Texas A&M Aggies: Cam Newton

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Many observers of football in Texas agree the SEC’s impact on the recruiting trail in the Lone Star State is going to only grow in the future. However, not every SEC team is making a beeline to Dallas, Houston and East Texas to recruit. Plus, both USC and UCLA did their best to impress one of the nation’s top corners recently.

SEC lunchtime links

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Here's to hoping Atlanta is better prepared for Snowmageddon 2.

SEC Friday mailbag: Week 13

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It's time for another edition of the mailbag as we move closer toward season's end. Enjoy it while it lasts, because we're in the home stretch of the college football season. Thanks for the questions, as always.

GRIPR (@GRIPR08): Do you think this year's Iron Bowl is going to be as epic as 2010?

I certainly hope so, and based on the way the seasons have gone, but I think it might be hard to match because of everything that surrounded that game. There are some similarities: There weren't a ton of expectations for Auburn coming into this season, which was similar of the case in 2010 (though they were 8-5 in 2009 and 3-9 in 2012). There's a junior college transfer at quarterback for Auburn (Cam Newton then, Nick Marshall now) who can run the read-option well. And Alabama was favored going into that game, even though they had two losses and Auburn was undefeated. (I'm assuming Alabama will be favored this time around, too.) But when you think of the controversy that surrounded Newton at the time, the Tigers falling behind 24-0 and having to come back to win by a point with national championship dreams and a potential Heisman Trophy hanging in the balance, the 2010 game was one for the ages. If Auburn pulls off an upset this time, maybe it could get into the conversation, but the fashion in which the Tigers won in 2010 really made it special. Either way, it should be a great game because Auburn has a legitimate shot and Alabama has history in the balance as they try to continue marching toward a third consecutive national title.




Ethan Desai (@EDiddy8): Does an 10-2 A&M team go to the Sugar Bowl over a 10-2 Auburn? The Manziel factor has to play a big role for TV purposes.

If it plays out that way -- Auburn loses the Iron Bowl and Texas A&M finishes off by beating LSU and Missouri -- I do think it's very possible that A&M gets chosen for the Sugar Bowl over Auburn, even though the Tigers defeated Texas A&M earlier this season. The reason could be for the very one you stated: the Johnny Manziel factor. The allure of having Manziel for potentially his last college game is intriguing for a bowl game. And depending on how the BCS standings shake out, it's possible Texas A&M could finish the regular season ranked ahead of Auburn. I think both programs would be great choices because both are great stories: A&M with Manziel and Mike Evans and Auburn with the best turnaround of the season after going 3-9 in 2012. But I think you're intuition is correct if it plays out that way and Alabama punches its ticket into the BCS championship game.




Joe Losoya (@thirdcoastcoog): Is Manziel a system QB?

I don't think so. I know there have been quarterbacks who have carried that label after playing in the style of offense that Texas A&M employs (which can also be seen in variations at Texas Tech, Washington State, Houston and other places). People tried to give Case Keenum that label at Houston when Kevin Sumlin was the coach there. Does that offensive scheme make it easier to produce bigger passing numbers? Absolutely. The object is to get the ball out quickly to your good athletes in space, creating a high completion percentage and passing yardage. But if you watched Manziel at Kerrville (Texas) Tivy High School (where "Tivy Fight Never Dies" is the rallying cry) or just watched him in general throughout his A&M career, I think it's clear that he's a special talent. The Aggies actually modified their offensive scheme to fit what Manziel does well, adding designed quarterback running plays that you don't normally see in an "Air Raid"-style offense. Manziel, in my opinion, is a one-of-a-kind player at quarterback who has so many tools and incredible athleticism, it makes him almost impossible to defend. I think he'd succeed in any offensive system you put him in.

The Heisman should be Manziel's to lose

November, 27, 2012
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Johnny ManzielBrett Davis/US PresswireWhen it comes to Heisman candidacy, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has compiled a strong platform.
There’s one last weekend for Heisman voters to scout any remaining candidates for college football’s most prestigious award.

But after 13 weeks of action, the winner is clear, and voters don’t need any more time to think about it.

It was Johnny Manziel a week ago. It’s Johnny Manziel today. And it should be Johnny Manziel when the Heisman Trophy is presented on Dec. 8.

In 12 straight weeks (Texas A&M didn’t have a bye week) the slippery Manziel racked up 3,419 passing yards with 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions and rushed for 1,181 yards and 19 more scores. He’s second in the SEC in passing yards and first in rushing. He also guided Texas A&M to a 10-win season in its first year in the SEC and was undefeated on the road.

