All the news this off-season on Johnny Manziel has been about his social life. There have been tweets, tabloid pictures, and even a lengthy piece by ESPN’s Wright Thompson. Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in his freshman season with Texas A&M. He was a standout player who dictated the results of games. Quarterbacks have always done that, but not to the extent of Manziel. How good was he in 2012?
Statistically, the 2012 season was spectacular to say the least. Manziel completed 68% of his passes for 3,706 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 155.3 as a freshman. Remember, Manziel was a freshman starter in the SEC, a conference where he faced Florida, Alabama, and LSU. On the ground Manziel covered 1,410 yards on 201 attempts for a seven yard average and 21 touchdowns. Manziel led the Aggies to an eleven win season and a victory over former Big-12 foe Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
He went from Johnny Manziel to Johnny Football.
Over the thirteen games in 2012 Manziel accounted for at least two scores in eleven games, all wins, with the two losses coming on a one touchdown performance against Florida and a zero touchdown beating taken by LSU. Of course, the name Johnny Football became ingrained in our vernacular the moment he led the Aggies to an upset victory over eventual national champions Alabama. Defeating the Tide on the road and the stellar play of Manziel at the end of the season cemented his grasp on the Heisman Trophy, the first freshman to win the award.
Wright Thompson’s detailed piece on Manziel in the most recent ESPN the Magazine showed the life of a young man who is forced to grow up under intense media and public scrutiny. We see a college sophomore who was not allowed to talk to the press as a freshman which only let the stories of his actions, both on and off the field, grow into the legend of Johnny Football. However, Thompson made a very key observation; Manziel views his time between the sidelines as his safe place. It is his comfort zone, a place where he can be himself and be surrounded by the people he considers his family.
2013 is just weeks away and the college football world is waiting to see if Manziel can keep up the pace.
The observation shows Manziel is at home on the field, that he excels there. The 2013 schedule features a lot more games at home than on the road for Manziel and the Aggies. Road game challenges are strictly kept to the SEC games with trips to LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Missouri. LSU shut down Manziel last season and the trip to Death Valley will not be easy. Yes, the Tigers have lost some talent on defense, but we’ve grown to expect a reloading on that side of the ball on a yearly basis. If Manziel plays even marginally better that game, expect his 2013 numbers to be significantly better than 2012.
Home games for the Aggies are against Alabama, SMU, Rice, Sam Houston State, Vanderbilt, Auburn, UTEP, and Mississippi State. With the loss of some major defensive contributors, Alabama will have its hands full to keep Manziel in check. A high scoring game, which is possible with the Tide’s new offensive weapons, will put Manziel on even a bigger stage to work his magic. Aside from Alabama, the only home game to provide a possible tough match-up is the first week game against Rice. The owls are a talented veteran team with more than 15 fifth-year seniors on the roster.
The schedule suggests Manziel will eclipse his totals from a year ago. Earlier this July I suggested Manziel would see his progression continue and see a bump in many areas of the box score. I predicted over 4,000 yards through the air with around 25 touchdowns. On the ground, Manziel could see a small step back as he goes to the air more often. He will no doubt reach the 1,000 yard mark and is likely to top 20 touchdowns rushing once again.
Will Manziel win a second consecutive Heisman?
It is entirely possible for Manziel to win another Heisman trophy in 2013. If he is anywhere near the numbers listed above, and the Aggies are a top-10 team, it would be difficult to give the award to anyone else. However, Manziel will need to do more than throw for more yards and stay near his numbers from 2012. Manziel needs to show an increase in nearly every category in 2013 and show he is the best quarterback in all of college football.
Manziel will always be compared to his 2012 season. Whether he leaves at the end of this season (Manziel is a redshirt sophomore and at the conclusion of this season he meets the required time out of high school to be eligible for the NFL Draft), or stays for more, the Aggies leader will be chasing his own legend. There is a good chance he’ll provide more amazing highlights over the next few months and will continue to grow as a player. The sky’s the limit for Johnny Football.
There will be no “Sophomore Slump” in College Station, Texas.