Johnny Manziel is going to be the chief offseason project for guys like Nick Saban, John Chavis and other defensive minds in the SEC. He gave folks problems last year, and as he improved, even the teams who handled him admirably to start 2012 will need to keep getting better.
That said, if I am Kevin Sumlin, or newly promoted offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney, I am not worried about schematic changes.
Nope. What I am worried about is Johnny Manziel growing up.
And not growing up in the petty, ridiculous and arbitrarily patriarchal way that a lot of folks mean it when they talk about Johnny Football. No, when I say that I'm interested in him growing up, I mean watching the rising redshirt sophomore evolve in the offense.
You see, for all of the success that Manziel had in 2012, folks tend to forget that he was still a youngster in the offense. In other words, Manziel had enough of the offense to be dangerous, to the impressive tune of 11 wins, but as he gets a more firm grasp of the system, he'll be even better.
With improved understanding, the game slows down for kids. That slowing down becomes the difference between running for their lives, just trying to stay afloat in the game and hoping the shots work, and being the true conductor of an offensive symphony.
If you're a defensive coordinator, that is the scary part. Last year this was a kid who was splitting reps in the spring, who only had a limited time in the system, and he was still torching opponents. This year, he's got a full spring as the clear starter and he's going to go into his second full year of the scheme.
So, no, if you're Sumlin and McKinney, change is not what you're looking for—development is what you have your eyes on. That means spending spring on doing things that did not come easy in 2012: spreading the ball around even more, hitting check downs and getting the running backs involved in the pass game.
That's not to say that A&M was bad at those elements a year ago, but rather, this offense is predicated on doing those things better. Taking what the defense gives in the pass game and further taxing the opposition by having running backs as secondary threats through the air.
The departure of Ryan Swope is going to force other receivers to step up. Pushing Manziel to find those second and third targets after primary reads are gone is going to help push this offensive up a notch. It is more than just the idea of buying time, but it helps build the rapport with the receiving corps as well.
And yes, it also puts even more pressure on the defense. Manziel getting through his reads and working intermediate targets is going to tax the opposition. Throw in a few scramble drills as the rising sophomore buys time behind the line for his guys to get open, and we've got more of those big plays we saw him hit in 2012.
Folks, see the off-the-field spotlight that is shining on Manziel and see a star. It is easy to forget that in the grand scheme of collegiate quarterbacking, he's still growing into the system. Watching Johnny Football grow even more proficient, and comfortable, with this scheme is going to be something to watch.
Especially since he already has that truly dual-threat quality that is such a pain for defenses.
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