Texas A&M Aggies: Teddy Bridgewater

The QBs that got away

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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There’s no more important position in football than quarterback, and in many cases, fans look at quarterbacks that got away and wonder what might have been had they come to their favorite school. Some schools passed on a quarterback because he evaluated poorly or another QB appeared more attractive. Others simply didn't have enough recruiting ammunition to land the recruit in the first place. Here’s a look at six quarterbacks that got away.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsWhat might the offense at Oregon or Texas looked like with Johnny Manziel at the controls?
Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater had offers from Florida, LSU, Miami, Rutgers, USF and Tennessee when he was a senior coming out of Miami Northwestern. While there were notable programs after Bridgewater, it was hardly the amount of attention you would expect from the player who sits atop many NFL draft boards after a stellar career at Louisville. Some coaches will tell you Bridgewater’s stock was lower coming out of high school because many expected him to land at Miami. He did commit to the Canes at one point, but eventually backed off that pledge and announced he was going to Louisville because of the opportunity for early playing time. “The toughest part of it was that I had to say that I wasn't going to the University of Miami,” he said after selecting the Cards in 2011. “I told the coaches that I had to do what was best for me, and they understood that.” It was a wise decision by Bridgewater and a miss that still haunts the Canes.

Robert Griffin III
Before he was RG III, he was a Houston commitment. Coming out of Copperas Cove, Texas, Griffin originally pledged to Art Briles when he was the coach at Houston. When Briles departed for Baylor, other schools like Kansas, Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State were in hot pursuit, but that was about it. He eventually followed Briles to Waco, and the rest is history. It’s been pointed out a number of times that Texas passed on Griffin because it thought he was a defensive back, and A&M signed Tommy Dorman in that same 2008 class. Dorman played sparingly as a fullback and a tight end.

Kevin Hogan
What would Rutgers, Vanderbilt or Virginia been like had they been able to land Hogan? Hogan was a heavily recruited quarterback coming out of Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga in the 2011 class and his final five consisted of Rutgers, Vandy, UVa and the Cardinal. He decided to leave the East Coast and has settled in nicely on The Farm. Rutgers, Vandy and Virginia surely could have used Hogan this season, as they threw a combined 38 interceptions, while Hogan led the Cardinal to their second straight Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl appearance.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesThe fortunes of two SEC teams might have changed drastically had Geno Smith not gone to West Virginia.
Collin Klein
Coming out of Loveland, Colo., Klein accepted the only scholarship offer he received. And despite a stellar high school career in football and basketball and a solid showing at the Nike Training Camp, the Wildcats were the only team to believe in him enough to offer. Klein went on to lead K-State to the Big 12 championship in 2012, finish second in the Heisman Trophy voting and win more than 20 games as a starter. At the same time, Colorado struggled at the quarterback spot, won only eight games in a three-year span and would have given anything to have an in-state star like Klein as its leader.

Johnny Manziel
You have to give credit to Oregon and Texas A&M, because they identified early on that Manziel had the goods to be a special quarterback. But they were about the only ones that did. Virtually every recruiting service had him as a three-star prospect and his offer sheet read more like a regionally recruited prospect, not a Heisman Trophy winner. Texas also had a chance to recruit Manziel, but the Horns saw him more as a defensive back prospect than a quarterback. Oregon had faith early in him, and it paid off with a commitment the summer after his junior season. He later flipped to the Aggies in September of his senior season.

Bryce Petty
Coming out of Midlothian, Texas, in the Class of 2009, Petty pledged to then-Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer as a junior. When Fulmer was let go, Lane Kiffin thought Petty didn’t fit what he wanted at quarterback, and Petty was left looking for a home two months before national signing day. Several teams showed interest in the talented young quarterback, including South Carolina, Nebraska and Oklahoma, but few had room. Virginia Tech and Baylor eventually offered Petty a grayshirt opportunity, and he took the Bears’ offer. Surely a number of teams around the Big 12, or even the Hokies or Cornhuskers, would have loved to have Petty as their quarterback.

Geno Smith
Imagine Smith wearing an LSU or an Alabama uniform. It certainly was a possibility at one point in the recruiting process, as the Tigers and Tide were two of Smith’s top teams coming out of Miramar (Fla.) High School. But after an official visit to West Virginia in November of his senior season, he was sold that West Virginia was the place for him. The Tide got their QB of the future in AJ McCarron in that same class and the Tigers hinged their hopes on highly recruited Russell Shepard. McCarron was the right choice for the Tide, but Shepard never developed as a quarterback and LSU had up-and-down play at the position for a number of years. Smith rewrote WVU’s record books and is now an NFL starter.

Move over Archie Griffin, Johnny Manziel is on his way to joining your elite club as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner.

Manziel's case is crystal clear, but if he isn't at or near the top of your Heisman list, you aren't watching the game correctly.

There just isn't a better, more exciting player to watch. Manziel has the wins, the stats, more stats and the swag to back it all up. But for some reason, Heisman talk has been pretty quiet surrounding Manziel. Sure, he won the award last year, and his in-your-face offseason created some Manziel fatigue, but you can't ignore Manziel's 2013 body of work.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel is playing better this year than he did in last year's Heisman Trophy season.
Through 10 games, Manziel leads the SEC and ranks third nationally with 3,313 passing yards. He's second nationally with a completion percentage of 73.0 and 31 passing touchdowns, and he is third with an efficiency rating of 186.9. He leads the SEC with 331.3 passing yards per game and is also 12th in the league with 611 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Manziel has thrown for more than 300 yards six times -- and in four of those he surpassed 400 yards -- and has thrown three or more touchdowns seven times.

He ranks fourth nationally with a QBR of 88.5.

At this point last year, Manziel had 2,780 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes. Yeah, he's thrown for 533 more yards and 13 more touchdowns this season.

No, Manziel isn't slicing up defenses with his feet like he did last year, but he's a much better passer and he's still capable of doing mind-blowing things like this.

This was supposed to be a season in which the fame and offseason gallivanting clouded Manziel's on-field vision. No way was he going to sniff duplicating his fantastic freshman campaign. His focus wouldn't be there, and he'd more than likely turn into a shell of his former self.

Well, Johnny Football only got better! He goes through his progressions, reads defenses and likes to throw first. Sure, he could carve up any defense at will, but he'd rather throw this year. He'd rather look at his second and third options before taking off. And when he does take off, good luck. The quarterback/ballerina can shimmy and shake his way past a drove of defenders with relative ease, but he has been more guarded this season, and that hasn't been a bad thing.

Manziel also is putting up Playstation numbers with his own defense collapsing around him. The Aggies' defense has been dreadful, giving up a league-high 454.4 yards per game and more than 30 points a contest. Manziel is trampling defenses in spite of his defense.

But Manziel has two losses, you'll shout! He has 11 interceptions, you howl. Yes and yes, but he also had two losses and nine interceptions last year, yet ran away with the Heisman.

Look at his numbers in losses. In the 49-42 loss to No. 1 Alabama, which ranks sixth nationally in total defense, he rallied his team back from a 35-14 deficit with 464 passing yards, five touchdowns and 98 rushing yards. In the 45-41 loss to Auburn, Manziel threw for 454 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 48 rushing yards and another score. What was even more impressive about his play was that he completed 10 passes for 102 yards and ran for a touchdown after an apparent shoulder injury.

Compare his numbers in losses to those of former Heisman frontrunner Marcus Mariota in Oregon's loss to Stanford, and it's not even a close race. Mariota threw for 250 yards and two scores against the Cardinal, but he ran for minus-16 and didn't lead the Ducks to a scoring drive until the fourth quarter. Manziel either gets in the end zone or leads his teams to scores while lighting up the stat sheet no matter the outcome.

Injuries don't faze him. You saw it against Auburn, and you saw it when his knee buckled during his 470 total-yard performance in the Aggies' 41-38 win over Ole Miss.

The kid is a machine, and he's darn near impossible to stop.

As the clock winds down on college football season, we finally can get into the nitty gritty of the Heisman race. At this point, it's all about Johnny Football and Florida State freshman quarterback phenom Jameis Winston, who trails Manziel by 1,106 total offensive yards and nine touchdowns.

Teddy Bridgewater and Tajh Boyd are mere afterthoughts, while AJ McCarron and Bryce Petty are making runs that likely will fall short late, but not after a nice good job, good effort.

Famous Jameis is great. He's the future of the sport, and the future looks radiant. But he just doesn't put on the show that Manziel does.

In what could be Manziel's final collegiate year, he has turned in a wonderful final act that's more than worthy of that classy bronze statue.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
10:15
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We've arrived at Week 3 of the season in the SEC, bringing us to one of the most anticipated matchups of the entire season: Alabama's trip to Texas A&M in a rematch of last season's thriller in Tuscaloosa, when eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Aggies upset the eventual BCS champion Crimson Tide 29-24.

But that's not the only game worth watching in the conference this season. Let's take a look at 10 things to watch on Saturday around the conference.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonMaybe it's something, maybe it's nothing, but Nick Saban is 7-1 at Bama in rematch games following a loss, with an average win margin of 20.9 points.
1. Revenge factor in College Station: At No. 6 in this week's AP Top 25, the Aggies won't sneak up on anyone this year. In fact, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and his troops have stewed over that loss throughout the offseason -- and that has typically been a bad sign for opponents. Since Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, the Tide is 7-1 in rematch games following a loss, with an average margin of victory of 20.9 points. Of course, the Aggies have no intention of simply rolling over before its home crowd. Kevin Sumlin's club leads the SEC in scoring (58.5 ppg), total offense (600.0 ypg) and passing offense (392.0 ypg), so the Aggies should provide an enormous test for a formidable Alabama defense that allowed just 212 yards to Virginia Tech in its first game.

2. Run the X factor for Alabama: How the Aggies' porous defense fares against Alabama's strong running game might be the determining factor Saturday. An A&M defense that was depleted by suspensions has been horrendous so far, ranking last in the SEC by allowing 273 rushing yards per game to Rice and Sam Houston State. Oddly enough, Alabama is last in the league in rushing after totaling only 96 yards on the ground against Virginia Tech, but that trend is sure to be short-lived with star-caliber talent on the offensive line and T.J. Yeldon among the standouts in the backfield. Alabama is sure to try to control the pace of this game by hammering the Aggies' defense with its talented stable of running backs on Saturday. It will require an infinitely more effective performance by A&M's defense than what we've seen thus far if the Aggies are to do an acceptable job against the Tide's ground game.

3. Tough nonconference matchups: The SEC hasn't fared so well in its marquee nonconference games thus far, with Georgia and Florida falling to a pair of ACC opponents, Clemson and Miami, and Mississippi State laying an egg against Oklahoma State. Yes, LSU and Alabama held up their ends of the deal with wins against TCU and Virginia Tech, respectively, but this might be another weekend where SEC teams come up on the short end of high-profile nonconference matchups. As of Tuesday night, Tennessee was a 27.5-point underdog for Saturday's game at Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon, and Kentucky was also a double-digit underdog (plus-13.5) for its in-state rivalry game with Louisville. One of the more intriguing games of the weekend is Ole Miss' visit to a Texas program in turmoil, but the Longhorns are the favorite in that game, as well.

4. Measuring stick for Vols: New Tennessee coach Butch Jones' club has been impressive in its first two games, routing overmatched Austin Peay and Western Kentucky, but its next two games are a completely different animal. The Vols have the pleasure of facing No. 2 Oregon on national TV Saturday, followed by another tough road trip, to No. 18 Florida, the following week. Tennessee ranks 13th nationally with an average of 48.5 points per game and it leads the SEC with a plus-seven turnover margin, but slowing down Oregon's offensive juggernaut in Eugene is no simple task. The Ducks are 27-2 at Autzen Stadium dating back to the start of the 2009 season and at 62.5 points per game in wins against Virginia and Nicholls State, this year's club looks to be just as good as its recent predecessors.

5. Odell Beckham show: LSU's multi-talented return man and receiver punctuated an outstanding night by returning a missed field goal 100 yards for a touchdown last weekend against UAB. He also caught 136 yards worth of passes for three touchdowns against the Blazers. Kent State should provide ample opportunity for Beckham to add to his impressive stats -- he already has 10 catches for 254 yards and three TDs -- before the Tigers jump into conference play next week against Auburn.

6. Rebels primed for upset?: What do we make of Saturday night's Ole Miss-Texas game in Austin? The Longhorns won last year's game in Oxford by five touchdowns, but they hadn't just performed so poorly that coach Mack Brown felt compelled to fire a coordinator two games into the season. Texas' defense was horrendous last week, allowing 550 rushing yards -- the most by an opponent in school history -- in a 40-21 loss at BYU. That prompted Brown to reassign defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and bring back Greg Robinson to take his job. Flash forward to this weekend. At No. 25, Ole Miss is ranked for the first time since 2009, and the Rebels aren't too shabby on offense with an average of 510.5 yards per game. That matchup between Hugh Freeze's up-and-coming team and a Texas club on the verge of imploding makes for one of the weekend's most compelling storylines.

7. Arkansas' running game: Those around the conference are starting to take notice of the new-look ground game that first-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has brought to Fayetteville. Once a pass-heavy offense under Bobby Petrino, Arkansas is 11th nationally with an average of 312.5 rushing yards per game. The Razorbacks have both the No. 6 (Alex Collins at 151.5 yards per game) and No. 12 (Jonathan Williams, 138.5 ypg) rushers in the country, and they'll face a Southern Miss defense this weekend that has been vulnerable against the run so far, ranking 81st with an average of 179.0 yards against.

