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.

Wisconsin renews Paul Chryst’s contract again, keeps him in Madison until 2023

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It’s becoming a regular occurrence around Madison this time of year but Wisconsin has renewed head coach Paul Chryst’s contract once again.

The UW Athletic Board approved the deal on Friday and keeps Chryst around with a five-year contract that runs through January 31, 2023. Other terms of the contract were not announced but this is pretty standard operating procedure for the school after the board did the same back in 2017 and 2016 to keep the coach on what amounts to a rolling five-year deal.

Based on his upgraded deal that agreed to last winter, Chryst is set to set make $3.3 million in 2018 with additional annual raises of $100,000 each year through 2023.

Chryst is 34–7 at his alma mater (53-26 overall as a head coach) and is coming off the team’s best season several years after going 13-1 in 2017 and capping things off with a victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl. The Badgers could be even better in 2018 given what returns to the starting lineup and were slotted in at No. 5 in CFT’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 for next season as a result.

Colorado State officially announces hire of John Jancek as Rams’ new defensive coordinator

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Mike Bobo finally has his defensive coordinator as Colorado State announced on Friday that long time coaching veteran John Jancek was hired to run the Rams’ defense.

“I’ve had the opportunity to coach on the same staff with John at Georgia, and I’ve coordinated offenses that have gone up against his defenses,” Bobo said in a statement. “He has a great deal of experience coaching and winning at the highest levels of college football, and I’m very excited he is part of the Ram Family.”

The hire of Jancek comes a little over a week after the program nearly brought in former Alabama assistant Derrick Ansleywho was set to head to Fort Collins to take the DC job before getting hired by the Oakland Raiders and their new coach Jon Gruden. The team had an opening at the position after Marty English retired following the 2017 season.

Jancek most recently was a defensive consultant at Kentucky this past season but spent the three years prior as the coordinator at SEC rival Tennessee. All told, this is his fifth stop as a defensive coordinator at the FBS level — including a stint at Georgia that overlapped with Bobo’s tenure in Athens from 2005-2009. He also spent one season as the safeties coach at South Florida in 2016 in his last full-time on the field role as a coach.

Jancek’s move west caps off a busy week for Colorado State’s staff after Dave Johnson was hired as run game coordinator and offensive line coach on Tuesday.

Arkansas center giving up football, pursuing law enforcement career

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Zach Rogers ended the 2017 season as a starter at Arkansas.  Now, he’s set to begin the next first phase of his life post-football.

Rogers’ father confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his son has decided to give up playing college football.  According to the dad, the offensive lineman is pursuing a career in law enforcement, with the Democrat-Gazette reporting that Rogers has already interviewed with two police agencies in Washington County (Ark.).

A three-star member of the Razorbacks’ 2015 recruiting class, Rogers was rated as the No. 27 offensive guard in the country and the No. 48 player at any position in the state of Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Rogers played in three games in 2016.

Last season, when Frank Ragnow, a third-team All-American, went down with a season-ending injury, Rogers started the final five games of the year.  Those were the only games he started in his collegiate career, although he would’ve entered summer camp this year as the favorite to land the starting job in the middle of the Hogs’ line.

Now, as the Democrat-Gazette notes, new head coach Chad Morris oversees a roster without a player who’s ever played the center position at this level.

Arizona’s Rod Smith named OC at Illinois

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The postseason coaching carousel continues to spin, with Lovie Smith the latest to make a key addition to his staff.

Rod Smith, it was confirmed by the school Friday, has been hired by Smith to serve as the next offensive coordinator at Illinois.  In addition to his coordinating duties, Smith will also serve as quarterbacks coach as well.

Smith replaces Garrick McGee, who was fired two days before Christmas after two seasons with the Fighting Illini.

“Rod Smith brings terrific and exciting offensive experience to our staff at Illinois,” Smith said. “His background and development of dual-threat quarterbacks and multiple-threat offenses is the direction we are going here. Rod has developed explosive quarterback play and offensive performance at each of his coaching stops.”

Smith had spent the past six seasons as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona.  With Rich Rodriguez‘s dismissal earlier this month, it was expected Smith wouldn’t be retained by new boss Kevin Sumlin, whose hiring was confirmed over the weekend.

Smith heads to Champaign armed with experience in the Big Ten, coaching quarterbacks and co-coordinating Indiana’s offense in 2011 as well as spending 2008-10 as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach.