In August, Texas A&M appeared to have a bright future with its new quarterback. After a record-breaking performance against South Carolina, sophomore Kenny Hill looked like the clear answer to life after Johnny Manziel for the Aggies.
Two months later, the future isn't so clear, with the starting quarterback job wide open heading into the Aggies' final four games.
Texas A&M offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said Tuesday that Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen are competing for the right to start Texas A&M's next game Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
Spavital opened the competition up between Hill, the Aggies' starter for the first eight games, and Allen, the true freshman who served as Hill's backup during that stretch, during the team's off week last week following a 59-0 loss to Alabama, Texas A&M's third straight defeat.
"We opened it back up," Spavital said. "It's still wide open. We're going to split the [first-team] reps [Tuesday] and possibly on Wednesday and by Thursday we'll probably have a declared starter and they'll take all the reps for that Thursday practice."
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, when asked if Hill was still the Aggies' starter, was noncommittal Tuesday.
"Both have gotten reps over the last week and both will continue to get reps," Sumlin said.
Spavital said the team will declare a starter Thursday.
Hill had a dynamite start to the year, leading the Aggies to a 5-0 record. He threw for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns in Texas A&M's 52-28 whipping of the Gamecocks on Aug. 28 and averaged 349 passing yards per game while throwing 17 touchdowns and two interceptions in his first five starts. He was adorned with a nickname ("Kenny Trill"), was mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate and appeared on track for an impressive year.
In the past three games, Hill has averaged 301.3 yards per game and has thrown six touchdowns along with six interceptions. The Aggies' offensive line struggled to protect Hill lately, allowing 11 sacks in the past three games after allowing only four in the first five. Drops have plagued the receivers at times also. That has translated to a large dip in big plays, as Hill completed only one pass of 30 or more yards in the past three games after having 14 such plays in the first five games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Allen, who enrolled at Texas A&M in January and was the No. 1-ranked pocket passer in the 2014 recruiting class, has seen action in four games this season as the backup, completing 23 of 38 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.
Spavital said Allen stated a desire to win the job before Saturday's game after losing the preseason training camp battle to Hill in August.
"Kyle came into my office and he asked me if this was for real," Spavital said. "I said, 'Yeah, it is.' And he said, 'Good, because I'm going to try to go get it.' I'm pleased with how he's handled the whole situation from fall camp through those eight games leading up to this point."
Spavital said Hill is handling the situation well.
"That's tough, especially when you've started eight games and to be thrown in that situation where your job is on the line," Spavital said. "I think he has handled it pretty well. He's out there competing and he's motivating those younger guys when he's going with the No. 2 offense. I see that as his leadership building more."
Sumlin made it clear, however, that he won't make a change simply to do it.
"Change for change's sake is impractical," Sumlin said. "What you have to do is be able to have a reason for change. Is that reason your ability to be efficient and prove to people that you can handle what's going on or disprove that you're ready to play in those situations?
"Credibility amongst the players and amongst the coaching staff is at a premium, particularly right now with where we are."