Mind of Mike: Where and how the Kevin Sumlin era went wrong
The Kevin Sumlin era is finally over at Texas A&M, an era highlighted by a Heisman winner, an overall winning record and some solid recruiting but also by a mass exodus of quarterbacks among other things. Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell breaks down his thoughts on the Sumlin years in College Station.
... Hired in December 2011, Sumlin finished out Texas A&M's 2012 recruiting class with a No. 15 national ranking, a solid job for a transitional class. The top recruits were Trey Williams and Thomas Johnson, Johnson committed after Sumlin took over, Williams was before – and the class also had Germain Ifedi. Based on the success of guys like Ifedi, the tragedy of Johnson who allegedly murdered a jogger, and the bust of five-star Williams, it would be a wild ride for the new head coach.
... In 2012, Sumlin named Johnny Manziel his starting quarterback. Manziel would go on to win the Heisman Trophy after leading the Aggies to an 11-2 record including a win over No. 1 Alabama. Johnny Football’s Heisman season would be the highlight of Sumlin’s tenure by far and was the coach’s best season in College Station. Recruiting received a boost from the Manziel attention but Sumlin would never win double-digit games again.
... The 2013 class finished No. 11 overall with top recruits like Ricky Seals-Jones, Isaiah Golden, Kenny Hill, Kameron Miles, JaQuay Williams and Justin Manning. This class was all over the map as Golden played one season, Hill transferred, Miles was dismissed in 2014, Williams transferred after one, Manning medically retired in early 2016 due to injuries and Seals-Jones never lived up to his great potential. This class was similar to many compiled by Sumlin with too many failures.
... The best class under Sumlin was his 2014 haul which finished No. 6 nationally and was highlighted by five-stars Myles Garrett and Kyle Allen. This was followed by the 2015 class, led by five-star wide receiver Christian Kirk and quarterback Kyler Murray, which finished No. 10 overall.
... There were many big recruiting wins in these two years including Speedy Noil from Louisiana, Daylon Mack from Texas and Armani Watts but Murray could have been part of the downfall. The in-state superstar chose the Aggies and was apparently promised playing time despite the talent ahead of him and it helped lead to a quarterback exodus in Aggieland. The loss of the three quarterbacks could be looked at as the best example of the dysfunction of the Sumlin years. Hill started off like a superstar, trademarked the name “Kenny Trill,” then faded and was replaced by Allen who showed great potential until he faltered and Murray was eventually pushed into the starting job. The quarterback carousel left no one happy and led to three top quarterbacks leaving. Hill is now the starter for TCU, Allen was a starter for Houston earlier this year and Murray is the backup to Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma. Throw in the decommitment of high school superstar quarterback Tate Martell in the 2017 class and quarterback issues were common at Texas A&M. The lack of depth at the quarterback position resulted in five-star freshman Kellen Mond emerging as a starter this season well before he was ready. Sumlin, an offensive coach, couldn’t seem to manage the most important position on the offense.
... Sumlin finished the 2016 recruiting cycle ranked No. 17 and had a very good year in 2017 with the No. 10 class overall. The Aggies are currently ranked No. 16 in the country for 2018, but recruiting has never been the issue with Sumlin.
... Sumlin’s career record at Texas A&M has been excellent and he has a winning record in the SEC but his undoing, aside from the quarterback debacle, has been hot starts and poor finishes. In 2014 the team started 5-0 before three-straight losses in October. In 2015 the team again started 5-0 before two key losses in October. The Aggies started 6-0 the next season but lost three of their next four. Perhaps the final straw for Sumlin was the comeback loss to UCLA in the opener this season where his team blew a 34-point lead to fall 45-44 to Josh Rosen and the Bruins. A lack of in-game adjustment, something many criticized Sumlin of throughout his tenure, was evident and it appeared he was a dead man walking. However, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, the Aggies rolled off four-straight wins to rebound before losing three of their next four. The maddening inconsistency under Sumlin drove fans and alumni crazy.
... So who benefits the most from his firing? In the short term it’s clearly Texas, the Aggies in-state recruiting rival, Oklahoma and LSU in my opinion. However, the right hire at Texas A&M with the fan support, facilities and recruiting location could awaken the sleeping giant in College Station. The problem is that not many high profile names have been linked to the job short of Jimbo Fisher, which appears to be far-fetched rumors. But we all know big-name hires aren’t always the key to victory and the Aggies have everything in place aside from a coach to be a major success. Nick Saban’s success has claimed another coach similar to Les Miles at LSU, but Sumlin essentially made his own bed. Aside from that first year, he hasn’t had a winning record in the SEC in any other season, he is just 3-2 in bowl games and his team hasn’t been ranked in the final AP Top 25 since 2013. His losing record in November, 3-9 including tonight's LSU loss, since 2014 is also quite astonishing.
... Sumlin is a solid coach who will land at another Power Five job based on his record at A&M but the Aggies need to make a smart hire here and land someone who can not only make in-game adjustments and develop players but keep the off-field drama at a minimum.