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


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.

Ed Warinner goes from $250K Michigan analyst to $525K U-M line coach

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Ed Warinner‘s bank account might want to consider sending Jim McElwain a thank-you note.

In January of this year, Warinner left Minnesota to take a job as a senior offensive analyst at Michigan. However, a month later, McElwain was added as U-M’s wide receivers coach; in an unsurprising twist to that move, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tim Drevno officially stepped down from his twin posts eight days after McElwain’s hiring and ultimately ended up back at USC.

McElwain, as had been widely expected before he was officially added to Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching staff, took over Drevno’s coordinating duties. Warinner, meanwhile, was officially named as Drevno’s replacement as line coach earlier this month.

According to mlive.com, Warinner has signed a two-year contract that will pay him $525,000 in 2018 and $550,000 in 2019. His scheduled salary for his role as an analyst with the football program? A “measly” $250,000.

Warinner spent the 2017 season as the offensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Minnesota. Prior to that, He was the line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16. In 2015, he added the title of co-offensive coordinator.

Dad: Tua Tagovailoa had surgery for broken finger on throwing hand

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And now we know a little more of the rest of the story.

Tuesday, after Alabama had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon; Thursday, that came to fruition, although Tagovailoa was only back on a limited basis.

Friday brought further perspective, with Tagovailoa’s father telling KHON-TV in their home state of Hawaii that his son underwent surgery to repair a broken index finger on his left hand.  Galu Tagovailoa told the television station that the injury was the result of a “freak accident.”

Tagovailoa, who suffered the injury after hitting his hand on a teammate, underwent surgery that same night, this past Tuesday.

While he heals from the procedure, Tagovailoa will wear a protective glove on the hand.  For the time being, he’ll essentially be limited to footwork drills and the like.

It’s unknown when Tagovailoa, who is in the midst of a battle with two-year starter Jalen Hurts, will be cleared for full participation.  According to the station, however, his parents expect him to be back before Alabama’s spring game April 21.

Injury KOs Florida State’s leading returning WR for rest of spring

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Florida State’s already-depleted receiving corps will be further thinned for the remainder of the spring.

First-year head coach Willie Taggart confirmed to reporters Friday morning that Nyqwan Murray will likely miss the rest of spring practice after suffering a slight meniscus tear.  The wide receiver sustained the injury in a non-contact drill this past Wednesday.

“He won’t be practicing, but he’s OK,” Taggart said according to 247Sports.com. “He’ll be out the rest of spring. Had a little knee injury, a little meniscus, I think it’s a tear on the side there. He’ll be back quickly.”

Last season, Murray led the Seminoles with 604 receiving yards; tied for the team lead 40 receptions; and was second with four receiving touchdowns.  With Auden Tate declaring early for the 2018 NFL draft, Stove is FSU’s leading returning receiver.

As 247Sports.com notes, the injury to Stove also leaves the Seminoles with just three healthy scholarship wide receivers.

Texts, emails detail John Currie calling Tennessee fans ‘wacko,’ ‘broken WiFi’ that preceded ouster

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Not surprisingly, Tennessee’s circus of a search for a new head football coach was just as wild on the inside as it looked from the outside.

Multiple media outlets Friday released text messages, direct messages and emails pertaining to John Currie, who began the search to replace Butch Jones as Tennessee’s athletic director but was suspended partway through the process as part of what some described as an athletic department coup.  One of the more bizarre exchanges came during the infamous Greg Schiano imbroglio, with Currie referring to the Volunteer fan base as “wacko” and simultaneously elicits some “PR” help from USA Today sportswriter Dan Wolken.

Jones was fired on Nov. 12 of last year.  In the 25 days between that firing and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt Dec. 7, Tennessee replaced Currie with Phillip Fulmer as athletic director and were reportedly turned down by Mike LeachDave DoerenKevin SumlinJeff BrohmMike Gundy and David Cutcliffe.  It was the pursuit of Leach that turned out to be the tipping point for the end of Currie’s tenure in Knoxville.

On Nov. 30, Currie, still in pursuit of the North Carolina State coach, flew out to Los Angeles for a meeting with the Washington State head coach after the two had apparently reached a verbal agreement in talks leading up to the face-to-face.  In fact, Leach’s agent, Gary O’Hagan, stated in a subsequent message to UT general counsel Matthew Scoggins that “[w]e negotiated earnestly and in good faith and feel we had reached and agreed to a deal.”

However, on the flight out to LA, Currie was out of touch with his superiors for a period of roughly six hours, which the then-AD blamed on a WiFi outage on the plane.

“I am very sorry for the stress I caused by the Wifi outage on the Delta flight,” Currie wrote in an email. “I had every intention of being able to communicate and that we could still get (Dave Doeren) deal done while I was traveling but without an immediate answer, the negative social media assaults against him and and the media news of their negotiating with NCSU, I was concerned that I needed to be in position to meet with other candidate[s] including Coach Leach who’s (sic) was in LA recruiting.”

Another missive stated that “[t]he plane I was on had broken WiFi. I am so sorry.”

From WBIR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville:

At 4:14 on the afternoon of November 30, Currie sent a group text saying, “[Leach] wants the job, but I have not offered or discussed terms with him. He has to leave for a visit at 2 (Pacific time). Can someone please call me back?”

At 4:26 p.m., UTK Chancellor Beverly Davenport texted Curried saying, “We need you to come back to Knoxville tonight.”

Currie responded, “What should I tell coach Leach?”

“Tell him you have nothing more you can talk with him about,” Davenport replied.

In response to Currie’s emailed apology for the stress his being out of contact caused, Davenport wrote that “[a]fter finally connecting, you informed me that you were in California heading into a meeting with Mike Leach. This was the first I had heard of this meeting.”

“Because of the confusion from earlier in the day with the other candidate [Doeren], I asked you not to pursue any discussions about employment with any additional candidates,” Davenport continued. “I would like to meet with you in my office at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow [Dec. 1] to continue this discussion.”

It was at the Dec. 1 meeting that Currie was informed he had been suspended.  Thursday, UT announced that it had reached a $2.5 million “amicable resolution” with Currie, who had been suspended with pay since that first day of December.

In addition to the previously reported candidates who turned down the Vols, former LSU head coach Les Miles and current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson had expressed interest in the opening, messages showed  Additionally, former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, who took over as interim head coach after Jones’ firing, sent a text to Currie in which he expressed interest in the full-time job.

And, of course, the text was sent in all-caps.


If that doesn’t perfectly encapsulate Tennessee’s sideshow search for a coach, nothing does.