Mac Engel

TCU’s big quarterback gamble worked

TCU quarterback Kenny Hill, celebrating with guard Matt Pryor after running for a touchdown Thursday night in the Alamo Bowl, also threw a TD pass and caught one to pull off the rare trio for the second time this season.
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill, celebrating with guard Matt Pryor after running for a touchdown Thursday night in the Alamo Bowl, also threw a TD pass and caught one to pull off the rare trio for the second time this season.

Kenny Hill can tell his kids that he once ranked one spot ahead of some loser named Jared Goff.

According to the highly scientific 247Sports ranking system of the top high school quarterbacks in 2013, Hill was the 22nd-ranked quarterback in the nation. Next on the list was Goff, who signed with Cal.

If it makes you feel any better, waaaaaaaaaaaaay down this same list was Baker Mayfield, who ended up walking on at Texas Tech.

With the conclusion of the Gas Station Alamo Bowl, the Shawn Robinson era at TCU begins, and the Kenny Hill gamble is over. The risk worked out for both the player and the school.

With a dash of perspective — if you consider where he began at Southlake Carroll, and the schools that offered him scholarships, and how his high school peers fared, and that he flamed out at his first stop — Hill exceeded expectations.

His final game at TCU, a 39-37 win against Stanford in the Alamo Bowl, included everything that made him throw-a-brick-through-the-flatscreen aggravating, and special.

His second throw against Stanford is the type of decision he could never shake. He threw the ball back across his body, over the middle, where it was easily intercepted. A fifth-year senior must know better than to throw that ball. Hill was a big reason TCU trailed 21-3 in the second quarter.

By the end of the night, he did all of the things that made him a prospect who once ranked higher than the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, and the reason TCU rallied for another Alamo Bowl win.

For the second time this season, Hill ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass, and threw a touchdown pass. Hill is the only player in FBS to hit that trio this year.

He threw for 314 yards and led TCU in rushing with 60 yards. His 93-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Jalen Reagor early in the fourth quarter was a perfect ball.

Look at the top high school quarterbacks from 2013, and you will see that despite his flaws, Hill finished ahead of the curve. He developed into a decent college quarterback, just not a great one, and is on track to earn his degree in psychology. His accomplishments do not merit the Heisman, but they are not nothing.

Coming out of Carroll in 2013, he was a four-star player who had offers from Texas A&M, Baylor, Arizona, Ole Miss, Texas Tech and Kansas State. You have to wonder just how much Ole Miss included in that offer, too.

Look at top 10 quarterbacks from that class:

1. Christian Hackenburg, Penn State: He was a prolific three-year passer at Penn State, and was selected with the 51st pick of the 2016 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.

2. Max Browne, USC: He was a reserve his first two years, and in his third year he lost his chance when Sam Darnold arrived. Browne transferred to Pitt in 2017, but a shoulder injury ended his career.

3. Brice Ramsey, Georgia: He played a little as a freshman and a sophomore, and was actually a decent punter. He considered transferring but remained at UGA having not played too much.

4. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina: He was a backup for two seasons before becoming the starter in 2016. He was the second overall pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2017 NFL Draft, and is their starter.

5. Shane Morris, Michigan: He was a backup for three years at Michigan before he transferred to Central Michigan this season. He threw for 3,237 yards with 27 touchdowns in 2017.

6. Cooper Bateman, Alabama: He redshirted as a freshman, and over the next three seasons at Alabama he started once. He transferred to Utah for his final season and did not register any statistics this year.

7. Cody Thomas, Oklahoma: He redshirted as a freshman, and started twice the following year but lost his job to Mayfield. Thomas left the Sooners after one year to focus on baseball, and is currently in the LA Dodgers farm system.

8. Kevin Olsen, Miami: The brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has too many off-the-field incidents to count. At Miami, Kevin Olsen had a DUI, he transferred to Towson State where he was kicked out, and wound up at UNC Charlotte. He was indicted on rape charges earlier this year. He pled not guilty in late September.

9. Asiantii Woulard, UCLA: He played one game for the Bruins in 2014 and transferred to South Florida. He left the team in early 2016.

10. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: A dynamic four-year player for the Buckeyes.

Among the other notables included the list was Davis Webb, who ranked 49th and began at Texas Tech before he transferred to Cal. He is with the New York Giants. Also on the list was the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, Mayfield, who ranked 79th.

Comb through the rest of those names and you may recognize but a few. Most flame out, quit, sustain an injury, fall in love, pout, transfer, or they hit their ceiling in high school and didn’t know it.

Hill had a better college career than seven of the quarterbacks who were ranked in the top 10. In his career, he set the Texas A&M school record for passing yards in a game (511), was benched, quit Texas A&M, transferred to a junior college, enrolled at TCU, and was the Frogs’ starting quarterback for two years.

Guys who go through that much self-inflicted pain normally bust. Seldom do they graduate. Teams that take on transfers with this many red flags often regret it.

In his two seasons starting at TCU, the Frogs swept Baylor and Texas, defeated Oklahoma State in Stillwater for the first time in their time in the Big 12 and won at Arkansas. This season, he defeated West Virginia when TCU hosted ESPN Game Day in October, led TCU to 11 wins, an appearance in the Big 12 title game and an Alamo Bowl victory.

He frustrated his fans and his coaches, but, if you take everything into consideration, Kenny Hill just wrapped up a good college career.

TCU’s gamble worked out, and now the Shawn Robinson era begins.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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