8. Gamecocks, Commodores with something to prove: Steve Spurrier was livid after the way his defense performed in last week's loss to Georgia, vowing that the Gamecocks would change things up to force more turnovers. The Gamecocks risk falling out of the SEC East race if they suffer another division loss, so games like Saturday's visit from Vanderbilt are essentially must-wins. Although there have been a few near-misses, the Commodores are still in search of their first win against the East's power trio of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. With an SEC-high eight sacks and an overall productive defense, the Commodores might be able to give themselves a chance in Columbia if they contain South Carolina's offense and hit a big play or two against a Gamecocks defense in transition.

9. Enormous test for Kentucky secondary: Saturday's matchup against Louisville is a minor nightmare for a Kentucky team that lists three freshmen and four sophomores on the two-deep at its five secondary positions. Led by Heisman contender Teddy Bridgewater (376.0 ypg, 9 TDs, 1 INT) at quarterback, Louisville possesses one of the most potent passing offenses in the country. Kentucky has actually defended the pass fairly well so far, ranking fourth in the SEC with 147.0 yards allowed per game and limiting opponents to an 11.5-percent conversion rate on third down, but the Wildcats posted those numbers against Western Kentucky and Miami (Ohio). Defensive end Za'Darius Smith (an SEC-high four sacks) and company must get after Bridgewater for the Wildcats to have a chance on Saturday.

10. Bowl implications for Auburn, Mississippi State: For a pair of teams harboring mid-level bowl hopes, Saturday's matchup is a big one. Already 2-0, Auburn is a win away from matching its win total for all of last season. But with games remaining against LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, bowl eligibility likely hinges on beating the Mississippi States of the world. Dan Mullen's Bulldogs, meanwhile, are desperate to right the ship after dropping six of their last games since starting the 2012 season 7-0. They flat-out stunk in a 21-3 loss to open the season against Oklahoma State and still have all of the West's heavyweights left on the schedule, plus South Carolina. The loser of this one might very well be home for Christmas.
We almost had quite the quarterback matchup on our hands this fall.

According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Texas A&M and Louisville were in discussions to open the 2013 season at Houston's Reliant Stadium. That would have given us Johnny Manziel vs. Teddy Bridgewater. Or, Johnny Football vs. Teddy Ballgame.

Unfortunately, things just didn't get worked out between the two parties, so we're left with the Aggies taking on Rice at home on Aug. 31. It just won't be the same as seeing the Aggies take on what should be another talented Charlie Strong-led Louisville squad. And after what the Cardinals did to Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Louisville is a hot ticket and qualifies as must-see TV.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisJohnny Manziel and the Aggies will face Rice instead of Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville on Aug. 31.
Oh, the early Heisman talk that would come out of that game, too.

"It would have been a great experience to play against last year's Heisman Trophy winner and arguably the best player in college football," Bridgewater said. "He lays it on the line like I do. It would have been a great matchup."

Louisville is clearly looking to sit at the big boys' table, because the Cards not only tried to play the Aggies, but they also wanted a neutral-site game with the defending champs ... and almost got it.

According to McMurphy's report, Louisville almost played Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. Virginia Tech, which will face Alabama on Aug. 31 at 5:30 p.m. ET inside the Georgia Dome instead, was ready to back out of the game if quarterback Logan Thomas made an early jump to the NFL. If Logan had skipped his senior year, the Cardinals would have replaced the Hokies in Atlanta.

However, Thomas opted to stay, so Alabama will start the season against Virginia Tech, which isn't a bad matchup at all.

We might get to watch Johnny Football take on Teddy Ballgame, but there are some pretty exciting nonconference games that SEC teams are involved in this fall. Here are five (outside of Alabama-Virginia Tech) that I'm most excited about:

LSU vs. TCU (Arlington, Texas), Aug. 31: The Tigers did just fine last time they were in this building, but after losing a chunk of defensive talent, LSU has to face a TCU team that returns nine offensive starters and will be less than 20 miles from campus.

Georgia at Clemson, Aug. 31: The Bulldogs will be without 12 players who either started or saw significant time on defense in 2012. Clemson, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, should provide problems with its offense. However, Georgia should like its offensive matchup with a Tigers defense that surrendered nearly 400 yards a game last season.

Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Houston), Aug. 31: Mississippi State's defense has a lot of questions to answer up front and in the secondary, and its first test comes against the Big 12's top scoring offense from a season ago. Seven OSU starters return on an offense that averaged 547 yards last season.

Florida at Miami, Sept. 7: Miami isn't close to the power it once was, but taking an offense that has a lot of questions surrounding it on the road early will make this quite the test for the Gators. The good news for Florida is that Miami returns nine starters on a defense that was last in the ACC in total defense, passing defense and rushing defense in 2012.

Ole Miss at Texas, Sept. 14: Players in Oxford are already talking revenge after getting blown out by 35 against the Longhorns at home last season. Both sides of the ball should be improved for the Rebels this fall, and even though the jury is still out on Texas, the Horns return 19 total starters.

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