Few people outside the Lone Star State had heard of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel this time last year.
Now, studying ways to stop Manziel may top the summer reading requirements for the eight Southeastern Conference coaches who have the Aggies on their 2013 schedule. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder made college football history last season by becoming the first player to win the Heisman Trophy in his first year on the field.
"I think contain is the best thing you could say, because you can't stop Johnny Manziel," LSU coach Les Miles said. "He's just tremendously talented and mobile, and they have an offense that is really set up for his skills. Hopefully you can put speed on the field, because he has an elusive and fast manner.
"The best way to try to stop a guy like that is to put great speed on the field, and we certainly had a very fast defense last year."
The Tigers managed to intercept three Manziel passes last October in College Station, which helped enable LSU to come away with a 24-19 victory. Florida was the other team to top the Aggies, holding Manziel to 32 second-half passing yards and 19 second-half rushing yards in a 20-17 road win in Texas A&M's opener.
Texas A&M capped its 11-2 season with six consecutive wins, including a 29-24 November triumph at Alabama and a 41-13 thrashing of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
Manziel led the nation in total offense, throwing for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 scores. He completed 24 of 30 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns in last month's spring game, and he threw a block on a safety that sprang tailback Brandon Williams to a touchdown.
"He's just a ballplayer, and I would rather have to pull the reins off a guy than have a guy who's just standing around watching," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "That's all part of growing up and understanding the big picture. Anybody who has seen him play was not surprised by that."
The defending national champion Crimson Tide are the first SEC team with a crack at the Aggies. Alabama visits Texas A&M on Sept. 14 in a matchup that CBS could televise in prime time, though the network has yet to announce plans for its lone evening broadcast.
Alabama worked on some opponents late in spring practice, but coach Nick Saban hinted that the Aggies may not have been among them.
"I kind of look at them in reverse," Saban said, "so the games we play later in the year we look at first and make notes on things we need to do."
Alabama ends each season with Auburn, and the next-to-last game on this year's Crimson Tide schedule is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Manziel and the Aggies will host Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State this year within the league. They will visit Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU and Missouri.
Let the summer studies begin.
"You've got to be multiple in what you do," Florida's Will Muschamp said. "You've got to give him man and zone looks. You've got to pick your spots to pressure, and you've certainly got to contain him in the pocket. That's what we did a much better job of in the second half. We pushed and contained him in the pocket, and we really tried to make him a pocket passer.
"With that being said, he improved tremendously game to game as the year wore on throwing the football, and that was the difference."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...