Sumlin ventures behind the burnt orange curtain to discuss upcoming A&M season


Kevin Sumlin is confident one of the state’s oldest rivalries will return. He’s just not sure when.

Speaking at coach’s night at the HEB Center last week, the Texas A&M coach said the Aggies and Longhorns will renew their rivalry that has been fractured since A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012.

“Scheduling has become a real issue,” Summons said. “Over the course of time, that’s going to happen. Next year, we start with Clemson and then Colorado and Notre Dame are coming on the schedule. Because of the SEC schedule, we’re booked until the end of the year.”

The last time the two teams faced off in the Lone Star Showdown, Texas won 27-25 on a last-second field goal. The Longhorns have been dominant since the rivalry started in 1894, boasting a 75-37-5 record.

But until then, the Aggies have a season to prepare for, beginning with a trip to the Rose Bowl to take on UCLA on Sept. 3 before opening up the home season at Kyle Field against Nicholls State on Sept. 9.

“People are looking forward to the season,” Sumlin said. “We’ve got a lot of good experienced players and young players. It’s a new football team that will be on the field. There is a lot of excitement in College Station and people are excited around the state.”

One of the biggest questions facing the Aggies is who will start under center. Trevor Knight, who transferred to Texas A&M from Oklahoma last season, has graduated and Sumlin can choose to go young or pick an experienced veteran.

Jake Hubenak by far has the most experience. He led Georgetown to the Class 4A state title game in 2012 and walked on at Oklahoma State. After one year without any action, he transferred to Blinn Junior College and threw for 4,052 yards and 47 touchdowns.

In his first year with the Aggies last season, he made six appearances and two starts, posting 884 passing yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions.

The other quarterbacks competing for the job are Kellen Mond, a dual-threat, four-star freshman from San Antonio that played high school football at IMG Academy in Florida and redshirt freshman Nick Starkel, a prototypical pocket passer from Argyle.

“The QB room is great with two younger guys and Jake being a little older,” Sumlin said. “All three of those guys are competing. Jake’s been able to bring a little more maturity. We’re going to let things play out this summer. The offseason workouts and getting to know their role is going to give them an opportunity to grow.”

He said Central Texas is quickly becoming one of the best places for football in the state with the population ever expanding and high schools popping up seemly every year, adding the coaches in the area do a great job developing players.

Sumlin took over a team in 2011 that was .500 over Mike Sherman’s four years as head coach and finished the 2012 season ranked in the top five in both the Coaches and AP Poll while beating No. 1 Alabama, No. 11 Oklahoma with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel under center.

Manziel would lead the Aggies to a 9-4 record in 2013 before three straight seasons at 8-5, including losing four of its final five games of the year and falling to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl last season.

There were reports Sumlin was close to losing his job despite signing a six-year, $30 million contract in 2013. And he hears the noise but thinks the program is close to taking the next step towards a title.

“When you’re in this job, you know what’s at stake all the time,” he said. “Nobody wants to take the step more than I do. We’re not satisfied. We want to be better and compete for championships. Whether somebody has something to say about it or not, I approach my job the same the first day as I do now.”