LAS CRUCES — Andrew Manley is a hard player to miss.
The New Mexico State Aggie freshman quarterback is big — 6-foot-3, 215 pounds — displays a good feel for the game — he threw two touchdown passes during NMSU’s Saturday scrimmage — and is mobile enough to be a threat on the ground, darting upfield for a big gain on a quarterback keeper.
He also carries himself like he belongs, playing his way into the mix as the Aggies’ quarterback competition continues throughout fall camp.
“I know he’s not shy to throw it,” NMSU wide receiver Todd Lee said. “We can tell that every time he gets in, he’s not hesitant. … He’s always ready to go. He’s really put a little more competition on the quarterbacks, coming in here and stepping up.”
Head coach DeWayne Walker has taken notice as well.
“The one thing I like about him is he sits in there and he has a confident demeanor about himself,” Walker said. “We’re going to continue to take a good look at him up until we have to make a decision (when) we start gameplanning for San Diego State.”
The door opened for Manley, ever so slightly, when quarterback Matt Christian, a junior college transfer this past offseason, went to the sideline during camp with a sore elbow. The freshman has been able to get more reps in practice, along with fellow QBs Jeff Fleming and Tanner Rust.
Christian is expected back in the coming days, and the general belief was that the starting quarterback job would go to either him or Fleming.
But don’t sleep on Manley — in the future and possibly not in the present.
“Nowadays … everything’s now,” NMSU offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar said. “So, I’m not into, “Oh, we’ll redshirt you, blah, blah, blah.’ No. You gotta play the best players and you gotta play them now. If he fits into that role, then let’s play now.
“(Redshirting Manley is) certainly being considered. But, like I said, until I get a little bit longer analysis of the film, it’s one of these to-be-determined deals.”
While playing at Leilehua High School in Hawaii last year, Manley threw for close to 30 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards.
Now, he’s getting used to the speed of the collegiate game. Following Saturday’s scrimmage, he talked about one throw he made to Kyle Nelson, a quick completion along the left sideline.
“I think that was a good one, that was perfect timing for both of us,” he said.
The next throw saw Manley look left again only to be intercepted by Aggie cornerback Davon House, who took it the length of the field for a touchdown.
“I was late on the out,” Manley said. “And, as coach says, you can never be late in college football.”
The truth is that Manley is like most freshmen. There are ups and downs in his game. But it also looks like he belongs.
“He’s a gifted young man,” Dunbar said. “There’s a reason why we recruited him. And those reasons are all present.”