His 4,600 yards of total offense (and counting) topped Cam Newton’s mark of 4,327 yards, which used to be an SEC record. He already has more passing and rushing yards than Tim Tebow did during his Heisman season in 2007 and has thrown for 565 more yards than Newton did during his 2010 Heisman season. He won’t touch Robert Griffin III’s 4,293 passing yards from his 2011 Heisman year, but he crushed him in the rushing department by 482 yards.

Manziel has had three games in which he had at least 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, the most for any player in a single season since 2000. The rest of the nation has had eight such games the entire season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manziel has also gained 784 rushing yards on scrambles. That's 43 more yards scrambling than Collin Klein, Braxton Miller and Marcus Mariota combined. He has also scrambled for 35 first downs this season, including 20 first downs on third down, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Not voting Manziel No. 1 at this point is almost comical when you look at the way the fabulous freshman phenom has done all of this in his first year on the field with a brand-new offense and coaching staff in the SEC.

“His numbers speak for themselves against anybody who has played not only this year but who has [ever] played the game,” said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who has been very actively captaining the Johnny Football Heisman ship. “As we’ve gone through this process, he’s been a catalyst for this football team in the first season in the SEC.”

While his 43 total touchdowns are lower than his three predecessors, Manziel has way more total touchdowns than the other two dual-threat quarterbacks still alive in this race.

Klein, who has had a superb season, has 34 total touchdowns and Miller has 28 total.

People will knock his two losses (something neither Klein nor Miller have) to Florida and LSU at home. Both are currently ranked within the top seven of the BCS standings and both own top-10 defenses. In those games, Manziel threw for 449 combined yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 87 yards and one touchdown, averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

Not Heisman-worthy at all, but you have to dig deeper than just his two poor performances against top-notch defenses. Look at the growth from Manziel after his losses. Since the LSU game, he has averaged 382.2 yards of offense with 19 touchdowns.

One of those opponents was Alabama ... on the road. Talk about growth.

He had his true coming-out party in front of the entire nation when he torched Alabama’s top-ranked defense for 345 yards of offense and two touchdowns. He never wavered and sliced up the Tide with his arm and legs. Some of the Playstation moves he pulled didn’t seem possible.

He then showed out in his final outing with a bevy of twists and turns that amounted to 439 yards and five touchdowns against Missouri with a brace on his knee. Willis Reed and Paul Pierce had nothing on Johnny Football.

Manziel has made Texas A&M one of the nation’s hottest team. The Aggies aren’t close to where they are without Manziel. People talk about how much Manti Te’o, Manziel’s only real remaining Heisman competition, has meant to Notre Dame. He’s been fantastic, but take Manziel off A&M’s squad, and the Aggies aren’t nearly the same.

Being a freshman should only help his defense because it makes what he’s done that much more impressive. His two losses shouldn’t hold much weight because Tebow and Griffin both had three losses before winning.

What matters is his body of work, and no one else equals him. No one else equals his excitement or importance.

The Heisman Trophy should be as good as his.

"It's something you dream about as a kid, when you’re sitting there playing all these NCAA [video] games when you're a kid and you create a player and you win the Heisman as a freshman because you just put up crazy numbers," Manziel said. "It's something that you can only sit back and dream about. It's the biggest, most prestigious award in college football, so it would definitely be a dream come true."

Manziel is living the video game life, and there’s no reason his dream shouldn’t become a reality.

Putting Manziel's numbers in perspective

November, 13, 2012
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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had his Heisman Trophy moment last Saturday with his performance against Alabama in the Aggies’ 29-24 win.

Kansas State’s Collin Klein remains the Heisman Trophy front-runner, but don’t rule out “Johnny Football.” He made the kind of late-season splash on a huge stage that’s so important in the Heisman voting.

Robert Griffin III probably won the Heisman a year ago with his performance against Oklahoma on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season.

If you look at Manziel’s statistics to this point, he’s right there on par with the last two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks to come out of the SEC -- Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010 and Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007.

Manziel also compares very favorably to Klein and has faced three teams ranked in the top five nationally in total defense -- No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 LSU and No. 5 Florida.

