Manziel in spotlight for Texas A&M against Duke
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says Johnny Manziel surprised
observers with his quiet demeanor this season following a series of
Sumlin said proof of Manziel’s growth also came on the field as
he led No. 20 Texas A&M to a spot in Tuesday night’s
Chick-fil-A Bowl against No. 22 Duke.
The bowl game could be Manziel’s college farewell. Many expect
the third-year sophomore to enter the NFL draft, though he said
this week he is ”nowhere close” to a decision.
Manziel’s every move was analyzed in his offseason following his
Heisman Trophy-winning freshman season. He was tossed from a
fraternity party, overslept at the Manning Passing Academy and was
the target of an NCAA probe to determine if he signed autographs
All the off-field noise ended with the start of the 2013 season.
Manziel served a half-game suspension to close the NCAA issue and
then went to work.
”We went through the year and I think people were shocked that
he’s kind of quiet,” Sumlin said Monday. ”You’ve got the
offseason part and then we’ve got the football season. I think he
was extremely focused this year.”
Sumlin said Manziel also showed more maturity in his
”I think he moved from an athlete that was playing quarterback
to a quarterback that’s an athlete,” Sumlin said. ”I think he’s
improved as a passer, improved in his knowledge of not only what
we’re doing, but his knowledge of defenses, and I think that
Manziel led the Southeastern Conference with his 69.1 completion
percentage and 311 yards passing per game. He is the player to
watch as Texas A&M (8-4) tries for bowl wins in three straight
seasons for the first time in school history. Duke (10-3) will try
for its first bowl win since 1961.
”He’s an outstanding quarterback,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe
said Monday. ”He’s not just an athlete. He beats you in a lot of
different ways. Certainly he’s got a great receiving corps. His
ability to create plays is second to none. In my lengthy career I
really haven’t seen a player that creates and ad-libs as well. It’s
certainly in part to his athleticism. But there is coaching
involved in that.”
Here are five things to know about the Chick-fil-A Bowl:
SUSPENSIONS: Duke is without running back Jela Duncan, who was
suspended this month for an undisclosed violation of its academic
policy. Duncan led the Blue Devils with 562 yards rushing, and the
suspension will carry through the 2014 season.
Texas A&M freshman linebacker Darian Claiborne, who is tied
for the team lead with 89 tackles, was suspended this month
following his arrest on two drug possession charges.
FOURTH QUARTER IS DUKE’S TIME: Duke outscored opponents 120-44
in the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils’ defense allowed only one
touchdown and three field goals in the fourth quarter during the
team’s eight-game winning streak.
STAFF SHUFFLING: Texas A&M secondary coach Marcel Yates is
leaving the school following the game to become defensive
coordinator at Boise State. Meanwhile, Duke offensive coordinator
Kurt Roper is coaching his final game with the Blue Devils. Roper
has accepted an offer to become offensive coordinator and
quarterbacks coach at Florida. Roper also was an assistant head
coach with the Blue Devils.
NO MIDDLE MAN: Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital
will call plays in place of running backs coach Clarence McKinney.
In the past, plays were relayed from the press box to Spavital on
the field, and Spavital then sent the play to Manziel. The change
possibly allows the Aggies to move more up-tempo. Manziel said he
hopes the offense can ”get in more of a rhythm … and get our
tempo where we want to. So I think coming in directly from the
sideline will speed that up a little bit.”
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Special teams could make a difference for
Duke. Devon Edwards has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Jamison Crowder has returned two punts for touchdowns.