Don’t look now, SEC, but Johnny Manziel is looking to get better on the field this offseason even as he’s thoroughly enjoying his time off of it.
Coming off a season in which, in his first year as a starter at the collegiate level, Manziel claimed the Heisman Trophy en route to leading Texas A&M to a stunning 11-win season in the Aggies’ first year in the SEC, expectations are running high both in College Station and across the country. For his part, Manziel will do what he can to help meet or even exceed those expectations in 2013.
While no specific dates have been set, Manziel is planning on taking another trip to San Diego this offseason to work with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. Whitfield, who has worked with the likes of Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, told the San Antonio Express-News that Manziel will have one objective in mind when it comes to his next tune-up.
“Johnny really wants to hone in on being able to fully operate in the pocket,” Whitfield said. “He wants to run a lot less and make more throws and still be (as effective).”
During that breakout 2012 season, Manziel did a significant amount of his damage outside the pocket. While Manziel was 15th in the country in total passing yards, he was second among quarterbacks in total rushing yards. He scored nearly as many touchdowns on the ground (21) as he did through the air (26).
Certainly Manziel doesn’t want to abandon the part of his game that played a significant role in creating the Johnny Football legend, but the fact that Manziel is not resting on his stiff-armed laurels has to hearten Aggie Nation. And dishearten the SEC defenses charged with preventing a repeat performance.
Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.
Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.
And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.
“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”
Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.
You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season? Watch lists are being whittled.
The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior. The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.
The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).
The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten. The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).
Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah