- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The next player on our countdown of the SEC's best 25 players appropriately wears the number two, but was No. 1 in last year's Heisman race.
No. 2: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M, RSo.
2012 summary: All Manziel did as a redshirt freshman was become a consensus first-team All-American and All-SEC performer. Oh, and he became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy after breaking the SEC single-season record for total offensive yards (5,116). Manziel won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback and was third in the SEC in passing with 3,706 yards. He also threw 26 touchdowns to nine interceptions and led the SEC with 1,410 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Manziel ended the year averaging a league-high 7 yards per carry and had a passer rating of 155.3.
Most recent ranking: Ranked No. 1 in the 2012 postseason countdown.
Making the case for Manziel: There's no question that Manziel was the most exciting player in college football last year. He dazzled with his legs and made tons of plays with his arm. He was slippery when he danced around the pocket, and once he got free, defenses could only hope to slow him down. Stopping him completely rarely happened. Offensively, there isn't another player in the country who can touch Manziel's excitement factor. He took down mighty Alabama last year after compiling 345 total yards and two beautiful passing touchdowns in the Aggies' 29-24 upset of the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Defenses couldn't give Manziel too much time in the pocket because he could pick them apart with his arm. But bringing too much pressure allowed him to slide by defenders and hurt teams with his speed and elusiveness. His ability to improvise so well made defenses look silly all year long, as he finished the 2012 season with six games in which he threw for 200-plus yards and rushed for 100-plus yards. The Aggies went undefeated when he did that, but when he rushed for 60 yards or less (twice), the Aggies lost. Manziel averaged 286.1 passing yards and 87.2 rushing yards against SEC defenses last fall and finished his first year as A&M's starter with a bowl-record 516 total yards in the Aggies' 41-13 blowout win over No. 11 Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Having Manziel No. 2 will likely cause a stir, but his off-field issues could have an impact on his 2013 season. His eligibility has been called into question as the NCAA investigates whether he was paid for signing hundreds of autographs on photos and sports memorabilia. Manziel also lost his top receiver, left tackle and offensive coordinator.
2dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon