Texas A&M began fall football drills Friday with specific orders for equal snaps in the race to be the Aggies’ next starting quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said the even-handed approach in the battle between Kenny Hill, a sophomore from Southlake Carroll, and Kyle Allen, a freshman who took part in spring drills, will remain in place for the first 15 days of camp.
At that juncture, Spavital and coach Kevin Sumlin hope enough separation will have developed between the competitors that they can name a successor to Johnny Manziel to start in the Aug. 28 opener at South Carolina.
“Right now, we’re splitting reps 50/50. There is no front-runner yet,” Spavital said before the start of Friday’s initial practice. “Each day, we hope to give the guys equal amounts with the 1’s and the 2’s. We’re going to put them in the same situations and see where the competition goes from there.”
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Only Hill has taken snaps at the college level. Hill, son of former Texas Rangers pitcher Ken Hill, completed 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown in reserve duty last season. In terms of intangibles, Spavital cited advantages for each player.
“I think Kenny’s a little more athletic. But Kyle has a stronger arm,” Spavital said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what direction we’ll go.”
Spavital made it clear that Hill, who served a team-mandated suspension following a March 28 arrest for public intoxication in College Station, is back in good graces with coaches and teammates. He said Hill, 19, has learned from the experience.
“You can tell it was an eye opener,” Spavital said. “He made a mistake. He’s young. And that’s tough for a 19-year-old kid to go through … I’m very pleased with how he’s handled it.
“I don’t judge in any way for what he’s done off the field. He’s family to us. It’s time for us to move forward. He has a great opportunity to win this job.”
In the next breath, Spavital stressed that he would be comfortable having Allen, a freshman who enrolled in January, take A&M’s first snaps of the season in a hostile environment at South Carolina.
“Oh, yeah. It’s very possible,” Spavital said.
The only certainty is that Spavital will not present either quarterback as a team leader until he and Sumlin have selected a starter.
“I want them to compete right now and separate themselves,” Spavital said. “From there, we’ll work on leadership. I’ve been very pleased with them. They’re eager.”
A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder expressed satisfaction with his initial look at defensive end Myles Garrett, a five-star signee from Arlington Martin who is expected to enhance the Aggies’ pass rush.
Snyder said coaches inevitably tweak their internal ratings of signees in each class after they arrive on campus, often dropping projected stars and elevating hard-working players they undervalued.
Asked about Garrett, Snyder said: “I’ve got him in the top three right now.”
Nod to Carson
In a crowded backfield, Spavital said junior Tra Carson (6-foot, 230 pounds) will begin fall drills with an edge over Trey Williams and Brandon Williams to replace the departed Ben Malena as A&M’s starter.
“Right now, Tra Carson’s the guy,” Spavital said. “He deserves it for what he’s done on and off the field. We’re leaning on Tra and we’ll see who else steps up.”
All members of A&M’s 2014 signing class took part in Friday’s start of fall drills, school officials confirmed.