Analyzing Texas A&M Freshman QB Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy Chances

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 15, 2012

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M QB Johnny ManzielSpruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

When Johnny Manziel was named Texas A&M's starting quarterback on Aug. 15, not even the most loyal Aggie fan could have ever dreamed that he would be this successful so fast.

Manziel has earned the nickname "Johnny Football" with his ability to dominate games through the air and on the ground. And the Manziel hype kicked into high gear late Saturday night with his 576 total yard, six-touchdown performance against Louisiana Tech. 

The redshirt freshman quarterback leads the SEC in total offense with 392.7 yards per game, is third in passing with 280 yards per game and leads in rushing with 112.67 yards per game.

Who was the last quarterback to lead the SEC in rushing? Former Auburn signal-caller and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Through six games, Manziel is putting up Newton-like numbers.

During Newton's first six games of his career, the average rank of the defenses he faced was 55.1. Throwing out FCS foe South Carolina State, Manziel's opponents rank 69.6 in the country in total defense.

If it continues, Manziel will not only be mentioned on the periphery of the talk for the Heisman Trophy, but he will be featured prominently in it.

But is the Heisman realistic?

No freshman has ever won the award, but if that's ever going to change, a quarterback as dynamic as Manziel would be the kind of player who could do it.

He has great field awareness, buys time with his legs while still looking to pass first and then, when it comes time to take off, he can find holes in the defense and run away from the secondary.

To the credit of Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, they have adjusted the air raid offense that made them so successful at Houston to fit the specific skills that Manziel possesses.

So, how can Manziel be so successful in the SEC so early in his career if the SEC is supposed to be the best conference in the country?

It's simple: The toughest stretch of his freshman season is yet to come.

Sure, he looked good against Arkansas and Ole Miss. But the Hogs currently boast the worst defense in the SEC, and Manziel contributed to three of the Aggies' six turnovers against Ole Miss before leading the A&M comeback.

Against the fast and physical Florida Gators in the Aggies' 2012 season-opener, Manziel showed flashes of brilliance, passing for 173 yards and rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Not bad, but certainly not Heisman-worthy.

With LSU, Mississippi State and Alabama—all of which rank in the top five in the SEC in total defense—still on the schedule, let's hold off on elevating Manziel to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's primary Heisman competitor until we see how he does against tougher competition.

That's not a knock against Manziel, though.

Through his first six games, he has made Texas A&M football appointment television—even at 1 a.m. against Louisiana Tech in a half-empty stadium in Shreveport (which, if you missed that game, find a way to watch a replay ASAP).

Manziel's start to his Aggie career is bringing well-deserved attention to himself and the Aggie football program. But let's hold off on giving him serious Heisman consideration until he proves he can succeed at this level consistently against the best defenses in the SEC.