Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill had a remarkable debut on Thursday night, completing 44 of 60 passes for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies’ 52-28 thumping of No. 9 South Carolina.
And with good reason.
This game gave us a lot of information. Not just about Hill, but about the players who surround him, as well as the the offensive system employed by Kevin Sumlin.
Remember that Sumlin’s scheme has, in the past, produced high-powered attacks at both Oklahoma (with Heisman winner Sam Bradford) and at Houston (with NCAA all-time passer Case Keenum). Nonetheless, a school of thought emerged that held that his success in College Station has had as much to do with Johnny Manziel as anything else. Without Manziel, the thought went, Sumlin’s offense would fall back to earth against ‘tough’ SEC defenses.
That school of thought dissolved somewhere in the middle of the first quarter against the Gamecocks. Indeed, Hill now looks like he could be the latest in an illustrious line of Sumlin quarterbacks. It helps that he’ll be throwing to a deep and talented receiving corps that includes future NFLers Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil.
What’s more, Hill’s talent is not in question. When he signed with A&M in 2013, I listed him as a future Heisman candidate. But you never know how a quarterback is going to turn out. After Thursday night, we have a much better idea, which means we can look ahead a bit to project what Hill might be able to accomplish as Sumlin’s trigger man.
I think a 4,000-yard passing season is very realistic, especially since he has to average just 317 yards per game the rest of the way. After all, that’s what Sumlin quarterbacks do. If the touchdowns continue to come in bunches and the interceptions remain low, then we’re looking at a bonafide contender for the Heisman.
In other words, a key part of the equation that helps to produce a Heisman — the elite production — could be already baked in the cake for Hill, the same way it is for Marcus Mariota, Nick Marshall, Bryce Petty and, to some extent, Brett Hundley and Trevor Knight.
While his ultimate fate will be decided by how he and his team fares in games against Alabama, Auburn and LSU, this is an important element to have in place.
Does this automatically mean Hill is going to win the Heisman? Of course not. But it does increase his chances.