Johnny Manziel

2013 presents a new challenge for A&M’s Johnny Manziel

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Everything about Texas A&M and quarterback Johnny Manziel caught the rest of the college football world off guard in 2012. With a new coach — Kevin Sumlin — and a new conference — the SEC West — the Aggies weren’t predicted by some *ahem* to even go bowling, much less finish 11-2 with perhaps the best individual victory of the season on the road against Alabama last November.

Meanwhile, the stars aligned perfectly for Manziel. The redshirt freshman emerged from an offseason quarterback battle where he was presumed to play the role of backup and ended up as one of the most exciting players in the country — not to mention the first ever freshman, redshirt or otherwise, to win the Heisman.

Neither Manziel nor A&M will have the element of surprise on their side in 2013. Nevertheless, the expectations in College Station are as high as they’ve ever been. The Aggies begin spring practice on Saturday, the first steps toward what the Aggie faithful feels could be a season even more special than the last.

As it should be, Sumlin’s fear is complacency. When asked what his Heisman trophy winning quarterback can improve upon this year, Sumlin replied “his footwork, his mechanics, his thought process and overall knowledge of the offense.”

Coachspeak at its finest? Sure, but understand this: 12 opposing teams now have tape on Manziel.

What has helped Manziel, and what will continue to help him, are his improvisation skills that seem better suited for Second City in Chicago than a football field. First glance tells you there’s simply no defensive scheme that will contain this:

Manziel’s “roll outta bed and ball” game is terrifying, but there are habits, tendencies, weaknesses in it. They just have to be found, and there’s plenty of time between now and the start of the 2013 season for opposing coaches to find them. Great mechanics and the ability to understand defenses are qualities every quarterback should rely on; the extra mobility Manziel displays should be a compliment to that, not a substitute.

Then there’s the issue of A&M’s offensive line. The last time we saw it collectively as one unit, it was giving Manziel an eternity to throw in a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma. Can it hold up similarly in 2013? Although Luke Joeckel is gone — perhaps as the first pick in this year’s draft — Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi are back, so turnover along the O-line isn’t as bad as it could be.

Still, and even with his improvisational skills, Manziel had it made in 2012. Add in a pair of new coordinators with the departure of Kliff KIngsbury to Texas Tech, and the situation isn’t quite the same for Manziel in 2013.

But will he, and A&M, be as successful? Manziel showed he can handle the spotlight in the post-Heisman craze, but now comes the task of improving his game. That’s where the next several months factor in.

Suspended USC LB Osa Masina reportedly under investigation for sexual assault

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Antwaun Woods #99 of the USC Trojans and Osa Masina #58 of the USC Trojans pressure Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies on this pass play during the first quarter of a game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean Haffey/Getty Images)
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And now we know a little more of the rest of the story, and it’s potentially serious for one member of the USC football program.

Monday night, Clay Helton revealed that Osa Masina has been suspended for his team’s season opener against Alabama this weekend.  The head coach gave no specific reason or reasons for the sanctions being placed on the linebacker, although a school official subsequently described it as an unspecified violation of team rules.

However, the FOX affiliate out of Salt Lake City is reporting that Masina, a Utah native, is being investigated over sexual assault allegations.  The probe stems from an alleged incident or incidents that allegedly took place over the summer in Salt Lake County.

From the television station’s report:

Cottonwood Heights Police have confirmed the ongoing investigation but have not released details about the alleged crime.

Cottonwood Heights PD, with the help of the Los Angeles Police Dept., served a search warrant last week at a USC practice facility in Los Angeles.

At this point, no charges have been filed.  All questions to Masina’s parents were referred to the defense attorney representing their son.

Masina (pictured, left) was a five-star 2015 recruit who was the top-rated player at any position in the state of Utah.  He played in 12 games as a true freshman last season and was credited with 25 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, with the highlight of his first year as a Trojan coming on a fumble return for a touchdown in the season-opening win over Arkansas State.

On the preseason depth chart released a week ago, Masina was listed as a backup to starting inside linebacker Michael Hutchings.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner adds four-game suspension to rocky Boise State résumé

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 12: Mitchell Juergens #87 of the Brigham Young Cougars catches this 4th down, 4th quarter go ahead touchdown between defenders Darian Thompson #4 and Dylan Sumner-Gardner #29 of the Boise State Broncos at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Provo, Utah. BYU won 35-24. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The roller coaster career of Dylan Sumner-Gardner at Boise State is on a downward trajectory yet again.

Tuesday, Boise announced that Sumner-Gardner (pictured, No. 29) has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.  According to the school’s release, the suspension stems from the defensive back “failing to meet NCAA football academic eligibility requirements.”

Sumner-Gardner will kiss games against Louisiana-Lafayette, Washington State, Oregon State and Utah State.  Provided the current timeline holds, Sumner-Gardner would be eligible to return for the New Mexico game Oct. 7.

After playing in 13 games as a true freshman, Sumner-Gardner started the first four games last year before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.  In November he was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge, then didn’t travel to BSU’s Poinsettia Bowl win over Northern Illinois in late December because of what was described as an unspecified violation of team rules.  His status for the upcoming season has been a question mark throughout the offseason.

Sumner-Gardner, a four-star 2014 prospect who was the Broncos’ highest-rated recruit in that class, had been a projected starter at safety; with the junior sidelined, Cameron Hartsfield is listed as the starter instead.

Heart condition forces Okla. St.’s Josh Mabin to retire

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 25:   An Oklahoma State Cowboys flag billows before the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders September 25, 2014 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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Sadly, a non-football health issue will bring to an end Josh Mabin‘s football-playing career.

On his personal Twitter account, Mabin announced that he will be forced to retire from the sport due to a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  The Mayo Clinic’s website describes the disease as one in which “the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied),” with the thickened heart muscle making it harder for the heart to pump blood.  The condition could cause “problems in the heart’s electrical system, resulting in life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).”

Oklahoma State has yet to publicly address the linebacker’s status with the program moving forward.

It’s likely Mabin will remain on scholarship at OSU, but won’t count against the Cowboys’ 85-man limit.

A four-star 2014 recruit, Mabin was rated as the No. 18 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 54 player at any position in the state of Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Mabin played in five games last season.  He was credited with four tackles in that limited action.

Mabin was listed as the backup middle linebacker to starter Chad Whitener on the depth chart OSU released last week.

Arrested Auburn S Stephen Roberts suspended for opener vs. Clemson

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 07:  Stephen Roberts #14 of the Auburn Tigers is called for pass interference on Christian Kirk #3 of the Texas A&M Aggies in the fourth quarter at Kyle Field on November 7, 2015 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Facing the best quarterback in the country, Auburn will need all hands on deck in the secondary for the opener.  Unfortunately for the SEC Tigers, that won’t be the case.

Late last week, Stephen Roberts was arrested following a traffic stop and charged with attempting to elude a police officer and possession of a firearm without a permit.  Tuesday, head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed that the defensive back will be suspended for Saturday’s season opener against No. 2 Clemson.

It’s uncertain if Roberts will return for the following Saturday’s game against Arkansas State as Malzahn labeled the suspension “week-to-week.”

Roberts played in 13 games last season, starting the final four games of the year.  He was expected to start at one of the safety positions for the Tigers this season.

Both of the charges Roberts is facing are misdemeanors.  His first court appearance is currently scheduled for Nov. 17.