Kevin Sumlin has struggled at the quarterback position since Johnny Manziel left for the NFL. This year seemed like the year that he finally had things figured out but it only took a few offensive series to see that he still wasn't sold on his starter. Last season he had Kenny Hill as a starter and benched him after he threw 23 touchdowns in his first eight games. Hill gave way to Kyle Allen who finished the year strong and led the team to a 5-0 start this year. For whatever reason, Sumlin saw fit to mix Kyler Murray into the offense for a series here and there. But, after Allen struggled against Alabama and Ole Miss he was benched. Even though he got his starting job back for the final two games of the season, Allen decided to transfer. Some of said that his grades were an issue and he would have been ineligible. I have a hard time thinking he would just give up over that or that a kid that was apparently a good student in high school started struggling when he now had access to tutors and whatnot.
Kyler Murray was the top rated dual-threat quarterback in high school last year, so it is obvious why Kevin Sumlin and just about every other coach in the country recruited him so hard. Murray played for a big time high school in Texas and he torched everyone for 54 touchdown passes and 1,400 rushing yards. To be completely honest, I think he would have been the most highly sought after high school player in history if he were 6-3. But he's listed at 5-11 and he's not really even that tall. He's an unbelievably small guy and because of that he has some issues on the field. Those issues don't overshadow the really good things he does on the field, however.
Murray ran a very similar offense to TAMU's in high school. It's a spread offense with a lot of read option runs and quick passes. Murray is pretty good with his reads on run plays. He doesn't really seem to want to run as much so he does have a tendency to give to the back when he should keep it but I haven't seen where it has necessarily been a "bad" read. Louisville hasn't faced a lot of running quarterbacks this year but Deshaun Watson and Greg Ward both had good games against them. Murray is more similar to Ward as he can make guys miss in the open field and has pretty good top end speed. He's not going to power through guys on designed runs like Watson. Murray's size becomes an issue when he runs because he slides to avoid hits. I've watched more than a handful of plays where he's sacrificed 10+ yards because he thought he was about to get hit.
The offense has really struggled without Allen when it comes to pushing the ball downfield. Allen threw a really good deep ball in my opinion. Like the type of ball where you completely negate what the receiver did to get open because you're marveling at the accuracy of the throw. Murray hasn't shown the ability to really throw the ball accurately down the field. He has the arm strength to get it there, but he's just getting it there. It's not getting there accurately or in a spot where the receiver can make a play after the catch. Murray has no issues with the vast majority of the passes he's asked to complete. The short and intermediate passes are there and he is an accurate passer on those throws. He also throws pretty well on the run which is something that is needed as they do roll him out fairly often. Murray might have some issues seeing coverages over the middle of the field. Some of the interceptions he's thrown have been right to a defender in a normal zone drop. I can't help but think that his lack of height played a role in them. Louisville will have to contain Murray to make it harder for him to make easy throws. The guys in the secondary also need to take advantage of Murray's tendency to throw the ball up for grabs down the field.
UPDATE: Well, Kyler Murray decided to transfer as well so Jake Hubenak will get the start. I think there are some things that I wrote about Murray and Allen above that are still relevant so I decided to keep it. I also wrote and researched it so I'm being selfish. There's not a lot to say about Hubenak as he hasn't played much, but I cover some of it in the #W2W4.
The running back position for the Aggies is mostly a one man show. Tra Carson has taken almost all of the meaningful handoffs on the season and he's been a solid player for the Aggies. Carson is a huge back at 235 pounds but he doesn't necessarily run like a guy that size. He has pretty good feet so he tends to look to make guys miss as opposed to running through them. He also doesn't have great balance so it's very easy to take out his legs and that's what most defenders tend to do. I would imagine that that is in the scouting report for Todd Grantham.
Carson isn't much of a threat to break a big run unless he has a big hole up the middle. UofL had some issues with inside runs against Pitt as well as UK early on. It's somewhat out of character as DeAngelo Brown, Keith Kelsey, and James Burgess are strengths of this defense. One thing that UofL has struggled with this year is playing into the strengths of opposing players. Dalvin Cook is at his best when he can run through tackles. Tyler Boyd when he can get space. Kenneth Farrow when he can get through the first level. The list goes on. Carson will succeed if he can get a hole inside the tackles and get into the secondary. UofL has to take those plays away and force them to run off the edge where Carson's lack of speed becomes an issue.
The backup for the Aggies is James White and it's fairly obvious why they stick with Cason most of the time. White doesn't have much in his game to worry about. He's a bigger back that lacks the suddenness to be a good running back from the little I've seen of him. He doesn't hit the hole very quickly or very hard and he is primarily used to give Carson a break.