Real growth starts now for Johnny Manziel

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
11:00
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Now we will find out just about everything when it comes to Johnny Manziel's football maturity.

He might have won the Heisman Trophy and might have been the nation's most exciting player to watch in 2012, but Texas A&M's redshirt freshman quarterback is in for a real challenge in Year 2. That challenge will be leading the Aggies' offense without the guidance of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who was named the head coach at Texas Tech on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Dave EinselJohnny Manziel will follow his Heisman season with a new coordinator and new faces on offense.
The news of Kingsbury's departure for his alma mater shouldn't have come as much of a shock, but it will serve as a new obstacle in the football life of Manziel. He'll already be without veteran wide receiver Ryan Swope, who will graduate and take his talents to the NFL, and it's very possible that junior tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews could leave early for the NFL.

That leaves three huge holes on offense. There is still a good group of talented, young playmakers on A&M's roster for Manziel to work with, but the person given the responsibility to work with Manziel will have a tall task in replacing Kingsbury and that offensive mind of his.

Manziel made the plays, but Kingsbury helped guide him. With help from head coach Kevin Sumlin, Kingsbury simplified the offense at the beginning of the season before adding more to Manziel's plate as the season went on. Kingsbury knew what he had in Manziel, but chose to carry him along slowly, making sure he didn't fill his head with too much too soon.

It certainly worked out with that record-setting freshman season of his.

He was very creative in what he did with Manziel, and even though Johnny Football loved to go off script at times, Kingsbury was always there to show him exactly what he could have and should have done in order to make things easier on himself. Without Kingsbury's words of wisdom, Manziel would have improvised his way through most of the second half as well.

Kingsbury helped calm the firecracker mentality that Manziel had on the field at times. At first, Manziel was all about taking off at the first sign of trouble in the pocket. Kingsbury slowly worked him through his progressions and how to read the field and find a safety net before letting his legs do all the work. Manziel wasn't perfect at this all season, but Kingsbury helped him get much, much better at it.

Kingsbury's patience is a major reason why Manziel hoisted college football's most coveted bronze statue.

Manziel has the talent to overcome the loss of Kingsbury and his departing teammates, but the person picked to replace Kingsbury will have to carry the torch when it comes to Manziel's field development. His off-the-cuff nature will surely calm down in Year 2, but teaching will be a big part of that. We'll learn a lot about Manziel's upside without Kingsbury's instruction.

The good news for Manziel is that he's been down this road before. He went from learning one offense in his redshirt year to learning something completely different under Kingsbury in 2012. He's obviously smart enough to evolve again, and he'll have to in order to keep his legend going down its special path.

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