Success of Manziel, Aggies shifts SEC focus from defense to spread offense

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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This time last year the talk around the Southeastern Conference was how new additions Texas A&M and Missouri would adjust to the smash-mouth, defensive style of the league.

What a difference a year makes.

During Wednesday’s SEC spring wrap-up teleconference, several coaches were asked how they were preparing for reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and if the Aggies’ success would lead to more wide-open offensive attacks.

“I think we’ve had quite a few wide-open offenses in our league in the past,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Some have been more successful than others, especially when you have the correct players to feature in those offenses, that can execute those offenses effectively.”

Bret Bielema just finished coaching his first round of spring football at Arkansas after seven seasons at Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to three consecutive Big Ten titles and finished with a 68-24 record. His first SEC opponent will be the Aggies on Sept. 28 in Fayetteville.

“I would say it’s similar to certain teams we prepared for in the past, but for the quarterback dynamic that they bring, the accuracy that he has, not only when he’s in a conventional pocket but when he’s a little bit creative, flushes out and makes plays,” he said.

Manziel passed for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies’ spring game. Of course, Manziel was off limits to the defense, so he wasn’t able to flash his trademark scrambling ability. But that didn’t keep him from throwing a cut-block on one running play.

“He’s just a ballplayer, I’d rather have to pull the reins back on a guy than have a guy standing around and watching,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “That’s all part of growing up and understanding the big picture, but anybody’s who has seen him play wasn’t surprised by it.”

Fair shake?

LSU coach Les Miles made it clear that he believes the Tigers are being treated unfairly when it comes to the 2013 schedule because of the mandatory matchup against Florida.

With a 14-team conference split in two divisions and an abundance of traditional rivalries, there simply aren’t enough weeks to make everyone happy. This season each team will play the other six schools in its division and a “permanent” opponent from the other division.

The idea behind the permanent schedule is to keep alive rivalries such as Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia.

Miles isn’t buying it.

“It’s interesting to see how you would compare our schedule with others,” Miles said. “I wonder if there should be no permanent partners. I wonder if we couldn’t choose cross-division opponents through a random computer draw.”

Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JohnsonJarret

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