SEC Quarterback Power Rankings: Day 5

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMay 24, 2014 

Kenny Hill is one of two players battling to replace Johnny Manziel as Texas A&M's quarterback.

BOB LEVEY — /Getty Images

Editor's note: The 2013 season was an incredible year for quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference. There was a Heisman winner (Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel), the conference's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns (Georgia's Aaron Murray) and a two-time national champion (Alabama's AJ McCarron). Then there was Auburn's Nick Marshall, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Missouri's James Franklin. Nearly all of those aforementioned signal-callers have departed, however. Still, someone will rise to the occasion to fill those spots, and that's why we're here to take stock of them as we head into the summer, counting them down from 14 to 1. Note that proven performers, even if they were not the unquestioned starter last season, figures heavily into these rankings. We continue with Day 5 of the countdown.

10. Texas A&M

When Texas A&M ended spring practice April 5, it had three players gunning to replace Johnny Manziel: rising senior Matt Joeckel, rising sophomore Kenny Hill and early enrollee Kyle Allen. That three-man battle was trimmed to two on April 16 when Joeckel announced he would transfer. (After receiving his undergraduate degree in December, he'll be eligible to play immediately at his new school, TCU.)

Even with one less candidate in the competition, trying to decipher whether Hill or Allen holds the edge at this point isn't as easy as you might think. Of course, Hill has a bit more familiarity with the offense, as he appeared in four games last season, completing 16 of his 22 passes (including one touchdown) in addition to carrying seven times for 37 yards.

What's holding him back?

Well, he's not with the team at the moment. Following an arrest for public intoxication in March, he was suspended indefinitely by the Aggies' athletic department. (He'll reportedly be back with the team in time for summer workouts, which begin in June.) The cynical among us may joke that the arrest actually helps his case for the starting job. After all, Johnny Football was arrested in the offseason prior to being named the starter, and look how his career turned out.

There's only one problem: Hill's not Manziel.

Yes, he's a far bigger threat to hurt opponents with his feet than Allen; to compare him to the former Heisman Trophy winner, however, is laughable.

As for Allen, don't think being a more traditional, pocket-style passer will hurt his chances. Look at any recruiting service you want — be it Rivals, Scout or 247Sports — and they'll all tell you the same thing: Allen was the top quarterback prospect in the Class of 2014. So it would seem he has "can't-miss" written all over him.

Whether Allen wins the job or Hill wrests it back when his suspension is lifted, they should both rest easy knowing they won't have to do it all. The Aggies' offense should pile up the yards and points regardless of who plays quarterback.

Lose Jake Matthews to the NFL? No problem. The other four starters from last season return, and Cedric Ogbuehi should be able to seamlessly transition from right tackle to left. And he'll likely make it three first-round picks in a row for Aggies' left tackles in next year's draft; Matthews, taken by the Atlanta Falcons with the sixth overall pick earlier this month, followed Luke Joeckel, who was the No. 2 overall selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.

It's the same way in the backfield and at receiver. The Aggies are simply going to reload.

Second-leading rusher Ben Malena has moved on, but Texas A&M has four backs (juniors Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams and redshirt freshman James White) more than capable of picking up the slack. Mike Evans, a dominant receiver, was yet another first-round pick (No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), but the Aggies are confident in sophomore Ricky Seals-Jones and incoming freshman Speedy Noil, a five-star signee.

So who'll end up divvying it up between all this talent?

Hill may be ahead by the slimmest of margins now, but Allen's ability will likely come to the fore and help him cement a spot in the lineup once fall camp gets into full swing.

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