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

Johnny Manziel AP

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.

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16 Responses to “2013 presents a new challenge for A&M’s Johnny Manziel”
  1. amosalanzostagg says: Mar 1, 2013 7:18 PM

    Johnnie Football has already secured his legacy.

    In a state where Texans can lose two battles(The Alamo, Goliad) and win independence with one victory(San Jacinto), Manziel has already secured his place in Texas A&M history. 11-2 season as a red shirt freshman QB, helped lead his team to defeat the #1 team at the time, Alabama(ARRRRRRGGGHHH, it still pains me to watch the disc.), win a Heisman and utterly defeat an old conference for in their bowl game. It’s a script that only Hollywood could write.


    His stats may never approach 2012 levels. With his wide receiver corp averaging 6’4″ he won’t need to. He is VERY competitive and should he see the QB mentor that helped him last summer, it sends a chill up my spine that he could BETTER than he was last year.

    Enjoy Johnnie Football, a player like him comes along once a generation.

  2. be4bama says: Mar 1, 2013 7:35 PM

    I’m looking forward to watching Johnny too. Not including 9/14/13 of course.

  3. normtide says: Mar 1, 2013 8:38 PM

    The SEC has some of the best defensive minds in football, so expect teams to adjust. A&M will adjust its game as well. That’s football. Sumlin has proven his prowess. Guess I’m trying to say, can’t wait for the season to start!

  4. goodfieldnohit says: Mar 1, 2013 9:04 PM

    Johnny is going back to spend time with George Whitfield after spring training is over.

    He’s anything but complacent.

  5. thefiesty1 says: Mar 1, 2013 9:45 PM

    Sophomore slump coming. Last season was an aberration. Without his left tackle (Joekel) and Swope they are in for a rude “awakening” in the SEC West this year.

  6. mikefoxtrottango says: Mar 1, 2013 10:16 PM

    Please add “Sophomore slump coming” to this list of predictions about Manziel and Texas A&M:

    1) The SEC would not want Texas A&M without Texas.
    2) There was no real offer from the SEC– they’re just fishing for Texas.
    3) The offer had strings attached that the SEC knew made it impossible for A&M to join– they just wanted Texas.
    4) A&M could not afford the exit fee.
    5) Baylor’s suit would stop A&M.
    6) A&M would get mercilessly ass-raped by the SEC and have a losing record every year until the end of time.
    7) The Big 12 is a better conference top to bottom than the SEC.
    8) Jailbird McHeisman is a disaster. He doesn’t have the moral certitude to win the Heisman. Manti Te’o deserves it more.

  7. alligatorsnapper says: Mar 1, 2013 10:17 PM

    I have heard now for months that SEC teams will be prepared for Johnny and that his 2012 year was a career year. I don’t believe that. I think he will prove he can and will improve. Johnny will be fine. He will play havoc with most teams in the SEC and elsewhere. Only the best of the best will beat Johnny and A&M this season, even being prepared for him/them. You will have to have great coaching and great players with excellent execution.

    I am really looking forward to Johnny being back on the field this season. I remind my colleagues at work, LSU beat Johnny & A&M at Kyle Field, this year it is at Tiger Stadium.

  8. goodfieldnohit says: Mar 1, 2013 10:56 PM

    He’s a winner. Go watch the last 8 minutes of the A&M – Ole Miss game. That’s all you need to know, right there.

  9. amosalanzostagg says: Mar 1, 2013 11:06 PM

    Manziel has already won.

    Swope was a great target for Manziel last year. His two catches in the Alabama game were superb. Mike Evans, another red shirt freshman, was one of the reasons that Swope received single coverage. Bama rolled coverage time and time again against Evans, daring Manziel to throw to Swope. He did.

    Now Johnny Football has a kid named Jones to go on the other side of the field to compliment Evans. The kid has great genes, his first cousin is Eric Dickerson. With
    six more recruits coming in as receivers, DC’s aren’t going to be able to cheat down into the box with eight or nine defenders. Go three wides, which is a trademark of Sumlin’s offensive scheme, add NFL speed and you have a nightmare. You have to have the safeties play pass first, the run second.

    You haven’t even begun to discuss A&M ‘s running game and the intangible of Manziel just rolling his protection to one side or the other and wait for coverages to break down.

    Damn, I just talked myself into a Maalox moment over the Bama-A&M game, again. This game scares the bejeebers out of me.

  10. eaglesooneru2 says: Mar 2, 2013 1:26 AM

    Manziel is arrogant and annoying but one of the best college qbs in a long time. Not much to argue about

  11. saints97 says: Mar 2, 2013 8:36 AM

    Losing Kliff Kingsbury is really going to hurt Manziel and the offense. Remember how bad they were in the Cotton Bowl without KK calling plays? It was pretty embarrassing to only beat the Big 12 co-champs by four touchdowns.

  12. be4bama says: Mar 2, 2013 9:04 AM

    Amos, I too can hardly wait until 9/14/13. Only 196 more days!!!!

  13. mtmk0586 says: Mar 2, 2013 4:48 PM

    Be ready for him to be out at least 7 games because of injury. He won’t last a whole season the rest of his college days. Bet

  14. bertenheim says: Mar 2, 2013 9:25 PM

    No UGA, no FLA, no S.Car.
    Three non-AQ teams and an FCS team, all at home.
    What challenge?

  15. abninf says: Mar 3, 2013 9:35 AM

    I don’t like A&M and rarely watch college ball. But that guy had me on the edge of my seat more than any pro player did. 2013 presents a challenge for opposing teams who are watching tape of a freshman but will be facing a sophomore.

  16. amosalanzostagg says: Mar 3, 2013 1:07 PM

    Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss on the schedule.

    Rice and Vanderbilt won their bowl games.

    SHSU was in the FCS championship game.

    Given the strength of the SEC, particularly the West,no game in division play is automatic win.

    Just last season, wise pundits were seeing A&M as a 7-5 team at best. Amazing what one season changes on perception of how strong a team is.

    Look at the Big Ten for a moment, the Big Ten flirted with a comeback in bowl season as Michigan led South Carolina in the Outback and Nebraska led Georgia in the Capitol One. Then it all fell apart as the Wolverines and Cornhuskers lost their early New Year’s Day games and Wisconsin lost the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten finished 2-5 in the postseason and was swept in the Rose, Capitol One and Outback bowls for a 1-8 record in those games the last three years. Granted, the outcomes may have been different if Ohio State and Penn State were eligible, but that’s not going to reverse the perception of the Big Ten as an inferior league.

    Perception matters.

    Now if you want to criticize a schedule, I cannot believe how easy Alabama’s
    schedule is, and I’m as ardent a supporter of Bama as you can get. A&M is still
    getting it’s legs under them in the SEC.

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