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December 4, 2013

QB play suffers as season goes on

AggieYell.com begins its postseason position-by-position breakdown with a look to 2014. First up: quarterback, and a review of the play of Johnny Manziel, Matt Joeckel and Kenny Hill.

Johnny Manziel (270-391, 3,732 yards, 33 TD, 13 INT; 133 carries, 686 yards, 8 TD rushing

When a quarterback completes 69% of his passes, averages 311 yards a game through the air throws 20 more touchdowns than interceptions and leads his team in rushing, most people would consider that a tremendous season. Most people, however, are not the incumbent Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most remarkable players in college football history.

Manziel started off well after his first half suspension against Rice, putting up astonishing numbers -- 562 total yards, 5 touchdowns -- against Alabama. He led a comeback win against Ole Miss and was on the verge of doing the same against Auburn when he suffered a separated right shoulder and a fractured right thumb. By the end of the season and losses against LSU and Missouri, he was a shell of himself, struggling with those problems and a sprained ankle.

There were other problems as well: still elusive, Manziel was not as fast as he was last season; the 10 pounds he put on to reduce the pounding he took ended up lead to more harm than good. He more refined passer with a noticeably stronger arm, he stayed in the pocket a lot longer this year and missed some opportunities to make plays with his feet. As the season went on and it became evident A&M's defense would struggle to stop anyone, Manziel started eschewing short passes and became, in his own words, "greedy" as he looked for the deep ball. WIth his multiple injuries making it tougher to be accurate and defenses keying on Mike Evans, Manziel's play slipped noticeably the last two games.

When the Aggies take the field at the end of this month or New Year's Day, Manziel should be much healthier than he is now. Hopefully, he'll be able to give a performance that will harken back to his Heisman season or earlier this year as opposed to the ones we've seen the last couple of games.

Matt Joeckel (22-37, 293 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT):

Joeckel performed extremely well (14-19, 179 yards, 1 TD), in his first career start against Rice, but struggled the rest of the way. He couldn't convert a 1st and goal situation after Manziel was hurt against Auburn, and the lone drive he operated on his own ended with no points in a shootout where points were needed.

Joeckel didn't play badly in 2013; he didn't play great either. He understands the offense, and when he's on his game, he can be very effective -- the problem is he is not consistently on his game. He does limit mistakes, something of vital importance to coach Kevin Sumlin.

Kenny Hill (16-22, 183 yards, 1 TD; 7 carries, 37 yards):

In his freshman season, Hill showed flashes of excellence in the four games he played. Quickly acclimating to A&M's system, he completed nearly 73% of his passes, largely in mop-up time. Considering how well he played with only a couple months on campus, it will be interesting to see how much he improves with both spring practice and a second fall camp under his belt.

Overall Grade: B

Looking to 2014:

Returning players: Potentially all three, though more likely Joeckel and Hill

New arrivals: Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain's Kyle Allen (186-272, 2,535 yards, 29 TD, 10 INT)

What to expect: If Manziel returns, you know what to expect -- an offense centered around him in all facets. If he's off to the NFL, as is expected, spring practice becomes a competition for the starting job between Hill, Joeckel and Allen. Joeckel is the most proven commodity, Hill has the most potential to run the offense like Manziel and Allen -- not only the top rated pro-style quarterback in the nation and a Rivals.com 5-star recruit, but an early enrollee -- could be the guy who runs the offense the way Case Keenum did at Houston. Joeckel may get the first snaps with the first team when camp begins, but Hill should be given every opportunity to win the job. No matter who does win, look for an offense more centered around running backs Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams and the passing game becoming more reliant on quick, high-percentages passes as opposed to the deeper passing game utilized by Manziel.

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