COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Life after Johnny Manziel has begun.

Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Manziel made miracles happen for Texas A&M. The Aggies entered the SEC less than two years ago and everyone expected them to take their lumps from the start.

But they didn't.

With Manziel lighting up scoreboards in Kevin Sumlin's spread system, the 2012 Aggies won 11 games and shut up all the naysayers in Texas and elsewhere. Manziel won the Heisman Trophy and became the biggest lightning rod for controversy in college football until Jameis Winston wrested away that position.

Now the chicken-egg question, perhaps the most appealing such query in all of college football, is whether Sumlin made Manziel look great or if Johnny Football made Sumlin look like a genius.

Sumlin certainly has two quality prospects to make his case. The Aggies have been giving sophomore Kenny Hill the first-team snaps when the media has been present at practice. But that doesn't mean freshman Kyle Allen won't get a shot.

"It's dead-even," Sumlin said entering the second week of fall practice.

Both young quarterbacks have pelts on the wall. Allen was the No. 1-rated quarterback prospect in the nation coming out of Scottsdale, Ariz., Desert Mountain High School, while Hill was the No. 4-rated dual-threat QB after his senior season in 2012 at Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School.

But, either way, Texas A&M doesn't have time for growing pains.

The opener comes Aug. 28 in a nationally televised primetime date at South Carolina, which bears a top-10 ranking and a loaded roster.

"Our guys understand that because whoever (the starting QB) is, is going to be a young guy going into a very hostile situation in Columbia the first game of the year," Sumlin said.

Texas A&M's defense was porous last season, giving up 475 yards and 32 points per game in a conference highly regarded for its defensive prowess. Texas A&M's challenge to improve on defense was made more difficult by a slew of defensive dismissals in the off-season.

The good news for the Aggies defense is that they still return six starters on that side, a group that will be reinforced by six four- or five-star signees.