Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - By now, college football fans have seen their fair share of Texas A&M highlights and read multiple accounts of the Aggies' blowout of South Carolina in Week 1.
It wasn't pretty for the ninth-ranked Gamecocks, who had their clocks cleaned defensively in a 52-28 defeat to the then-No. 21 Aggies.
But before the game, who really knew quarterback Kenny Hill?
Most people unfamiliar with A&M football knew him as Johnny Manziel's replacement - the guy who would step in for the former Heisman Trophy winner who may have been the most explosive and dynamic quarterback in college football history. Others had never even heard of Hill.
Well, someone had to play quarterback for the Aggies, right? And Hill's performance against the Gamecocks (44-for-60 for a school-record 511 yards as well as three touchdowns) has warranted a huge amount of national attention. For goodness sake, people have already dubbed him "Kenny Football" (a nickname he has already stated he does not want).
His monstrous debut under center earned him co-offensive player of the week honors in the Southeastern Conference (an award he shared with Georgia running back Todd Gurley). The sophomore became the sixth player in SEC history to surpass the 500-yard passing mark, while his 511 passing yards broke Manziel's old single-game record of 464 yards set against Alabama last year. And it was Hill's first-ever start.
The question now is simple: Can he actually keep it up and lead the Aggies the rest of the way?
Many quarterbacks are quick to credit the playmakers who surround them when asked about their success. Even without Texas A&M's top pass catcher from a year ago (Mike Evans, who was the NFL's seventh overall draft choice in May), Hill is well equipped with weapons to whom he can throw this season.
Senior Malcome Kennedy was the top wideout last Thursday after hauling in 14 receptions for 137 yards. Sophomore Josh Reynolds tallied six catches for 76 yards and a score, and freshmen Ricky Seals-Jones (five receptions, 67 yards, one touchdown) and Speedy Noil (five receptions, 55 yards) provided some sparks.
Running backs Trey Williams (13 carries, 78 yards, one touchdown) and Tra Carson (seven carries, 30 yards, three touchdowns) provided Hill with a multi- dimensional offense. That way the Gamecocks couldn't cheat the pass.
But perhaps the most obvious advantage the Aggies had over South Carolina was pure athleticism. The relatively young offense of Texas A&M looked quicker and more agile than the Gamecocks defense was prepared for in their opener. That's what allowed Hill to unleash deep passes and connect with players like Kennedy for a long of 33 yards, Edward Pope for 31 yards and Seals-Jones for 22 yards. That athleticism is the key moving forward.
The receivers' ability to create separation can be directly correlated to a quarterback's success. Assuming Hill is capable of accurately passing a football, he'll be able to hook up with his pass catchers as long as they can create space to make a play. The season may wear down some of A&M's athleticism as more games are played, but the duration of the schedule has the same affect on opposing defenses as well.
Speaking of the schedule, Texas A&M gets somewhat of a break for the next three weeks before SEC play kicks off. The Aggies host FCS program Lamar on Saturday, and play against Conference USA's Rice and the AAC's SMU before a trip to Arkansas on Sept. 27. Trips to Alabama and Auburn later in the season could be dangerous, though.
Kevin Sumlin is a very intelligent head coach, and he knew going into the game against South Carolina the capabilities of Hill and his offense. Especially early on, Hill was credited with some big-gain passes on dump-off plays to his running backs or slot men, who then turned short passes into bigger plays. Give Hill some props, though, for being able to stand in the pocket, read and weigh his options and then find the open man. Blocking for the pass catchers was superb on A&M's part as well.
The Aggies, even without last season's stud left tackle Jake Matthews, have one of the best offensive lines in the country, anchored by Cedric Ogbuehi. Hill's success can be determined by the amount of time he has to find an open target, which should be plenty given the veteran status of his blockers up front.
It's definitely plausible Hill can keep up this pace, especially considering he has a few weeks ahead that can serve as learning and growing experiences while still not putting his team in real danger of losing games. Going up against SEC competition later may throw him, but he didn't seem wavered by a Top 10 program last Thursday.
Clearly Sumlin has faith in Hill at quarterback. After all, he allowed the youngster to attempt 60 passes against the No. 9 team in the country, which also owned the nation's longest home winning streak (18 games). He has the accuracy, he has the arm strength and he has the weapons that can help him along.
We might as well start up the potential Heisman talk because things are looking good for Kenny Hill.