Like Tebow in Sugar, Manziel poised for big finish in Atlanta

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Leave it to Urban Meyer to take things personal.

The former Florida coach made it a point during the month of practice leading up to a Sugar Bowl matchup with Cincinnati on Jan. 1, 2010, to go against his usual run-heavy grain and let Tim Tebow air it out against the Bearcats. Meyer spent four years defending one of the SEC’s best-ever players’ unorthodox spread style and used the Big East champion as a dart board to publicly defy doubters.

‘He can’t read a defense.’

‘His arm’s not strong enough.’

‘His movements are unnatural from the pocket.’

Tebow got a little bit of everything from NFL scouts heading into that year’s draft a few months later, a mixed bag of opinions despite proving his worth on the field with numerous conference records as a Heisman-winning quarterback. John Elway and John Fox liked what they saw — especially his high character — as the Denver Broncos took the two-time national champion with the 25th overall pick.

Meyer’s BCS bowl gameplan was centered around his senior quarterback as Tebow did the rest to the tune of a personal-best 31-of-35 outing that featured 482 yards passing and three touchdowns during a 51-24 romp.

You can expect a similar ‘unleashing’ from Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta when his Aggies battle Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Sumlin’s going to ensure Johnny Manziel, A&M’s savior for exposure and national relevance the last two seasons, goes out with a bang in his final start.

RELATED: Duke-A&M Chick-fil-A Preview

Manziel has nothing left to prove in his current state as college football’s most electrifying player the last two seasons but has just as many naysayers about his professional prospects as Tebow had coming out. The SEC lightning rods received both ends of the NFL scouting spectrum, from Joe Montana comparisons to first-round bust possibilities with character issues.

For the most part, scouts aren’t questioning Manziel’s athletic abilities as a quarterback to the extent they ravaged the former Florida star’s projection, but they aren’t sure his recklessness and improvisation is sustainable against elite-level defenses.

Manziel’s a risk taker, a leading reason he’ll sell tickets at the next level for a struggling franchise.

Now that he’s 21 with a well-established penchant for partying, the possibilities are endless for Manziel’s postgame appearances after a 500-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Blue Devils. And with that kind of outing exits a prolific dual-threat who will have earned his shot, like Tebow, at becoming a NFL quarterback.

It’s Sumlin’s job to make sure we’re entertained.

Photo Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

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