Football is back. You can tell because Kevin Sumlin is wrecking shit.
Should you restrict your interest to the SEC, you would be forgiven for thinking Texas A&M's success these past two years was merely the Johnny Manziel Show. But, clearly and emphatically—the "52-28 shellacking of No. 9 South Carolina" kind of emphatically—this is a system that worked in Houston and it's working here. The record-setting night by a quarterback who didn't even win the starting job until two weeks ago served as Kevin Sumlin's coming-out party.
Sophomore Kenny Hill, son of the former MLB pitcher, lit up Williams-Brice with the single greatest passing performance in A&M history, completing 44 passes for 511 yards, both of those school records. But do not call that thing you really want to call him; he hates it.
"I don't really like 'Kenny Football,'" said a grinning Hill. "That's played out."
Hill wasn't necessarily supposed to be here—he was suspended indefinitely after an arrest for public intoxication in the spring, and entered camp competing for the job with freshman Kyle Allen, by most accounts the top quarterback recruit in the nation, a pro-style passer ostensibly more in line with what Sumlin's offense is expected to be, and presumed by many the future QB in College Station. But that's the beauty of Sumlin's various iterations of the Air Raid—he'll tailor his schemes to fit his quarterbacks, rather than try to change his quarterbacks to fit his schemes.
Manziel was incorrigible, scrambling, improvising, and generally going rogue with no warning. Sumlin respected these as strengths, and ran a version of the spread that allowed Manziel more freedom to change plays at the line, and to take off. But with Hill under center, expect to see a more by-the-book version of the Air Raid, very similar to what Sumlin ran with Case Keenum at Houston.
But Hill is no automaton. While not a scrambler, he is both strong and elusive, and combined with some preternatural poise in his first career start, he was able to thrive even under regular pressure. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Gamecocks blitzed on 40 percent of Hill's dropbacks. Hill completed 72 percent of his passes while being blitzed, compared with 74 percent on other plays. A big part of that was A&M's standout O-line, but this bodes poorly for the Aggies' future opponents who think there's an easy way to crack the system. Said Sumlin, "What we did tonight showed that we're not a one-trick-pony."
Here's the Aggies' celebration after the win. It was earned. (Music added, but it's almost more right this way.)
Sumlin's probably not long for the college ranks. With an innovative, flexible, and easily executable offense that's now proving successful at the highest levels of FBS, and with Chip Kelly's success with the Eagles washing away the stink of some recent college-to-pro disasters, Sumlin's in high demand. (The Eagles reportedly offered their job to Sumlin first.) A&M's not stupid—that's exactly why they inflated Sumlin's buyout clause to $5 million in the contract he signed last winter. That buyout clause expires after the 2016 season, if you're keeping count. Others certainly are.