What Does Kenny Hill's Success Tell Us About Johnny Football's Pro Potential?
Johnny Manziel was electrifying and clutch. He was a playboy, yet nothing could faze him.
He was money.
The college football legend rose seemingly out of nowhere and accounted for 93 touchdowns and 9,989 during his two years at Texas A&M. He left for the NFL with a Heisman Trophy. Without him, Texas A&M's team was expected to be good, but Manziel-less. The transition from Manziel to his successor wasn't supposed to be easy. And yet, it was.
(Cue Staples button)
Kenny Hill entered the scene, and blew everyone's minds when he dissected the South Carolina Gamecock defense for 511 yards and three touchdowns. He's a different quarterback than the Cleveland Browns' rookie quarterback. He has less of the "it" or "x" factor than Manziel did. Hill is a pocket-passer. So far this year, his biggest rushing game resulted 57 yards. In Manziel's first season as starter, he exceeded that total in 12 of his 13 games. So Manziel is a better rusher than Hill. That's indisputable. Manziel was an prolific scorer in ways the NCAA hasn't seen since Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.
So what does Kenny Hill's success say about Manziel? In short, Hill's success as a passer may not bode well for Johnny Manziel. It could raise doubt about Manziel's ability to sling the ball, because Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is looking more like a quarterback whisperer. Fair or not, Hill and Manziel are starting to look like products of Sumlin's system. So the more Hill excels, the more it may mean that Manziel's passing prowess was due to Sumlin's scheme not Manziel's skills.
But let's give credit where credit is due. Manziel isn't some scrub. And he isn't Tim Tebow, either. Manziel demonstrated touch on the long ball and improved his completion percentage from 68 percent in 2012 to 69.9 percent in 2013. He consistently made passes that wowed, and his throwing motion is sound. His backyard football playing style was reminiscent of the best player in the best video game ever (You're my boy Pablo Sanchez!). The NFL strips players of that backyard football improvisation, however. That kind of football doesn't translate to the NFL. So take that away, and you've still got a great NCAA passer and an unproven NFL passer.
Brian Hoyer has been a solid NFL quarterback and kept Manziel at bay and on the bench. Manziel has looked unspectacular in preseason, and hasn't played enough in regular season games for any fair evaluation.
So Kenny Hill is starting to make sense of it all. His passing stats are starting to make Manziel's look unspectacular. Because as Hill succeeds, it should make people wonder whether any good college quarterback couldn't succeed at A&M. Consider, too, that Manziel had two players on his team that went in the Top 7 of the 2014 NFL Draft in wide receiver Mike Evans and tackle Luke Joeckel. Both of those players helped him enormously. Hill will probably have one in the Top 10 -- possibly the Top 5 -- of the 2015 NFL Draft with tackle Cedric Ogbuhei.
As passers, these players are incredibly comparable.
Hill put up 52 points on the then-ranked No. 9 Gamecocks. His offense also managed 31 points against Mississippi St., only to see the Bulldogs put up 48. It's hard to compete with that. Hill is on pace for 4,220 yards and 42 touchdowns passing -- that's better than Manziel managed in either year at Texas A&M. With opponents like Ole Miss, Auburn and Auburn impending, his stats may fall However, he's had some of his biggest passing days against his toughest opponents in South Carolina and Missippi State. It's a small sample size, but Kenny Hill has been money. He's showing he could have the same pro potential as Manziel.
So it comes down to this: if Kenny Hill can recreate what Manziel did as a passer, does that mean that they are both special, or neither are? It's probably somewhere in the middle.
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