Here’s a breakdown of Manziel’s numbers through 10 games compared to what Newton and Tebow had done through 10 games during their Heisman Trophy seasons:

MANZIEL
  • Total offense: 3,794 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 33
  • Rushing: 1,014 yards, 15 touchdowns, 6.5 yards per carry
  • Passing: 227-of-336 (67.6 percent), 2,780 yards, 18 touchdowns, six interceptions
NEWTON
  • Total offense: 3,171 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 36
  • Rushing: 1,281 yards, 16 touchdowns, 7.3 yards per carry
  • Passing: 123-of-183 (67.2 percent), 1,890 yards, 19 touchdowns, five interceptions
TEBOW
  • Total offense: 3,250 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 42
  • Rushing: 718 yards, 19 touchdowns, 4.2 yards per carry
  • Passing: 173-of- 255 (67.8 percent), 2,532 yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions
Johnny ManzielMike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesWith a win against No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel moved closer to Heisman candidacy.
In a year in which the Heisman race has really lacked pizzazz, one player is bucking the lackluster trend.

Small in stature but big in plays, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel proved yet again over the weekend he deserves a seat at the Heisman table in New York next month.

The redshirt freshman has been too exciting, too productive and too darn good not to get some real Heisman love. If the season ended today, it would be an absolute crime if Johnny Football wasn’t a Heisman finalist.

If what he’d done heading into the Alabama game didn’t win you over, Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium had to.

He was thrown right at one of the nation’s best defenses from the start, accounting for 16 of Texas A&M’s 27 plays in the first quarter and collecting 150 of the Aggies’ 172 first-quarter yards (passing/throwing). All three drives ended with Aggies touchdowns.

He made defenders look sillier and sillier with each scramble, such as his nifty 29-yard scamper on the first drive to put the ball at the Alabama 14-yard line, and his clumsy-turned-slippery 32-yard pass on the second drive that set up the Aggies’ second touchdown.

He pulled off another jaw-dropping 32-yard run on the third drive just for fun.

He even fumbled a ball in midair, only to catch it, roll out and find a wide-open Ryan Swope for a 10-yard touchdown in the first.

After struggling in the second and third quarters, he led the Aggies on two fourth-quarter scoring drives. On A&M’s final scoring drive he threaded a pass to Swope for 42 yards down the right sideline before tossing a perfectly thrown flag pass to Malcome Kennedy for the go-ahead 24-yard touchdown.

Manziel finished with 345 total yards and two scores. It was reminiscent of another dual-threat quarterback who walked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a shocking win. His name was Cam Newton, and he left with two more touchdowns, but 90 fewer yards.

Given the Herculean task of besting Alabama’s defense, Manziel came through and never wavered. Defensive stops didn’t stun him. He stunned the Tide.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manziel completed all six of his passes outside the pocket and scrambled for 94 yards when forced out of the pocket. Before Saturday, Alabama’s opponents were completing 35.7 percent of their passes outside the pocket and had scrambled for 12 total yards in nine games.

He also completed 4-of-5 passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield. In previous games, Alabama allowed nine completions on 41 pass attempts thrown 20 yards or longer downfield and hadn’t allowed a quarterback to complete four such passes since the start of the 2009 season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

He ran the nation’s No. 1 team out of its own stadium and momentarily knocked the SEC off it path toward a seventh straight national championship appearance.

That right there should get voters outside of the South giddy about Johnny Football, but there’s so much more to him than just Saturday’s stellar outing.

Manziel doesn’t look like he can do much, but even with his generously listed 6-foot-1 height and his awkward and graceless scurrying, Manziel constantly finds ways to make plays. You can’t bring too much pressure because he’ll just sidestep his way outside and sprint for a big play. Don’t bring enough, and he’ll burn you over the top.

He’s third in the SEC in passing (2,780), first in rushing (1,014) and has combined for 33 total touchdowns. He’s averaging 379.4 yards of total offense per game and is the second freshman in Football Bowl Subdivision history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in a single season.

People harp on his two home losses to Florida and LSU, but plenty of Heisman winners have lacked perfection. Tim Tebow and Robert Griffin III both lost three games before hoisting the bronze trophy. And if Manziel & Co. keep winning, he might play in a BCS bowl game -- something Tebow and Griffin didn’t do during their Heisman years.

When compared to Tebow, Griffin and Newton, Manziel is right in line. He won’t pass for Griffin’s 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns, but he’ll surpass Newton’s passing yardage and needs 507 yards to beat Tebow’s. He also has rushed for more yards than Tebow and Griffin and needs 460 yards to surpass Newton’s SEC quarterback record of 1,473 he set in 2010.

So when it’s time to cast those Heisman ballots and pick those worthy candidates to suit up in the Big Apple, Manziel can’t be left out. He has done too much already, and still has time to do even more.

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