Opting for the demonstrated ability of Kenny Hill, TCU named the former Southlake Carroll star its starting quarterback for the season opener Sept. 3 against South Dakota State.
It will be Hill’s first action since 2014, when he began the season as the starter at Texas A&M and set a school record for passing yards in a debut. He sat out 2015 after transferring to TCU.
It’s what he came here for. Kenny has a lot to prove, but as I told him, our job is just to win.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
“It’s what he came here for,” coach Gary Patterson told reporters Thursday after practice. “Kenny has a lot to prove, but as I told him, our job is just to win. It’s not to put up big numbers, not to do anything else. Put the ball where it’s supposed to be, run the ball when you’re supposed to and get ready to play.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior beat out sophomore Foster Sawyer for the job. Sawyer played in four games last season, including a start at Oklahoma in which he threw three interceptions and was pulled.
Hill played in 12 games at Texas A&M, but his career in College Station ended on a sour note. A stretch of bad games cost him the starting job, and he was suspended for the final two games of the season. He was released from his scholarship, enrolled at Tarrant County College in January 2015 and at TCU six months later.
He spent last season as the Horned Frogs’ scout team quarterback, sitting out his transfer year.
Kenny Hill played in 12 games and started eight at Texas A&M, throwing for 2,832 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He threw for 511 yards in his first game as a starter.
“He’s in as good a shape as I’ve ever seen him,” said Patterson, who came close to landing Hill out of Carroll in 2013. “Stronger, faster than he was coming out of high school. I mean, he’s done a great job of re-doing himself.”
Hill threw for 2,649 yards and 23 touchdowns on 66.7 percent (214 of 321) passing in 2014 at A&M. The yardage total is the fifth-highest for a single season at A&M, the touchdown total the fourth-highest and the completion percentage the second-highest — all coming in only eight games.
His 511 yards at South Carolina marked the sixth 500-yard passing game in SEC history and the first at A&M. His 44 completions and 73.3 percent completion rate in that game were also A&M records.
Patterson said Hill’s SEC experience didn’t play a large part in the competition, but it did give him an edge.
“We do know about what he can do against competition on Saturday,” Patterson said. “And probably, if it was close, it was maybe one of the reasons why they decided to go that direction.”
At Carroll, Hill was the 2012 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year and 5A Offensive Player of the Year. He threw for 20 touchdowns and ran for 22 as a senior. He threw for 25 and ran for 24 as a junior, when he led Carroll to a state championship. He had 15 touchdown throws and seven touchdown runs as a sophomore.
The playmaking with his legs became evident in the fall scrimmages.
“I think both of them threw the ball well,” Patterson said of Hill and Sawyer. But Patterson said Hill separated himself by “just being able to get himself out of problems and some of the things he can do in the running game.”
Hill was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals and Scout. He said TCU was one of his top three college choices.
He is the son of former Texas Rangers pitcher Ken Hill.
▪ Patterson said kicker Jonathan Song (toe) won’t kick in the season opener and probably not in the second game, either.
▪ Linebacker Travin Howard, last season’s leading tackler, has been practicing, but Patterson did not say whether Howard would play in the season opener. Howard underwent an emergency appendectomy at the start of fall camp, according to people close to the team.