Texas A&M quarterback Manziel carries the ball as University of Oklahoma linebacker Wort and defensive end Ndulue pursue during the first half of the Cotton Bowl Classic NCAA football game in Arlington, Texas

See ya, Sooners: A&M, Manziel roll Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl

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It’s been a busy few weeks for Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Trips to the late night talk show circuit, meeting celebrities and finally coming out of A&M’s media shell could have been enough to distract the redshirt freshman from Friday night’s Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma.

Instead, showing maturity beyond his years, Manziel looked just like the player that earned the Heisman the month before. Manziel accounted for 287 passing yards, 229 rushing yards (a bowl record for a quarterback) and four touchdowns as the No. 10 Aggies handed No. 12 Oklahoma a Texas-sized beating in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13.

But it wasn’t just Manziel who had a big day. Senior receiver Ryan Swope finished with 104 yards and a score, playing the second half after apparently rolling his ankle. And, of course, A&M’s offensive line deserves credit for giving its quarterback ample time to throw, and when there were simply no opportunities downfield, run. The Sooners had no answer for any of it.

O-line play was a major reason A&M finished with 633 yards, a Cotton Bowl record. The Aggies concluded the 2012 season as the first SEC team with over 7,000 yards of offense and Manziel finished with over 5,000 yards. It won’t get as much attention as the offense, but A&M’s defense held too when it mattered most. Oklahoma had two early chances to score touchdowns inside the 10-yard line and had to settle for field goals both times.

Not bad for the SEC rookies.

The Cotton Bowl win brings to mind A&M’s first appearance during SEC media days this summer. First-year coach Kevin Sumlin was asked repeatedly about what he thought life was going to be like in the SEC with an undertone indicating that the Aggies would be in for a bloody debacle resulting, at absolute best, in five or six wins.

How’d that work out? A&M has surpassed just about every expectation this year except its own. Then, the Aggies came back and beat the co-champions of their former conference. It’s a disappointing end for the career of Sooners quarterback Landry Jones and another tough bowl loss for Bob Stoops, once known for his record in big games.

Although too much is often made of bowl games for better or worse, the Aggies will undoubtedly be near the top of a few more preseason polls heading into the 2013 season and Manziel will be an early favorite to repeat as Heisman winner.

That’s a good eight months away and plenty can happen in a year. For one, A&M’s O-line — the same one that allowed Manziel to do anything he wanted tonight — will be replacing key starters, but the talent and the coaching is there. With some good fortune,  A&M will have the chance to eye bigger goals.

Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.

“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.

 

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves  and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.

Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.

The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.

Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.

The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..

Despite Auburn interest, Texas A&M OC Noel Mazzone staying put in College Station

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 14:  The Texas A&M Aggies offense huddles against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on October 14, 2006 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 25-19. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.

Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.

The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.

Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coaches ride go-karts with five-star recruit in Georgia

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.

We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.

According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.

And even better, there’s video via ESPN:

Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.