifetime, and it’s unfortunate that many of us thought Kenny Hill would just step in and be that QB after beating a very overrated South Carolina team. But, what bothers me the most is that, for once my Aggies were experiencing great success, and then we had to go and mess ourselves over it.
I found myself muttering over and over again during this past off-season and into this season, “Why can’t we sit back, take things a little slower, and keep things in perspective, rather than shooting off like a canon and taking everything to extremes.” We’ve now got a Swaggercopter, and apparently we need to nickname all of our starting QBs, and then trademark those nicknames, and so on and so on. The night we got blown out for the second time in a row against a SEC divisional opponent from Mississippi, we premiered a movie at Rudder Auditorium that’s working title is “F-YOU Big 12, We Were SEC Ready.” That’s going to look pretty silly if the two Manziel seasons end up being anomalies and the Aggies actually do end up meeting everyone else’s expectations and become SEC West bottom dwellers for years to come. The fact is, two seasons do not make a trend, and yet the Aggies took it to suggest that we had now become perennial National Championship contenders. Why couldn’t we have faced success with some humility and perspective? Instead we’ve been acting like a first round draft-pick blowing his signing bonus on cars, helicopters, houses, and making it rain. We’ve needed a little more Peyton Manning and a lot less Vince Young. And now we are starting to look like Ryan Leaf.
So, now you’re like, “Hey, didn’t you say you were going to tell us some things to look forward to?” Why yes. Yes of course.
Kenny Hill is NOT the next Johnny Manziel. We should never have thought he could be. And right now, Kenny Hill isn’t a very smart QB and he’s not as skilled as we thought he was after the South Carolina win. This was clearly evident during the Mississippi State game when we were able to compare him to Dak Prescott straight up. Hill can’t throw the deep ball well, he has poor vision at times, and he seems to have trouble throwing accurately over the middle. There’s also specific issues like not having much touch on the ball throwing fade routs and being able to hit receivers in the back shoulder on sideline passes. Prescott can do all these things, and he does them well. But Prescott is a Junior and has had two full seasons to develop as a starting QB. Kenny Hill is a sophomore, in his first full season, stepping into the shoes of the greatest Texas A&M football player of all time. When I say that we need some perspective, I’m talking about this too.
This is going to be a learning season for Hill, and I hope it sticks. He’s made some huge mistakes. Last night’s game is probably 21-21 if he doesn’t throw an awful interception and protects the ball better on a run. The most important thing I hope he learns is humility, and ultimately that may come down to coaching. I think Sumlin needs to come down to earth a bit too, and I think these last two weeks have done that for him. So, what I’m saying here is that I think, I believe, I hope that things will only get better. More experience, more time, more perspective, more humility, will only make Kenny Hill a better QB. He WON’T be Johnny Football, but he doesn’t have to be to make A&M successful. Dak Prescott isn’t Johnny Football. But he’s REALLY good, and Mississippi State is the best team in college football right now.
The defense is awful, and it can only get better. Sumlin is great at recruiting, and the Aggies have had top recruiting classes over the last two years, and it looks like they are building another one this season. I hope that their failures this year don’t hinder some of that. The bright side is that recruiting in Texas has been made easier by the fact that the University of Texas football team is awful, and much to the chagrin of t.u. fans, I don’t think it’s going to get better. The move to the SEC gives the Aggies a bigger stage, more publicity, and a larger NFL impact than Texas is going to have going forward. And even though teams like Baylor and TCU are seeing success, they just don’t have the facilities, fan base, or financial support to compete like this long term. The Aggies have had more fans at a Midnight Yell practice this season than Baylor can fit into their brand new stadium.
So, my belief right now is that next season will be better. And the one after that, Kenny Hill’s senior season, may be great. I expect the defense to get better and Hill to improve considerably over the next two seasons. I think this season is going to do some nice character building, and not just for the team, but for the fans too. I actually do believe the Aggies are/were SEC Ready. It should not be surprising that the team is having a down year after losing Manziel. That happens. But with strong recruiting, which we’ve had, and the right perspective, which I hope we are finally getting, you can come back from that and build a stronger program. I think/hope that’s the direction we are moving.