The above headline isn’t necessarily a bold proclamation. In just one season at Texas A&M Sumlin led the Aggies to 11 wins, navigated through the treacherous SEC and cultivated a Heisman Trophy. It was all enough to spark conversation of Sumlin jumping to the NFL.
Yet, as good as Sumlin was in that first year in College Station, he continues to surprise in Year 2.
CBS Sports reporter Bruce Feldman’s outstanding, behind-the-scenes examination into Sumlin’s preparation for last week’s Alabama clash pulled back the curtain on the wizard at work.
Of the many fascinating takeaways, Sumlin’s integration of elements from Chip Kelly’s offense stands out.
“You’re always looking for something,” Sumlin says. “And that unbalanced stuff is really intriguing.”
Sumlin’s take on the hurry-up, spread offense isn’t one size fits all. That was already readily apparent when contrasting his Houston team with A&M. Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel are two distinctively different quarterbacks — Keenum the prototypical air raid passer, Manziel the dual-threat playmaker.
But as Feldman’s feature demonstrates, Sumlin and Co. do not craft the offense solely around quarterback play. The evolution from early film sessions to enacted game plan, utilizing wide receiver Mike Evans’ advantage against the Tide secondary, played out to perfection. Evans caught seven passes for 279 yards, in the process becoming the Aggies’ second Heisman candidate.
Could anyone fault Sumlin if he’d lit a cigar and quipped, “I love it when a plan comes together” Hannibal style?
Of course, there would be no such celebrating after the 49-42 outcome. An Aggie defense with holes was exploited. However, that almost makes Saturday’s showing from A&M and Sumlin all the more impressive than their win in Tuscaloosa last season.
Texas A&M had a glaring deficiency, yet was able to make Alabama, the defending national champion, play its game. A Nick Saban and Kirby Smart led defense gave up over 600 yards. Blame a 21-point Crimson Tide lead all you want, but also try to recall the last time Saban ever let up on the gas.
Rather, Sumlin hit the accelerator and his team turned a wide margin into an onside kick situation in the waning moments. In defeat, Sumlin penned another chapter in his growing tome.
Other coaches are leafing through and taking their own pages from Sumlin’s book. In the Big 12, Sumlin’s former understudy Kliff Kingsbury has Texas Tech undefeated and ranked in the Top 25.
In the Pac-12, Steve Sarkisian credited Sumlin for Washington’s implementation of a hurry-up offense at Washington, and the system is paying immediate dividends for the Huskies. Washington boasts its own pair of early Heisman candidates in Keith Price and Bishop Sankey.
Kevin Sumlin is fast becoming one of the game’s standard bearers, but other coaches must be as fast as Johnny Manziel scrambling out of the pocket if they want to keep up, because Sumlin is continuously changing his own game.