5 Teams Most Likely to Shut Down Johnny Manziel
Last season, Johnny Manziel amassed 3,706 yards through the air while compiling another 1,410 yards on the ground. Even the best SEC defenses had trouble containing the eventual Heisman winner.
Now armed with a year of game film on the dual-threat quarterback, will SEC defenses have better luck containing or even shutting down Manziel in 2013?
Better yet, which teams are equipped to try and stop Johnny Football this season?
Let's take a look at five teams that have the best shot.
Alabama (Sept. 14)
In Texas A&M's inaugural year of SEC play, Johnny Manziel and the Aggies went into Bryant-Denny Stadium and slayed the No. 1 Crimson Tide. Manziel's performance in the game led way to him becoming the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
In last year's tilt, he hooked up on 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries.
While somewhat of a pedestrian performance for the freshman, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart saw far more than he would have liked.
Prior to playing the Aggies, Smart's unit was only allowing 9.11 PPG, 66.33 YPG on the ground, 162.56 YPG through the air and 228.98 total yards on defense.
Well, those numbers were shattered on Nov. 10.
Texas A&M scored 29 points, rushed for 165 yards and threw for 253 yards. Needless to say, the 'Bama defense won't forget what happened last season.
Catching Kevin Sumlin's group much earlier this year, Sept. 14, Alabama makes the road trip to College Station this time around. There's no question Nick Saban will have another solid defense in 2013, but it will be without the services of CB Dee Milliner and S Robert Lester to just name a few.
Nevertheless, expect the young defensive talent in Tuscaloosa to rise to the top.
The biggest offensive question for the Aggies early in 2013 will revolve around how quickly they can replace OT Luke Joeckel and C Patrick Lewis on the offensive line. Being without the services of the potential No. 1 NFL draft pick, Joeckel, certainly deals a blow to the unit.
While many may feel Saban and the Tide will struggle in College Station, there's simply no denying the fact that everyone associated with the University of Alabama will be out for revenge.
Ole Miss (Oct. 12)
It was the game that could have been for Hugh Freeze's Rebels.
Trailing 10 points heading into the final quarter of play, Johnny Manziel transformed into Johnny Football to the chagrin of Rebel fans everywhere. Texas A&M went on to win in Oxford 30-27.
Whether it was a sloppy offensive performance by the Aggies, a solid defensive outing by the Rebels for three quarters or a little bit of both, Texas A&M coughed the ball up six times during the game.
In fact, two of the six turnovers came on Manziel interceptions.
Had Ole Miss just been able to contain Manziel on the ground, they could have actually won the game convincingly. It's a game that Rebel coaches and players won't soon forget, and one they'll have circled on their calendars before the season even begins.
Thanks to SEC scheduling issues with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin will be forced to take his team to Oxford for the second consecutive year.
While the Rebels return a defense only losing a little depth in various areas, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack will also benefit from the arrival of two true freshmen: DE Robert Nkemdiche and S Tony Conner. It's the Ole Miss offense that gets talked about often, but Wommack's defense should be among one of the better units in the SEC this season.
Honestly, outside of facing the LSU defense in Baton Rouge, Manziel may just find his toughest outing of the year to be a Oct. 12 date with the Rebels.
Vanderbilt (Oct. 26)
Vanderbilt's James Franklin has turned the Commodore program into a winner.
Among a number of accomplishments in 2012, the Commodores went to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, won more games in SEC play than any Vanderbilt club since 1935 and reeled off seven straight wins to end the season, finishing with a 38-24 win over N.C. State in the Music City Bowl.
Plus, Franklin inked the No. 22 recruiting class for 2013 (via ESPN).
Focusing strictly on the defensive side of the ball, Vandy must replace three defensive linemen, DE Johnell Thomas, DTs Colt Nichter and Rob Lohr; a linebacker, Archibald Barnes; and a safety, Trey Wilson, this season.
It's a tall order, but one that the Commodores should have settled well before Oct. 26.
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's unit finished last season ranked No. 18 nationally in total defense (333.9 YPG) and No. 15 nationally in scoring defense (18.7 PPG). The only two teams that really throttled Shoop's defense in 2012 were the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens (L 48-3).
Fortunately or unfortunately—however you choose to look at it—Vandy didn't play Texas A&M last season.
As long as Franklin and Shoop are able to piece together a solid defensive line rotation before they travel to College Station, the Commodores could surprise some folks in how they handle Manziel.
LSU (Nov. 23)
The old saying goes something like, "If you lose the turnover battle, you'll won't win most ball games."
Well, that logic certainly applied to the Aggies in 2012. Losing the turnover battle to LSU 5-0, Texas A&M left Kyle Field with a 24-19 loss.
As for Johnny Manziel, LSU probably shut him down as well as any team all season. While he threw for 276 yards on 56 attempts, mixed in were three interceptions without a single score.
On the ground, the Tigers only allowed Manziel 27 yards on 17 carries. On the year, LSU finished ranked No. 8 in total defense (307.62 YPG).
Heading into the 2013 campaign, LSU will be without the services of DEs Bennie Logan and Sam Montgomery, LB Barkevious Mingo and S Eric Reed on defense.
However, rest assured defensive coordinator John Chavis will have no problem filling the holes. He's gotten used to it by now, and there's plenty of young talent ready to make names for themselves in the SEC.
Unfortunately for Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies, they travel to Baton Rouge this season for the rematch. If the Tigers were able to shut down Manziel as well as they did in College Station, don't you think Chavis will have a few new schemes ready to throw at the sophomore in Death Valley?
South Carolina in SEC Championship (Dec. 7)
After hopefully marching their way through a favorable 2013 schedule, Texas A&M will meet the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2013 SEC Championship Game.
It could be a contest that sends one of the teams to the BCS National Championship Game, and it could be a game of epic proportions.
After a thrilling come-from-behind win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl, the entire nation is now familiar with Gamecock DE Jadeveon Clowney. The hit he registered on Michigan's Vincent Smith will be talked about for years—as it should be.
Beyond just Clowney, though, South Carolina ended the season ranked No. 11 nationally in total defense (315.54 YPG) and No. 5 nationally in sacks per game at 3.31 sacks per outing. They're a solid group.
When these two teams meet in Atlanta, it should be a terrific affair: Johnny Manziel versus Clowney.
Rather than focus on stats and specific Gamecock players, a far better question to ask right now is how well the Texas A&M escape artist will hold up physically in year two?
Let's be honest, Manziel looked amazing in everything he did last season. With defensive coordinators having a year of game film to study, will he be able to stay away from the injury bug for another whole season?
Robert Griffin III, probably the most mobile quarterback in NFL history, looked unflappable until a late-season LCL sprain eventually ended up knocking him out for months. It's a worry coaches of mobile quarterbacks always have in the back of their minds: Too much mobility can lead way to severe injury.
Personally, I enjoy watching Manziel. He's a tremendous athlete, the likes of which we may not see again at the college level for some time.
However, going up against SEC defenses on a weekly basis does make me worry how long he can elude injury as a college player.