Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Expectations will be high for Manziel’s encore

NEW YORK — Heisman Trophy history suggests it will never get better for Johnny Manziel than it did this season. In the 78-year history of the Heisman, only one player has one more than one: Ohio State’s Archie Griffin in 1974 and ’75.

But even if another Heisman is not in Manziel’s future, there’s still plenty left for Johnny Football and Texas A&M to achieve before he’s done in College Station, Texas.

“First and foremost, there’s the Cotton Bowl,” Manziel said Saturday night. The 10th-ranked Aggies play No. 12 Oklahoma in Dallas on Jan. 4.

“From there, I have to be the guy who starts the motor for a run at the national title next year. That’s our goal. If more awards come, they come.”

That goal doesn’t seem farfetched at all after the Aggies’ scintillating first season playing in the Southeastern Conference. Manziel was joined on stage at his post-ceremony news conference by coach Kevin Sumlin and A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, the former star quarterback at Texas Tech.

Manziel turned 20 this week. Kingsbury is 33. Sumlin is 48. It’s not hard to look at them and see the future of the SEC. Especially after the Aggies went 10-2 this season and left no doubt that their fast-paced, spread offense would not sputter in the big bad SEC.

Texas A&M averaged 552 yards per game and 44 points. Manziel smashed Cam Newton’s total offense record with 4,600 yards passing and rushing.

“You look what our offense did this year. People didn’t really think that we were going to have mush success in the SEC. They said these smashmouth, hard-nose defenses and this gimmick offense … won’t work.

“For us to come into Alabama and some of the other games and really stress tempo, tempo, tempo. We want to move fast. We want to make people uncomfortable. That was our main goal this year. Our offense with coach Sumlin and what coach Kingsbury did, I love it. I love everything about it. It’s definitely something that can work if you have the right people in place for it.”

Kingsbury said he and Sumlin didn’t quite realize what they had in Manziel early on.

“All spring coach Sumlin would blow the whistle because the defense was close, and (Manziel would) come over … spike the ball, ‘God! They wouldn’t have got me.’ I’m like, ‘OK, Johnny, sure they wouldn’t have got you.’ Come to find out they wouldn’t have got him.”

Potentially, Texas A&M will have many of its best pieces in place next season. Receiver Mike Evans is a freshman, too, and has future first-round draft pick written all over him. Texas A&M has an offensive line that rivals Alabama’s with two stud tackles in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Both of those big boys are juniors. The first-round of the NFL draft could await — Joeckel is being projected as a top-10 pick. Getting them back to College Station for another year will be tough. But if Aggies fans are allowed to dream, there’s no reason why A&M’s offense can’t be even better next season. Even if Manziel’s numbers aren’t.

There’s only so much defenses can do to hem in Manziel, who is a master of making something out of nothing.

But football is a game of adjustments. Defenses will search for ways to rein in Johnny Football. Sumlin’s response might be to get his running backs more involved. The Aggies figure to have a stable of good ones next season.

Manziel could be as good or better next season, but not be able to put up those same video-game numbers.

It’s a common tale in Heisman history.

BYU’s Ty Detmer won the award as a junior in 1990, but finished a distance third behind Desmond Howard in 1991.

“The hard parts winning it again because the expectation level goes up,” Detmer said earlier this week. “I felt like my senior year I was a much better player than my junior year. Smarter, less turnovers. Didn’t have as good a stats, but I felt like I was a better player my senior year. But the expectations were different.”

Expectations will by sky high in College Station next season. The move to the SEC, hiring Sumlin and the second Heisman in the history of the program — and first since John David Crow in 1957 — have Aggies’ hopes soaring.

“The award for the program is huge,” Sumlin said. “There’s a lot of programs out there that don’t have one. It took a long time for Texas A&M to get to two.”

Maybe Manziel can buck the trends again and A&M won’t have to wait so long to add a third.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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