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How Texas A&M Should Script Its First Drive vs. Alabama

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How Texas A&M Should Script Its First Drive vs. Alabama
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans, Ben Malena and the rest of the Aggies' offense will need to be on top of their game to beat Alabama for a second straight year. Getting off to a hot start like they did in last year's game could be key.

 

With the success that Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense had in last year's victory over Alabama, it's not a stretch to think that the Aggies will try many of the same things that worked so well for them in 2012. 

The problem for A&M is that they are facing an angry Alabama team coming off a bye week. Nick Saban and company can call it "just another game" all they want, but everyone knows the Crimson Tide have been waiting for the rematch for almost a year.

Saban is as good as they come in making adjustments and not allowing the same thing to happen when he faces an opponent for a second time. So what exactly should A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies' offensive coaches do to counter Saban's adjustments? 

It helps to have a magician at quarterback that can improvise and make something out of nothing, but in order to set the tone early, the Aggies will likely attack Alabama with a series of set-up plays that will give them a read on how the Crimson Tide defense plans to play them.

Here is a look at what Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spatival might have in mind for the first couple of series in Saturday's huge match up with Alabama.

Play one- PA Pass to Mike Evans or Ricky Seals-Jones on curl routes.

At 6'5, TAMU WR Mike Evans can use his size to effectively, "box out," his defender.

 

The play action will allow the Aggies to get an idea of how Alabama plans to play them. If the linebackers bite, it will leave the middle of the field open for the Aggies' big receivers to control the middle of the field later in the game.

Play two- QB draw with Manziel

In the first play of this video, Manziel will cause Kirby Smart and Alabama headaches with his ability to pull it down and run.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is a threat with his feet, and keeping the Tide's defense off balance will be key to allowing the Aggies' offense to do their thing as the game rolls along.

Play three- Quick Slants

Mike Evans has the ability to beat Alabama linebackers as they drop into a zone and beat the Tide's defensive backs to the spot on quick-hitting passes to the inside. Evans' freshman highlight shows plenty of examples of this, but none better then at the 3:15 mark against LSU.

The Aggies have a pair of huge receivers in Mike Evans and Ricky Seals-Jones, and their ability to stay inside of the Tide's defensive backs will be key to keeping drives alive.

Play four- Shallow crosses with deep post and an option out of the backfield

Be running clear outs with a deep option, Manziel has the option to look underneath for his running back out of the backfield. The back can run an angle route, that allows him to sit down in the zone, streak towards the far corner. If that option is shut down early in the route, the back can simply release into the flat. Original art courtesy of xsosfootball.com

The Aggies must be able to run the ball against the Crimson Tide, and the zone-read gives Manziel the chance to improvise and make his mark on the game.

Play five- Double corner routes with crossing routes underneath.

This combo route gives Manziel a number of options and will also force the Alabama defense to show it's hand in how they plan to play four-wide sets from the Aggies.

Play six- Quick dive with Ben Malena

TAMU RB Ben Malena is a tough runner with the ability to get the tough yards, hold on to the ball and finish runs at the expense of the opposing team's would be tacklers.

 Malena can get the tough yards on the interior. Just ask Florida safety Josh Evans.

Manziel runs a read-option, in which he reads the defensive end. Auburn's end doesn't exactly,

Play seven- Fake end around to draw

By using misdirection against the Alabama defense, the A&M coaches and Manziel will be able to get a read on what the Tide plan to do against certain looks. By running a simple draw out of an end around look it gives the Aggies the ability to set up a big play later in the game.

Play eight- Quick outs

Having big receivers on the edge gives A&M one of the few advantages versus Alabama in terms of personnel. Mike Evans showed last year that he could make the tough catch on the sideline and fight for a few extra yards. Controlling the tempo and keeping the offense on the field will be key for the Aggies' effort.

Play nine- Draw to Malena

Ben Malena has big play potential but can get A&M the tough yards. A delayed draw at this juncture will allow the offensive line to establish itself against the defensive front of Alabama.

Play 10- Deep post routes

Ryan Swope had 11 catches in this game last year but he has moved on. It is time for Evans, Seals-Jones, Sabian Holmes, Malcolme Kennedy or Ja'Quay Williams to step up and take his place. Outside of Manziel, Swope was the reason the Aggies won the game in 2012. Someone needs to make up for that and a deep route across the middle will allow one of the to make a tough catch. In doing so, they can also make a name for themselves and keep the Tide guessing the rest of the game.

Play 11- Zone read on strong-side defensive end

With weapons all around and an established ground game, A&M should call for a zone read that allows Manziel to read the defensive end. If he collapses at all, Manziel has the wheels to get to the outside and turn it into a big gain.

Play 12- Backside screen

The Aggies have a ton of young weapons that they could choose to unleash during the biggest game of the season. Guys like LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Ja'Quay Williams and and Jeremy Tabuyo could all catch the Tide off guard with a slip screen on the backside. The Aggies have been recruiting like crazy and one of their young weapons could establish themselves as a threat with a nice catch and run in traffic.

Play 13- Zone Read to weak-side

By this point, the Aggies should have a decent idea of what Alabama will be doing on defense and how they plan to play Manziel on the zone read. Running the zone read to the short side of the field will be a good change of pace that gives Manziel the option of keeping the ball and making things happen on his own.

Play 14- Zone Read PA to deep outs

Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Will Johnny Manziel be able to get loose against the Alabama defense again in 2013?

After running some draw plays, some zone read plays and a number of different passing routes, the play action with the threat of Manziel running is a way for the Aggies' wide receivers to get a step on the Alabama secondary. If they do, it could mean a big play that ignites the offense.

Play 15- QB draw

Once they have established a rhythm, whether they are trying to hold an lead or come from behind, it is time to let, "Johnny Football," loose. While the Aggies have a lot of weapons, Manziel is their best shot at taking down the Tide for a second year in a row.

Nobody has been able to truly solve Alabama's defense in recent years but the Aggies came the closest by catching them off guard in the first half of last year's match up. It might be hard to to catch them off guard again in 2013, but the Aggies have enough weapons and enough experience to make things tough on the Tide on Saturday.

With a series of misdirection plays and a solid mix of direct runs, play action passes, zone reads and some Manziel magic, the Aggies should be able to get the Tide's defense out of synch early in the game.

The question is whether or not it will be enough to keep the Crimson Tide from getting their revenge.

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