No one has to tell TCU quarterback Kenny Hill what is coming in the spring — competition.
He’s already told himself.
“Absolutely. I’ve got to go out there and prove that I should start every single game,” he said during the week of practice in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. “Every single day, I’ve got to go out there and prove that I need to be the starting quarterback. If I go out there and play bad in the spring, I might not be starting next year.”
Hill started 12 games for TCU after transferring from Texas A&M, including Friday’s Liberty Bowl loss against Georgia.
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He posted three of the top nine passing games in TCU history, and he ran for 10 touchdowns. But he also threw a Big 12-high 13 interceptions in the regular season and was pulled from two games.
“Six-and-six,” coach Gary Patterson said, asked to evaluate Hill’s performance. “It’s all about wins and losses. I’m not a big yardage guy. We’ve got to throw less interceptions. Not just him, just the quarterback position in particular. Got to be more productive, and we’ve got to keep having better leadership.”
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill averaged 387.2 yards passing with 11 touchdowns in his first five games and 159.0 yards with six touchdowns in the next eight.
In the Liberty Bowl, Hill displayed highs and lows as he did in the regular season. He ran for a touchdown and threw two touchdown passes. He had a 45-yard run, and the Frogs designed plays for him despite an injured ankle. But he fumbled, missed a tight throw to Ty Slanina on third down and was sacked three times.
The last sack forced a long field goal attempt that missed with TCU down one point in the fourth quarter.
“Coming down to the end, I got to make more plays,” Hill said after the game. “I play quarterback. I need to make the plays.”
TCU will have its top quarterback recruit ever, DeSoto’s Shawn Robinson, on campus in January as an early enrollee in time for spring practice. In addition, backup Foster Sawyer will be coming off appearances in eight games. Grayson Muehlstein, Brennen Wooten and walk-on Jordan Kitna will get work, too.
Hill will go into the spring as the most experienced quarterback on the roster, but that’s all he can be sure of.
Even if there wasn’t someone there to push me, I’ve got to do that to myself. Or else we’re not going to get any better ...
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill
“Even if there wasn’t someone there to push me, I’ve got to do that to myself,” he said. “Or else we’re not going to get any better, and we’re going to be right back at 6-6.”
To get better, Hill must improve technique. Quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie said poor footwork was behind much of the inaccuracy.
“The biggest thing is just really holding a thumb to him, keeping his feet to the fire when it comes to his footwork, when it comes to his weight transition and not getting caught with his weight on his back foot,” Cumbie said. “A lot of times his footwork is really the main culprit.”
Cumbie said Hill played better than he got credit for “from the outside” and continued to stand by him as the starter, despite benching him against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
“He hit a little bit of a lull in the middle of the season. I don’t know if it was because we were asking him to do too much or just that time of year,” Cumbie said. Personally I was pleased with how he played, how he battled, how he competed.
“There was a time in the middle of the season where we just kind of had to sit down and talk and get back to competing and get back to being a kid who is relentless with his effort and the kid we saw against Arkansas and Oklahoma and just remind him of our belief in him and why we wanted him to come here and why we opened our arms to him.”
269 Completions in 2016 for Kenny Hill, second most for a single season at TCU, ranking behind Trevone Boykin’s 301 in 2014.
Next comes Hill’s second full off-season of work. He could only watch practice in the spring two years ago after he left Texas A&M, finally enrolling at TCU in June.
“We have a lot to build off of,” Cumbie said. “I think that sometimes we forget as coaches it had been awhile since he got back on the bike and rode it around again, and he was a little rusty. I’m looking forward to going into the spring and really having a year’s worth, 13 games’ worth, of evidence on him — ‘Hey, this is what he’s good at, this is what he’s not so good at, let’s go to work and try to build him in a way that will allow us all as a team to be successful.’ ”
Hill wasn’t as generous with the “year off” theory. He just knows what needs to happen.
“I judge myself the same way, whether I’m out a year or whatever,” he said. “I expect myself to play well. Yeah, I needed to get back in the speed of things, but I had a full year to do it. I just needed to play better.”