Over the last few weeks, things have gotten a tiny bit interestttingggg at Texas A&M.
As you’ve probably heard by now, a pair of former five-star quarterbacks have decided to leave College Station. This has created a void under center and left Kevin Sumlin’s program in a little bit of a sky-is-falling, hide-the-women, code-red, everything-is-going-to-hell scenario.
We know the news, but it’s worth repeating here: Kyle Allen decided to transfer two weeks ago. Kyler Murray did the same last week. Meaning that Texas A&M is down to what amounts to their third string quarterback heading into bowl season and 2016. I’m not saying the Aggies are totally screwed…but well, they’re totally screwed.
Or are they?
Because over the last few days, while the world has spent their free time declaring that the A&M football program is in shambles, I’ve kind of taken a different approach. After thinking about it a lot this weekend, calling and texting some friends that I trust, I actually have come to a completely different conclusion altogether. That conclusion?
Maybe, this wasn’t the worst thing that could have possibly happened to Texas A&M football. Maybe it wasn’t even bad at all. As a matter of fact, maybe it was actually the best thing that could have possibly happened to the team.
You think I’m out of my mind, don’t you? Well give me a second to explain.
For starters, let’s just be blunt here: Kevin Sumlin screwed up this situation from the beginning. Clearly some kind of promise was made to Murray during the recruiting process (heck, for all we know, promises were made to Allen too), and clearly it divided the locker room this past season.
Even from the first game against Arizona State in September, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to which QB played when. Some series it would be Allen. Then Murray. Then Allen, then Murray, then maybe Allen, then definitely Murray, then Allen, then Mur — aww, screw it, let’s put Allen in again. It just felt cluttered and confused from the beginning, like a Little League game where kids are arbitrarily pulled because the whole team is guaranteed a certain amount of innings and at-bats. It’s no wonder the locker room was divided, and there was trust lost between players and coaches. The whole thing appeared — at least on the surface — to be a total cluster.
Of course that’s in the past, and when both QB’s did decide to transfer, all the focus understandably fell on who was leaving. Two quarterbacks — two very good, very highly-rated quarterbacks — were heading out of town and not coming back. Not many programs anywhere get a single five-star quarterback to campus, let alone two, in two years. And somehow, A&M figured out a way to lose both of them.
It was both incredible, and depressing at the same time. And I can’t blame anyone for focusing on all the talent departing College Station.
But while everyone focused on all the talent that A&M lost, what no one instead bothered to look at was what they actually gained. And what they gained is the single most important thing a program can have from the quarterback position: Stability.
Yup, that’s right. For the first time since Johnny Manziel skipped town after that wild, Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over Duke, the Aggies quarterback situation is stable. There will be no more in-fighting, no more split locker rooms, promises made, or five-star kids walking onto campus and feeling like they’re entitled to something they haven’t earned. A&M knows who their quarterback is going forward.
That guy is Jake Hubenak.
Now, did I know a ton about Hubenak before Murray transferred? Not at all.
But when Murray did leave, and when Hubenak was basically handed the starting job by default, did you see what Hubenak did?
He sent out a very subtle tweet with some real, big-time meaning.
That tweet simply said: ‘Gig ‘Em.’ with a thumbs up emoji (because it’s 2015, and who doesn’t love emojis) and a quote from Tom Brady.
That quote said the following:
“A lot of times I find that people who are blessed with the most talent don’t ever develop the attitude, and the ones who aren’t blessed in that way are the most competitive and have the biggest heart.”
Woah! Hello, Jake Hubenak. Please allow me to pick up that mic you just dropped.
In all seriousness, that’s a helluva first statement for anyone to make, let alone someone who was relatively unknown just a few hours before.
At the same time, you know what that message said to me?
“Hi, I’m Jake Hubenak, and I’m the exact opposite of the two guys who just left. I wasn’t some big hot-shot coming out of high school, and that’s cool. I don’t expect you to promise me anything — including the starting job — and I won’t promise you anything either, other than that I’ll bust my ass, and give this football program everything I’ve got. Give me some time. I think you’ll like what you see.’
Again, that’s what that message said to me. And in doing some research on Hubenak, it was basically confirmed.
For those who know nothing about Hubenak (and I can definitely say that was me before the last few days), here’s what you need to know about him: No, he wasn’t some five-star, can’t miss kid who’s been led to believe he’s the greatest QB walking since he was five-years-old.
Instead he is a former walk-on at Oklahoma State, who later transferred to Blinn Junior College to establish himself and did enough there to earn a scholarship to A&M (where I guarantee no promises were made to him in the recruiting process). And while he clearly doesn’t have as much natural talent as Allen and maybe Murray, he also clearly has no baggage, and no sense of self-entitlement either. As a matter of fact, in doing research for this article this morning, I was stunned at how many Aggies tweeted out support of Hubenak when Murray officially transferred.
Read those tweets, and read between the lines, and those guys feel the same way about the guy as I do. They saw him at practice every day, saw how hard he worked, and clearly believe in him.
More importantly, here’s the thing no one is talking about with the Allen and Murray transfers: Sure, A&M lost star-power at quarterback, but you know what? With the way Kevin Sumlin has recruited, they don’t need their quarterback to be a star. Because everyone else on the damn roster is a superstar!
No, Jake Hubenak isn’t a star, but Christian Kirk is. And Josh Reynolds. And Ricky Seals-Jones and Damian Ratley, who are all coming back next year. You know who else is coming back as well? How about nine starters on defense, including the projected No. 1 in next year’s draft, a kid you may have heard of named Myles Garrett.
When you have a great defense (with a great defensive coordinator), and you’ve got arguably the best skill position talent in college football at wide receiver, why do you need a star at quarterback?
You don’t, and as a matter of fact, if you look through college football history, most of the best teams don’t actually have a star at QB. They have a good player who knows his role, knows his limitations, and let’s all the other guys play their roles around him. They have a guy like Jake Hubenak.
Sure, there’s the occasional superstar like Jameis Winston leading Florida State to a National Championship, but there are also a lot more Cardale Joneses, A.J. McCarrons and Ken Dorseys. Sure, Cardale played a part in Ohio State’s National Championship last year, but let’s be honest for a second: The Buckeyes won much more because of Ezekiel Elliott and the defense, than anything that their quarterback did. Same with Alabama, which has won three National Championships because of their defense and running game, not because of elite QB play (Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron have combined to win one NFL game as a starter, which came yesterday). I mentioned Dorsey, so let’s go historical. He didn’t need to be a future All-Pro at Miami; not when he was throwing to Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. during his three years as a starter.
No, I’m not saying that Hubenak will be as good as those guys were, and I’m certainly not saying that he’ll lead the Aggies to a National Championship, or anything close. But what I will say is, the puzzle pieces are definitely there, and to be blunt, Texas A&M isn’t all that different of a team with him at quarterback.
How do I know?
Well, did you see the point spread for the Music City Bowl against Louisville? Did anyone else find it interesting that it barely moved after Kyler Murray announced he was transferring?
That was Vegas’ way of saying that the Aggies aren’t a significantly better or worse team with Hubenak under center as opposed to Murray.
That’s Vegas’ way of saying they still believe in the Aggies.
And to be blunt, I do too.
I believe in the Aggies, and I believe in Jake Hubenak.
He might not be a superstar, but he’s the exact quarterback A&M needs.