Johnny Football breaking the Heisman rules as a freshman

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It’s time to come clean.

I didn’t believe Texas A&M would come close to the kind of success it’s having in its inaugural SEC season, and I certainly wasn’t “all in” on Johnny Manziel as a legitimate Heisman candidate — at least not in the sense of the redshirt freshman bringing home the hardware in December.

Think about that for a minute as the shock of a 29-24 win for No. 15 A&M in Tuscaloosa over the top-rankeddefending BCS champions  begins to subside: a redshirt freshman — hell, a freshman of any classification — winning the Heisman.

Seems unlikely, doesn’t it? Impossible even, because Manziel’s not Matt Barkley or Montee Ball. You know, guys who were supposed to be receiving first and second-place Heisman votes just a few months ago. Familiar names. Even West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had the Heisman wrapped up and shipped to Morgantown in September before the postal service realized the Big 12 was having it re-routed.

Manziel’s not an upperclassman who has time to build his lore, either, although the legend of “Johnny Football” is at a fever pitch at the moment. In fact, Manziel’s freshman status means no media interviews, per Kevin Sumlin’s coaching policy. Just about everything that’s supposed to play a role in college football’s most prestigious individual award, Manziel doesn’t have.

But he does have the most important metric. He’s got game.

The Heisman is supposed to be awarded to the most outstanding player in collegiate football. There are some fine candidates this year. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein are just some of the names that should under serious consideration. Barring injury or a complete end-of-season meltdown, it’s impossible not to add Manziel’s name to that list after putting on the show he did against Alabama, effectively putting the SEC’s BCS championship game streak on the line in the process.

Manziel’s numbers against the Tide were exemplary (345 total yards and two touchdowns) and his season statistics are equally as impressive (2,527 passing yards, 1014 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns), but what held Manziel back from the likes of Klein and Barner were his struggles against Florida and LSU, two sound defenses in the SEC. To project that Manziel was going to somehow turn it around against Alabama was a stretch.

But Manziel did turn around. He turned around, evaded, ran into his own lineman and even fumbled the ball and recovered. And that was just on one touchdown pass to Ryan Swope to put the Aggies up 14-0 in the first quarter. Manziel is more than numbers. He’s theatre.

For that, he’ll get an invite to New York. Manziel may not win the Heisman, but he’ll get a lengthy look at becoming the first freshman to win the award. For all his showmanship, the one thing Johnny Football has showed the college football world is that there are no more rules for who qualifies as a Heisman candidate.

Nebraska fans set new school record for spring attendance in Scott Frost debut

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Nebraska has generally been one of the traditional heavy hitters when it comes to the not-at-all-important stat of spring game attendance, but never before have so many Huskers fans crammed into Memorial Stadium to see their beloved team play the spring game.

Nebraska is reporting a spring game crowd of 86,818 in Lincoln this afternoon, easily making them the new leader in the nation for spring game attendance this season (other contenders Alabama and Penn State are also in action today, so we’ll see if Nebraska hangs on to this lead). The massive crowd on-hand to witness the spring debut of new head coach Scott Frost also catapulted Nebraska into the top 10 leaderboard for all-time spring game attendance figures. Nebraska’s 86,818 fans is good for the eighth-most fans for a spring game, and Nebraska’s only appearance on the top 10 list.

It’s worth a quick reminder that these are paying fans as well, and the weather isn’t fantastic, although it is far better than a number of spring games have seen this season.

Florida State previously had the highest-attended spring game going into this weekend, but the crowd of 60,934 stood very little chance of staying ahead of some of the schools in action on Saturday, including the combination of Nebraska, Alabama, Penn State, and Georgia.

Wisconsin QB announces intent to transfer

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Wisconsin’s quarterback position looks to be pretty solid heading into the 2018 season with Alex Hornibrook back to lead the offense, but the depth at the position will get a little more shallow with a pending departure. Karé Lyles is set on leaving Madison by way of a transfer, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Friday night.

“Thank you UW for the memories, but it’s time to focus on a new chapter and a new beginning,” Lyles said in his message on Twitter. “The best is yet to come! Just a kid with a dream, and I didn’t come this far just to come this far.”

Lyles would have been floating on the depth chart at Wisconsin this season behind locked-in starter Hornibrook, with Jack Coan rising to be the top backup option ahead of Lyles for the Badgers. Wisconsin has some other younger in-experienced quarterbacks on the roster as well to fill some of the space on the depth chart in the fall.

Lyles, a redshirt sophomore in the fall, will have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play again in 2019 with two years of eligibility to use at another FBS program. If he transfers to a lower division school, then Lyles would be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Helmet sticker to Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

Four-star 2015 signee second Aggie to leave Texas A&M this week

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With a new head coach in town, it’s far from surprising to see somewhat of a personnel exodus in the spring.  In that vein, Jimbo Fisher‘s first-year Texas A&M roster is the latest FBS football program to see such attrition.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday night, offensive lineman Koda Martin announced that he would be transferring from A&M to Syracuse.  On the same social media website a day later, teammate Kemah Siverand announced that he too will be leaving College Station as a transfer.

Unlike Martin, Siverand (pictured, left) did not reveal his next college football home in the tweet.

As Siverand will be leaving the Aggies as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school in 2018 if that’s the tack he takes.

Siverand was a four-star member of A&M’s 2015 recruiting class.  After beginning his collegiate career as a wide receiver, the Cypress, Tex., native moved to defensive back between the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  He caught two passes for 16 yards in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, then was credited with six tackles in 12 games last season.

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.