Texas A&M begins the search for a new starting quarterback when spring football drills begin Friday, with two players from Tarrant County high schools in the three-candidate mix to replace Johnny Manziel.The departure of Manziel, a two-year starter and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, means an open competition between last year’s backups, Matt Joeckel and Kenny Hill, and freshman Kyle Allen, a five-star signee who enrolled in January.Joeckel, a fifth-year senior from Arlington High School, completed 22 of 37 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions last season. He got his first career start in A&M’s 52-31 victory over Rice, when Manziel served an NCAA-mandated suspension for the first half of the season opener.Hill, a sophomore from Southlake Carroll, completed 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.Whoever lands the starting quarterback job in College Station will lead an offense that returns five starters from last year’s 9-4 team: four offensive linemen and receiver Malcolme Kennedy, A&M’s top returning pass-catcher (60 receptions, 658 yards, 7 TDs). Running backs Trey Williams (407 yards, 7.0 per carry, 6 TDs) and Tra Carson (329 yards, 5.3 per carry, 7 TDs) are the primary returnees at that spot.A&M’s defense returns nine starters from a unit that struggled last season. Because of ongoing construction at Kyle Field, the Aggies will not hold a formal spring game. A&M’s final workout is set for April 5.Baylor begins defenseBaylor will take its first steps toward defending its Big 12 football championship when the Bears begin spring drills Friday in Waco.The Bears return 51 lettermen from last year’s 11-2 team that set a school record for victories in a season. Topping the list of returnees is quarterback Bryce Petty, a 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate who completed 62 percent of his passes while leading the Bears to their first outright conference title in 33 years.Petty threw for 4,200 yards last season, with 32 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He also rushed for 209 yards and 14 touchdowns.Among the newcomers this spring are three freshmen signees who enrolled in January (TE Jordan Feuerbacher, WR Davion Hall, RB Terence Williams) and four junior-college transfers: OL Jarell Broxton, LB Grant Campbell, DB Chris Sanders and DB Tion Wright.Baylor will conclude its spring drills with a controlled scrimmage for fans at its practice facility April 5.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch