It takes Gary Patterson barely two seconds to describe the start of Kenny Hill’s time at TCU.
“A’s and B’s and not a peep,” he said.
That is exactly the plan the Horned Frogs coach had in mind for his potential new starting quarterback.
Hill spent a semester at Tarrant County College last spring, transferred to TCU in the summer, played scout team quarterback in the fall and laid low the whole time. Just the recipe Patterson wanted.
“Oh, no, Kenny’s done an unbelievable job,” Patterson said, asked if he had any character concerns about Hill, who came to Fort Worth last year after he was benched, suspended for violating team rules and ultimately released from his scholarship at Texas A&M. He also had a public intoxication arrest in College Station as a freshman.
“As far as any of those kind of things, there’s no concern,” Patterson said in an interview with the Star-Telegram last week. “Everything he’s done — which has been great, because he was our scout-team quarterback — is not even worth a conversation because he’s been awesome.”
Spring practice begins Feb. 26 for TCU, with Hill expected to be first in line to replace Trevone Boykin. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
His competition is redshirt sophomore Foster Sawyer, who played in four games last season and started one; redshirt sophomore Grayson Muehlstein, who has not thrown a pass in college yet; and true freshman Brennen Wooten, an early enrollee out of San Angelo Central.
A&M blemishes aside, Hill has the best credentials in the group.
“Don’t judge quarterbacks except on Saturdays,” Patterson said. “And he’s been on Saturdays. We just need to get back on what we need to do to become successful — whoever that quarterback is, whether it’s him or Foster or Grayson or Brennen. Maybe all of them can do it, maybe none of them can do it. Going to find out.”
Hill has thrown for 2,832 yards and 24 touchdowns as an SEC quarterback. He set a Texas A&M record with 511 passing yards in the Aggies’ 2014 season opener at South Carolina.
But it was the highlight of his time at A&M. A three-game losing streak against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama cost him the starting job, and he was replaced by Kyle Allen. In November 2014, Hill was suspended for two games for violating team rules and athletic department policies.
In Fort Worth, with Hill closer to home, the Horned Frogs are hoping he can recapture what made him a four-star recruit at Southlake Carroll, where he won a state championship with an undefeated season in 2011 and was the Texas Gatorade High School Player of the Year for 2012. Over his junior and senior seasons with the state powerhouse Dragons, he threw for over 5,300 yards, ran for more than 2,300, threw 45 touchdown passes and ran for 46 touchdowns.
TCU practices are closed. But the reports on Hill’s work have been good.
“Every week, coach Patterson brags how well he’s done,” quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie said at the Alamo Bowl. “He takes it very seriously. He prepares with the stuff we have him do during the week. He does a good job. He’s really excited. Moving forward into spring, I’m excited to see what he can do, what Foster can do, the kids we’re bringing in. Kenny has really handled it well and is really taking care of his business.”
Patterson made it a point to ease Hill into his transition to TCU. That’s why he believed it was important for Hill to start at TCC. He was close to home and could re-establish himself in school.
“I didn’t let him come to TCU right away,” Patterson said. “He came over and met with us and watched spring ball and did things. But we had a plan of how we met with him and his parents.”
Patterson, of course, recruited Hill in 2013. But Hill’s time at TCC let Patterson do his homework on the player again.
“We could find out what was true and what wasn’t,” Patterson said. “We’re not going to go on somebody else’s opinions. We’re going to get to know each other. That way I didn’t put him in harm’s way. Don’t bring him here and put him in harm’s way where you put him in front of the media and do all that. Let’s get back in and get in the things we need to be getting into.”
That starts next week in spring practice. The long road of work toward the season opener against South Dakota State, potentially Hill’s first action since October 2014, will begin.
But the evaluation so far?
It took Patterson less than a second.
“He’s been awesome.”