Sumlin, players talk initial away matchup
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 00:09
Johnny Manziel has developed a reputation for competing at his own pace, and compared to the vast majority of college football athletes, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner moves at
Even among his own offensive teammates, Manziel is five steps ahead, always searching for faulty defensive formations or exploitable weaknesses within the coverage scheme up until the moment the ball reaches his fingertips.
“As a receiver, we’re taught to always keep our eyes on Johnny, because he could change the play as the snap is coming out,” said junior wide receiver Malcome Kennedy. “It’s crazy, the snap will be in midair and he will change the play. You have to be able to have great peripheral vision. It’s a quarterback and receiver thing out there.”
Over the course of the offseason, Manziel’s knowledge and understanding of Texas A&M’s complex offensive system expanded, granting head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney latitude in terms of calling plays.
“[Manziel’s] knowledge of the system is and should be better than it was last year,” Sumlin said. “To think conceptually instead of just route-wise or one thing at a time has been the biggest challenge. I was very pleased with some of the things he was doing last Saturday. I like the direction we’re headed as a team from a communication standpoint, and that comes with time in the offense.”
For McKinney, the key factor for Manziel’s progress has been his ability to audible appropriately, reading defensive schemes and simply adjusting the play call.
“With Johnny [Manziel] we see a lot of progress,” McKinney said. “He’s checking us into the best play we can possibly get.”
Following the four-game home stand that opened the season, A&M will take to the road to face former Southwest Conference rival and SEC opponent Arkansas at 6 p.m. Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.
Fresh off a 4-8 (2-6 SEC) season under interim head coach John L. Smith, the Razorbacks proceeded to clean house, hiring Wisconsin turncoat Bret Bielema and his ground-and-pound offensive style.
The Aggie defense will again be forced to readjust after shutting down Southern Methodist’s spread offensive attack, which compiled 67 passing attempts in A&M’s 42-13 victory last Saturday.
Arkansas (3-1, 0-0 SEC) has generated just 79 passing attempts all season, running the ball an average of 48.5 times and 246 yards per game.
“It’ll be a different game,” Sumlin said. “Our transition from Alabama to SMU last week, a completely different style with [SMU] throwing it 67 times, I was pleased with that. We’re going to have to make a transition again, that’s the way it works in this league. I am encouraged by what I saw last week from a communication standpoint.”
Bielema faces A&M for the first time in his 19-year coaching career, and will seek to utilize his highly successful scheme against an A&M defense that struggled with a similar style during the 49-42 loss to Alabama two weeks ago.
“There’s no doubt, for anyone who’s watched [Arkansas] play this year, the way they want to play the game is line up and run it at you,” Sumlin said. “That’s been [Bielema’s] style, which has been extremely successful. There’s no reason for him to go away from that. He creates an attitude in how he wants to play the game, how they want to play the game, offensively and defensively. I don’t see that changing at all since that’s been their proven formula for success.”
A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said the timidity and youth that clouded the Aggie defense has disappeared following its dominating performance of SMU. Heading into Arkansas, Snyder said he is confident the unit will perform at a high level.
“The fear’s gone,” Snyder said. “It’s behind us in my eyes. Hopefully we gained some experience the last few weeks. This week will be telling. We’ve played spread teams and now we’ve got to face a power team, which we didn’t fare well against the first time. We’ve faced about everything you can face during a football season.”