SDS is continually counting down the top 25 players in the SEC for 2012, and we’re not stopping until we get to that sexy No. 1. We don’t just rank stats or project players at the next level based on athletic superiority, but we rank players based on the season they had in 2012. I know you’ll agree with every single one…
No. 1 – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
2012 stats: 295 of 434 for 3,706 yards (68%), 26 TDs and nine INT; 201 carries for 1,410 yards and 21 TDs
Why he’s worthy: Surprise? No, it’s not surprising the most electrifying college football player is No. 1 on our countdown. But you knew this a month ago when we started looking at the SEC’s best 25 players. Hell, I knew it after Johnny Manziel literally ran circles around Arkansas’ entire defense, racking up 557 yards of total offense and four touchdowns.
The media started talking more about Manziel after the Aggies trounced the Hogs, too, but no one could imagine a freshman like Manziel sending shockwaves through the SEC for an entire season. That doesn’t happen for an SEC quarterback not named Tim Tebow or Cam Newton. Everyone dismissed Manziel’s hot start as beginner’s luck or playing against terrible defenses, but he progressively got better and more comfortable as the year marched on and eventually climaxed in epic proportions against Alabama.
The Aggies’ offense was arguably the most explosive offense in the country. For all the talk about Oregon under Chip Kelly, it was the Aggies that averaged 558 yards per game, 21 yards more than Oregon, against the best defenses in the country. And with Chip Kelly now gone, the Aggies become the new Oregon, led by Kevin Sumlin and Manziel.
Just check out the list of Manziel’s accomplishments in his first year of college football:
- Heisman Trophy
- Davey O’Brien Award
- Manning Award
- Chic Harley Award
- AP Player of the Year award
- Sporting News Player of the Year
- Consensus All-American
- SEC Offensive Player of the Year
- SEC Freshman of the Year
- 2013 Cotton Bowl MVP
And yet, after watching only one season of such a raw football player, there is still so much left untapped and so much upside. Name one phase of the game Manziel cannot improve upon. He’s only going to get better in the passing game, and he’s not getting any slower. We can expect him to get bigger and stronger even before next season, and a more seasoned and experienced Manziel is what will keep Nick Saban aggressive, hungry and innovative over the spring.
We were quick to point out that Florida and LSU laid out the “blueprint” to beat Manziel and slow the Aggies offense. But what no one really accounted for was that the Gators and Tigers have future NFL defensive linemen and linebackers who have speed and can tackle in space.
In a league saturated by first-round draft picks, Manziel completely altered defensive game plans and strategies. Defensive ends are taught to rush the quarterback and get up field, but with Manziel, ends have to make sure they don’t get too far up field and must wait to see how Manziel will react. Take away the aggressiveness and combine it with arguably the best offensive line in the country, and it’s not shocking to see why he was able to throw for more than 3,700 yards…as a freshman.
Manziel’s 2012 season could be described as the $37 million season. His crazy impacts on the field led to one of the biggest momentum movements in all of college football.
Manziel’s emergence, backed by the SEC brand, will thrust Texas A&M into the premier football school in Texas in the near future. The Longhorns are battered, bruised and beaten, and the Aggies are in position to take full advantage of it.
The only thing riding against Manziel and the Heisman in 2013 is history. But he sure didn’t let that stand in the way of a hardware-filled freshman season.
What will Manziel do for an encore in 2013?
- No. 2 Jarvis Jones
- No. 3 Jadeveon Clowney
- No. 4 Damontre Moore
- No. 5 Aaron Murray
- No. 6 Eddie Lacy
- No. 7 Todd Gurley
- No. 8 Dee Milliner
- No. 9 Luke Joeckel
- No. 10 Kevin Minter
- No. 11 AJ McCarron
- No. 12 Barrett Jones
- No. 13 Matt Elam
- No. 14 Cobi Hamilton
- No. 15 Chance Warmack
- No. 16 Jake Matthews
- No. 17 Jordan Matthews
- No. 18 CJ Mosley
- No. 19 Mike Gillislee
- No. 20 Cordarrelle Patterson
- No. 21 Chris Smith
- No. 22 Tyler Bray
- No. 23 Tyler Wilson
- No. 24 Johnthan Banks
- No. 25 Sam Montgomery
Photo Credit: Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE