A Case For…Johnny Manziel

Sitting in front of my TV on New Year’s Eve watching the Chick-fil-a Bowl, I sat in amazement of the performance that Texas A&M and former Heisman quarterback Johnny Manziel was putting on.

In fact, for the first time I sat there watching him play and thought ‘Wow this kid is ready for the next level.’

Things didn’t start well of Manziel and the Aggies though as they found themselves down 14-3 at the end of the first, but Manziel showed something that seemed impossible at the beginning of the season; maturity and leadership.

After two 15-yard personal fouls from receive Mike Evans that stalled the drives, Manziel had enough. He ran off the field through down the helmet and got right into Evans face. He made sure though as Evans turned his face away he made sure to get his message across in a calm way to get his receive on the same page.

This is something you would not see early in the season when Manziel infamously did this:

showmemoney_original
(Courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Oh and this little fit:

badjohnny_medium
(Courtesy of SB Nation)

The kid – if I am allowed to call him that being the same age – has matured a great deal over this past season. He has been put under the spotlight since he pulled of the upset his first year against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and for 19-year-old kid that is something that is going to be hard to figure out whether it is you, me, or him.

In a piece written by Wright Thompson about Manziel before the season he talks about a moment Manziel’s mother remembers after the game:

His mother remembers the moment she first understood that the change was affecting her son. After the shocking Alabama win, the one that earned Johnny the Heisman, a crowd gathered near the Texas A&M bus, pushing forward, crushed together, trying to see the star emerging from the locker room. Michelle watched as state troopers battled their way through the crowd with him. She saw the look in his eyes, one she’d never seen on a football field: panic and fear.

“I need to get on the bus,” he told the cops.

Put yourself in his shoes. You are 19-20 years old. You just pulled off a huge upset against the defending BCS National Champions.

You are the talk of the town.

Everyone wants to be your friend.

Cameras are in your face.

People want to know what you are doing at every second of the day.

Then you win the most prized position in college football and the spotlight gets brighter and things start to get tighter around you.

Any college student would crack under it all and just decide to quit or burn in front of the cameras who are waiting for your downfall. We are all not perfect. In college we have done crazy things that when we look back we are glad our parents and other people will never know about. Manziel does not have that luxury he is trying to balance being a college student and a celebrity at the same time. He is still a kid who is trying to figure it all out in a way 99% of college students won’t have to. It will take time but he is learning, just like we were trying to figure out the world at 19 and still are.

But his confrontation and his heroics in the game shows that he is moving in the right direction.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Bowl-Duke vs Texas A&M

Now many things could happen between Dec. 31 and the NFL Draft and he could be a bust like many quarterbacks before him, but with the development in Manziel’s game from year one to year two and even from the Alabama game to against Duke have been incredible.

Manziel has always been known as a dual-threat quarterback. Many people have wondered if Manziel at the next level could make the big throws and would be able to go through his reads and not depend on his legs to make plays as much.

In the Duke game, much like his redshirt sophomore season, Manziel has improved on his passing game. He has decided to stick in the pocket going through all his progression and not running if his first option is covered. His arm strength and accuracy have been amazing, making NFL like throws. Even at time just throwing the ball up high landing right in the hands of the receiver.

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This is not much of a surprise though if you get how quarterbacks are suppose to improve from year one to the next in the offensive system that the Aggies run.

On the Dec. 18 edition of Outkick The Podcast with Clay Travis, former Texas A&M offensive coordinator and Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury talked about the system and the expected progression.

“In my work with this offense year two has been the year that the guys really click and take off,” Kingsbury said. “I think you saw it with Johnny with his progress this year and getting those reads and things of that nature. That’s how it works.”

When you look at the numbers you can see Kingsbury statement holding true in Manziel’s case. From last year to this year Manziel averaged 285 yards passing per game to 316. His touchdown’s went up by 11 from 26 to 37. There are two big things that scouts should look at when they are breaking down the numbers. His rushing yards were cut almost in half with 1410 in 2012 to just 759 this year. His completion percent went up almost two points with a 69.9.

The huge drop in passing yards could have a lot to do with the poor defense the Aggies defense had this year forcing the offense to throw more, and a more experienced statable of runners that put the Aggies No. 1 in offense in the SEC. The more needing to throw can also show the increase in interceptions to 13 from nine the year before, but a jump of four is nothing to get all worked up about.

Manziel is going to go through growing pains in his first year in the NFL, but many do. He will continue to improve on his game and show that he can pass with the best and that his height is not a factor. His time in the spotlight and interaction with the media will help him unlike other rookies who will never had to dealt with it before. Most importantly he will put on a show with his athleticism.

johnny-manziel-is-magic-in-the-chick-fil-a-bowl
(Courtesy The Big Lead)

Follow me on Twitter @JordoRich

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