First, let me just say I am a little shocked that the coaches have actually decided to give Kyle Allen a shot to orchestrate the Texas A&M offense. To be honest, I thought the "every position is open" talk from the staff during the bye week was just coachspeak for the media and few changes would actually be made. I mean, Kyle Allen himself actually had to ask Jake Spavital if the QB competition was real.
Spavital said Kyle Allen came into his office and asked 'is this for real' re: QB competition opened back up. Was told it was.— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) October 28, 2014
Maybe that was just me being negative about this situation and team. Well, like countless times before, I was wrong. The coaches have decided to shake things up (I'm hoping for more lineup changes to be revealed on Saturday morning), and now it is time to support the players that get their opportunity to perform.
If I'm Kevin Sumlin, there is one thing I am preaching to this football team in team meetings tonight and early Saturday morning: This is a brand-new four game season that starts against UL-Monroe. Our record isn't 5-3. It's 0-0, with only four games to play: UL-Monroe, Auburn, Missouri, and LSU. That's it. We are playing for 4-0, and this stretch is what the team will be remembered by. Not by a Thursday evening in Columbia, South Carolina or a Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That's in the past and that was a different team. This is a new team now, with a new season and new goals. The goals are to be victorious at Auburn and on Thanksgiving night. The month of November will define the 2014 Aggies and the future of the program. It's a fresh opportunity, and we have to take it.
A new opportunity presents itself for Kyle Allen. He gives this Texas A&M football team the best chance to be 4-0 in their new season that spans the course of November. I believe he will have every chance to be successful, but he will have to key in on several aspects of his game as he gets his first start:
This is a huge part of a quarterback's game that constantly gets overlooked. Sometimes you will hear the "draft experts" talk about #ARMTALENT and the player's frame as keys to being a good (NFL) QB. It is a lot more than that. If you want to be a "field general", a quarterback has to know how to manage the pocket provided by their offensive line. As a pocket is formed, the quarterback must be able to step up into the pocket to complete his throws. They also must have a sixth sense in being aware of pressure from the pass rush and make subtle movements and slides, while at the same time keeping their eyes on the coverage down the field and not what is happening with the pressure around them. This can take time to develop, but some QBs just have the natural ability to do it as well. For Allen, he is going to have to trust his blockers in front of him and not bail on pass plays early. Be confident that your offensive line is going to do their job, and worry about making the best throw and decision possible. Don't try and be Johnny Manziel. Instead, have the awareness to manage a pocket like Drew Brees.
Utilize All Areas of the Field
I've kinda packaged a lot of concepts together here, but all are important. Far too often, the "old" Texas A&M passing attack was limited to what areas of the field the football was being delivered. Kyle Allen can help crank the passing game up by breaking through those old barriers and utilize all areas of the field with his throws. Not only does this mean trying to stretch the defense more down the field with 20+ yard throws, but it also means being aware of your check-down. Sometimes young QBs won't get past their 2nd read on any given pass play before giving up on the play by making a poor throwing decision or scrambling. A lot of times in this Texas A&M offense, we have 4 or 5 players as true receiving options. That is a lot of reads for a young QB to make, but we also have to remember that Kyle Allen was an early enrollee who went through spring practice with this team. He's had 10 months in this system and should be knowledgeable of the offense.
One thing I really want to see -- deep throws. And lots of them. Kevin Sumlin and Case Keenum were successful together at Houston because Case and the offense constantly attacked a defense deep down the field, completing long pass plays. We haven't had that element in the Texas A&M offense in 2014, and it showed how limited the offense can become if it is not there. If we can complete just 2-3 true 30+ yard pass plays (yards after the catch does not count), I think we will be amazed at how well the offense can operate with the same calls that were being made just two and three weeks ago. Nothing has to be changed except for where the ball is being delivered.
Trust Your Teammates
While the headlines this week have been about the QB battle, let's not pretend like other areas of this team weren't as deficient during our bad three game stretch. It is going to take more than just a quarterback change to get the Texas A&M offense back in gear. The other offensive positions will have to do their jobs as well. And if you are Kyle Allen making your first start, you will have to trust that they will. Same thing next week on the road at Auburn. Don't try and do everything yourself. You can't do everything yourself (unless your name is Johnny Manziel). Your job is to distribute the football, and let others work. Trust your offensive line to block for you and pick up blitzes. Trust that your running backs will know the protection and where to be for the check-down. Trust your wide receivers to know their routes, and also to make plays on the football in 50/50 situations. Be confident in your game, but also be confident that your teammates can make plays as well. It takes eleven to play high-caliber football.
I'm excited about the opportunities in front of not only Kyle Allen, but for the entire team. There is a real chance to play fresh and finish this new season 4-0. It is just going to take a lot more focus and confidence in themselves than they showed in the month of October. It's a brand-new season, and it's time to get behind this football team. I can't wait.