Football thoughts of the week: A look at the off-season Aggies
College football — it’s always with me. I’ll follow college basketball, even when my team isn’t any good, and I’ll follow college baseball, even when my team isn’t any good. I root, I rant, I repeat, but college football is everything to me. I have three teams: the Texas Longhorns, whoever plays oklahoma, and the Florida State Seminoles, in that order.
My parents are Texas Exes Life Members and I’ve been going to games since I was six or seven. It’s in my blood and it always will be. I found the Seminoles when I was kid, and I am the only person in my family or my circle that follows them. I remember watching them play a night game and seeing Chief Osceola riding out with his lit spear and more or less taunting the other team and firing it into the ground at mid-field as the Seminole sideline and stadium went nuts.
I ready every book about American Indians I could find as a kid and loved the stories of Osceola’s guerilla war in the Everglades. And the spear on the helmet, the tomahawk stickers on the back and the fact they were pretty good all sucked me in, and I still am, but not nearly as invested as I am with Texas. As for whoever plays ou, that’s pretty self-explanatory. I hate them. All of them. If they lose, that makes me happy because it makes them sad. Yes, it is very juvenile and petty, but I sleep fine at night.
I like who I like, but I follow everyone. Even teams I don’t particularly care for, like the Texas Aggies.
As a Texan and a college football fan, I have family from both the Longhorn and the Aggie camps. We all do. I took great pleasure calling them the “Texas A&M Aggies” because they hate that (they are NOT the Texas A&M Aggies — they are the Texas Aggies or Texas A&M) and I was as mockingly critical of them leaving the Big 12 for the SEC as anyone.
I assumed, as did most people, that a mediocre team leaving for a better, more competitive conference was going to be a disaster and, frankly, I relished the idea of colossal Aggie failure. Come on, a new coach, a new quarterback, a new conference. How could this work? I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Texas A&M, with new head coach Kevin Sumlin and a quarterback nobody but recruitniks had ever heard of, took the college football world by storm in 2012. With a spread attack that was never supposed to work in the rugged SEC, A&M became the media darlings of the best conference in the land. Oh, and let’s not forget Johnny Football.
Coming out of nowhere, redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel captured the imagination of the country, highlighted by this. He lead the nation in total offense with 359.54 yards per game, rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 scores and throwing for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns. He made great decisions in the new spread offense and led the Aggies to their best season in over a decade, reigniting a largely dormant and nationally quiet fan base. Oh, and he won the Heisman Trophy.
He followed the Heisman win (the first by a freshman in history) by throttling oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13, with a national audience on a Friday night as the only college game be played. The Ags finished 11-2 and ranked No. 5. The move was not, in fact, a bad idea. It was brilliant and A&M was basking the glow.
The off-season saw A&M land the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation and the very early polls have them ranked No. 5. Johnny Football is a brand name, Dude Perfect is everywhere and if you have ever been to thechive.com, you surely know who the Aggie Chivette is (find that one yourself). As they head into spring practice, everything is going as it should… Or is it?
Johnny Football is a brand now. Literally. He was in litigation with one group for using “Johnny Football” without his permission, claiming trademark infringement not once, but twice. Manziel’s company, JMAN2 Enterprises, is not messing around with future earnings for the quarterback. Also, he’s so popular he can’t go to class. I don’t mean like he’s so popular he doesn’t like to go class; no. All his spring classes are online.
From the outside looking in, it doesn’t look like Manziel is overly concerned with college. I don’t really care about the champagne and casinos post-Heisman; those are the perks of being famous and most players would jump on that opportunity. But he isn’t going to class in a long semester? A bad sign. Well, not a bad sign for Manziel, but a bad sign for Aggies that think he’ll finish his career at A&M. He’s back next year for sure, but can he reproduce 2012?
It will be an uphill battle. The Sumlin spread attack caught the SEC by surprise last year and you can bet every single SEC defensive coordinator is putting the hours in to try to stop it. Luke Joeckel, Manziel’s bodyguard at tackle, is off to the NFL and is likely the first pick in the draft. The center is gone, four other starters on the offense and six defensive starters, including defensive end Damontre Moore, also a top 10 pick.
And let’s not forget Nick Saban, who probably screams Manziel’s name while punching trees in the middle of the night (can’t you see him doing that? I can)… but no one thought a redshirt freshman running the spread at A&M would win the Heisman, either, did they? I’m saying there is a chance.
Whatever happens, enjoy the ride Ags, because it could come to an end at any moment. Will that moment be this fall? Let’s find out.
Back next week with more stuff! Follow me on Twitter @TreyMcLean or email me.