Nobody wants to think about losing Johnny Football this year, but it's a prospect that must be taken seriously.
With circumstantial evidence mounting against Manziel, who is being investigated by the NCAA for signing memorabilia for cash, as first reported by Darren Rovell and Justine Gubar of ESPN.com's Outside the Lines, Texas A&M's football program could soon be without its star quarterback for an extended amount of time.
Since Rovell and Gubar's first report, Manziel has been linked to approximately 4,400 signings.
The deeper the investigation delves, it seems the more evidence there is to be found.
Among those who have gone public with their opinion on this matter is Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who has felt the sting of NCAA "justice" in the past for lying about his relationship with Deion Sanders.
Bryant, who was suspended for most of the 2009 season, recently said he'd be mad if Manziel isn't suspended, though he made sure to clarify his anger wasn't directed at the quarterback, as noted by Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram:
Hell yeah, I’ll be mad. I will be mad. But I don’t want him to get suspended. I will be mad more at the NCAA on how they do things. I just feel like it’s not fair. This is something I have no problem talking about because I feel like somebody needs to say something to him and let it be known how they treat people is not right.
Bryant isn't the only player who has recently been dealt a harsh penalty, either. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was dealt a four-game suspension in 2010 for signing one jersey and receiving $1,000 in return.
Given the NCAA's stringent disciplinary actions against others caught in similar—albeit seemingly lesser—actions, it appears as if it's only a matter of time before Manziel and the university he represents will be subject to a harsh penalty.
Manziel could potentially receive a one-year ban (speculation), which would be a huge blow to his potential NFL career. While his feats as a redshirt freshman in 2012 were certainly impressive, there are questions about his game as it translates to the next level (accuracy, size, decision-making, etc.)
Should he be suspended for his actions, NFL teams would necessarily be forced to question whether or not Manziel is mature enough to handle being an NFL quarterback. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit recently pulled no punches when talking about Manziel, as noted by AL.com's Jon Solomon:
[The memorabilia allegations are] the most far-fetched story I've ever heard of, or [Manziel]'s the dumbest player to ever play college football...It’s mind-boggling that he would walk into a room with these memorabilia people that he doesn’t even know and be willing to sign things and allegedly be paid.
Texas A&M wouldn't likely be directly penalized by the NCAA, but the ramifications of potentially losing Manziel are not hard to imagine.
The team's backup quarterback, Matt Joeckel (brother of NFL lineman and former Aggies star Luke Joeckel) is a traditional pocket passer who has attempted just 11 passes in his college career.
Opposing defenses would have a much easier job planning for the Aggies in 2013 with Joeckel at the helm, as he won't take off and run like Manziel.
To this point, head coach Kevin Sumlin is approaching the season as if Manziel will be his starting quarterback, but he'd be smart to prepare for the worst. Not doing so puts his program in danger of taking significant steps backward after making an impressive debut in the SEC last year with an 11-2 record.
If the NCAA cracks down hard on Manziel for his alleged actions and Joeckel isn't ready to roll, then the Aggies will be in big trouble in 2013. Joeckel should be getting as many reps in practice as possible, and the school needs to mentally prepare for life without Johnny Football this season.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78