In college football, coaches have a maximum of four years to get a variety of moving parts working together as one. Sometimes the individual parts fit, sometimes they don’t. At Texas A&M, Matt Joeckel was supposed to fit.
His twin brother, Luke, was an Aggie football star. Matt Joeckel had prototypical size for a quarterback, and he put his time in learning the system as a redshirt in 2010. Unfortunately for Joeckel, Johnny Manziel showed up. In 2012, Joeckel watched from the sidelines as Manziel dazzled new head coach Kevin Sumlin and became an instant legend on his way to a Heisman Trophy.
Now that Manziel is out of the picture, sophomore Kenny Hill and five-star recruit Kyle Allen are jockeying for starting quarterback in Aggieland. Once again, there’s no room for Joeckel.
Joeckel started once and played in five games as a backup to Johnny Manziel — paltry preparation for elite Big 12 competition.
Meanwhile, TCU is looking for offensive help after a disastrous 2013 season. The Horned Frogs stumbled to a miserable conference record due to an inept offense that finished at the bottom of the Big 12.
An Arlington native, Joeckel announced he is headed to Fort Worth to play for TCU in his last year of eligibility. It seems like the perfect fit — a team desperate for offensive help and a player desperate for a second chance at a college career.
There are several reasons to think that Joeckel will be successful at TCU. First of all, he has a good lineage, as his brother was the second pick of last year’s NFL draft. Secondly, TCU is installing a new offensive system — one very similar to the system Joeckel learned as an Aggie. This should cut down on the growing pains that come with learning a new offense.
It’s far from a sure thing though. Although Joeckel looks the part of a quarterback, he hasn’t ever actually played the role. He was beat out by Manziel and then found himself in a three-way quarterback battle for the 2014 season. In Manziel’s absence, Joeckel never established himself as a sure-fire starter. He has looked serviceable in limited snaps, but by no means does Joeckel give the impression of a star in the making.
To make matters more difficult, Joeckel has only one season to play with the Horned Frogs. That’s a tiny window to gain experience with a new team. It could work (see Russell Wilson transferring from NC State to Wisconsin), but it’s a lot to ask of a quarterback with such limited experience.
When Wilson left, he had already thrown for more than 8,000 yards. Joeckel has started just once (in the Aggies season opener against Rice, when Manziel was suspended for the first half). In all, Joeckel has played in five games as a backup quarterback. That’s paltry preparation for the elite Big 12 teams that TCU will face.
Chances are that TCU head coach Gary Patterson wants a natural quarterback to take over so that he can move last year’s starter, Trevone Boykin, to wide receiver, where the team can take advantage of his athleticism. Joeckel allows Patterson to buy an extra year before he has to find a new quarterback.
The odds are against Joeckel becoming a star at TCU, but he certainly has a better chance as success in Fort Worth than in College Station.