Texas A&M Football: 5 People Most Important to Johnny Manziel's Success
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel enters his sophomore season as a marked man by Southeastern Conference defenses. If Manziel is going to experience the kind of success in 2013 that he had in 2012, he is going to need a lot of assistance from his teammates and coaches.
Quarterbacks typically receive too much credit when teams are winning, and too much blame when they are losing. It takes a team to win a football game. No quarterback will be effective without the other 10 players on offense at the time effectively doing their job.
Manziel made history in 2012 when he became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy. His accomplishment catapulted him to celebrity status and all of his moves on and off of the field have been analyzed by the media and fans ever since.
In five months the season will start again and Manziel will be just another player trying to do his best to help his team win a championship. Whether Manziel is able to accomplish that goal rests mainly on how the rest of the team performs.
This is a look at the players and coaches who are the most important to Manziel's success going forward.
LT Jake Matthews
Jake Matthews was an All-American at right tackle in 2012 and moved over to the left side for his senior season. He will take over for the departed Luke Joeckel, who left A&M early to enter the NFL draft.
Matthews will protect Johnny Manziel's blind side in 2013. Considering Matthews' play during his first three years at A&M, and his family's football legacy, anything but success in his new role would come as an utter shock.
Matthews excels in both pass protection and run blocking. He should be on everyone's preseason All-American list and will be one of the finest tackles in college in 2013.
The senior from Houston should excel at left tackle in 2013 and then become the fourth Aggie in four years to be drafted in the first round, when the 2014 draft rolls around. Jake Matthews will join his brother Kevin and cousins Casey and Clay in the NFL.
RB Ben Malena
Texas A&M senior running back Ben Malena was the second-leading rusher on the team in 2012 with 808 yards and eight touchdowns. His presence on the field meant a lot more to the Aggies than just rushing yards.
Malena is an excellent blocker and has very good hands out of the backfield. He is a complete running back and an integral part of the Aggie offense.
When Johnny Manziel runs the zone-read Malena is often the give option. His ability to dart upfield and gain huge chunks of yardage through the middle of the defense causes defenses to respect the dive play. That allows Manziel to be that much more effective of a rushing threat on the edge.
Malena may not be the Ags' leading rusher in 2013, but he will be the most important running back on the roster. He can do everything well, and is an invaluable piece to the offense. His blocking and rushing help Manziel operate. It would take two or three backs to do the job that Malena does.
QB Coach Jake Spavital
Jake Spavital takes over at quarterback coach and passing game coordinator for the departed Kliff Kingbury. Texas Tech hired Kingsbury to be their new head football coach.
Spavital walks into one of the best situations in the country with a returning Heisman Trophy winner at his disposal. At the same time, he probably has the most pressure of any position coach in the country. If Manziel fails, the blame will fall squarely on Spavital's shoulders.
Clarence McKinney will call the offensive plays in 2013. Spavital will have input on the play-calling. His main job will be keeping Manziel in the right mindset to win games.
Manziel struggled early in the 2012 season to go through his progressions and find the open man. As the season wore on and he gained more experience, he started spreading the ball more. That can be seen in Ryan Swope's numbers.
Swope caught 52 passes during the last seven games of the season, compared to 20 receptions during the first six games. Manziel always looked to Mike Evans when a play broke down early in the year.
As the season wore on, he found Swope wide open more and more and went to him. That resulted in the Aggie offense going on a prolific run.
The defensive coordinators from all of the Aggies' 2013 opponents have spend much of the offseason plotting on how to stop Manziel. Spavital will have to ensure that Manziel continues to develop into a complete quarterback, so the offense will remain just as effective as it was in 2012.
WR Mike Evans
Everyone knows that Mike Evans was one of the top receivers in the SEC in 2012, with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards. What most fans fail to realize is that Evans' biggest contribution to the offense may be with his blocking.
If you watch any of Johnny Manziel's long runs, you will most likely see Mike Evans down the field punishing some poor defensive back. Evans is one of the most physical receivers in the nation and excels at blocking.
Manziel was able to break a lot of his long runs in 2012 because Evans and the rest of the Aggie receivers excelled at blocking their opposition in the secondary. Evans and his teammates were simply too physical for some of their competition.
Evans is important to Manziel and the Aggies in the passing game, but he is just as valuable with his blocking.
DC Mark Snyder
Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is imperative to Johnny Manziel's success because his defense is what gives the ball back to Manziel. Snyder had an excellent first year in Aggieland in 2012.
He took a unit with extremely limited depth and molded into an effective SEC defense. The defense did not have impressive statistics overall in 2012, but that was because they played the second string for entire halves during blowouts.
Snyder lost six starters from the 2012 team, and will need to find playmakers at all three levels of the defense. He needs to replace two defensive linemen, two linebackers and two defensive backs.
He will have more depth on the defensive line and in the secondary which will be bolstered by an excellent 2013 recruiting class. Snyder used a variety of defensive schemes in 2012, switching around from the 4-3 to the 3-4 and 33-stack.
The added depth in 2013 will allow him to continue to be versatile on defense and keep the opposing offenses off balance. If Snyder can repeat the defensive success he had in 2012, then Manziel and the Aggies will be in great shape in 2013.