Whether you recognize him as "Johnny Football," "Johnny Heisman" or by his given name, Johnny Manziel, there is no denying that the Texas A&M quarterback is on his way to being the next great player in college football.
In fact, he's there already.
Manziel lead the Aggies to a 10-2 record in their first year in the SEC, with their only losses coming to now-No. 3 Florida in the Aggies' first game of the season. The other loss came to nationally ranked LSU, which is No. 8 in the FBS rankings. Even in their losses, the Aggies lost by only a combined eight points.
But what about the wins?
Manziel faced his toughest challenge when the Aggies went to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 10 and upset then-No. 1 Alabama 29-24. Even Manziel's tough losses can be easily overlooked considering he is the only quarterback to defeat the team that is now playing in the BCS National Championship Game.
By season's end, Manziel became the winner of the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. Afterwards, Manziel went on to win the Heisman Trophy. Not only did Manziel win the Heisman, he won it as a freshman, becoming the first freshman to do so in the trophy's 77-year history.
Manziel posted stellar numbers for the Aggies on the way to becoming only the fifth player in FBS history to pass for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in the same season. Even more impressive, Manziel is the only freshman to ever accomplish such a feat, and he did it while playing in arguably the toughest conference in college football.
Let's not stop there, though.
In watching Manziel's play this season—whether it be watching game highlights or viewing him live against Alabama—several things about Manziel's game look oddly similar to current NFL rookie quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.
Having noticed some similarities, I took it upon myself to take a closer look at Manziel and Wilson, to see just how much alike they are.
Starting with the basics, Manziel and Wilson are very similar in size, with the height advantage going to Manziel at 6'1", while Wilson is 5'11". Manziel is not only the taller quarterback, but he is only twenty years old; he still has time to grow into his body and develop the physique of an NFL quarterback, something that Wilson already has.
The similarities of these two players become even more apparent when looking at their 40-yard dash times. This year at the 2012 NFL Combine, Wilson was clocked at 4.55 in the 40-yard dash. Coming out of high school, Manziel was already running the 40 in 4.53—a time which he is likely to improve upon given that he is now two years removed from high school (he was redshirted his first year).
While certainly not the most highly touted quarterback to come out of the 2012 NFL draft, Wilson is playing as well as any rookie signal-caller this year. If Wilson's play and mechanics are any indication of what it takes to be successful in the NFL, then Manziel is arguably ready for the NFL right now.
One of the first things that can be noticed when watching Wilson and Manziel is their obvious ability to run with the football. In addition to posing a threat in the open field, both quarterbacks make great plays with their feet in the pocket, keeping their eyes downfield, looking for an open receiver when scrambling behind the line.
Both quarterbacks also display a great throwing ability even when not on the run. Manziel showed great accuracy against a stout Alabama defense. One of his most impressive throws was an over-the-shoulder completion along the sideline to senior wide receiver Ryan Swope.
As for Wilson, he consistently demonstrates an ability to place passes where only his wide receivers can get to the football—whether it be a jump ball pass to a bigger, more athletic receiver or passes downfield that enable his pass-catchers to create separation from the defense.
Both quarterbacks have an incredible knack for stepping up in the pocket and avoiding pressure. They can buy themselves time to make a throw rather than just scramble, drop the ball off or take a sack. In addition to their ability to step up and avoid pressure, both can also break a big run for a touchdown.
Is Manziel going to be a good NFL quarterback? Only time will tell; he still has at least one season left at Texas A&M, and a lot can change during his remaining eligibility.
However, Manziel's football makeup and similarities to Wilson could provide insight to those curious about what the new Heisman winner has to offer at the next level.
You can contact Zachary Krueger at @NFLWaterCooler
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