Life After Johnny Football
It was settled soon after the final game of the season: Johnny Manziel would forego the rest of his eligibility and join the NFL this May. The Heisman-winning quarterback had another stellar season, capped off with an incredible come-from-behind win over Duke in the Chick-fil-a Bowl, but it was time to move on. Manziel had done all he could in college football, and the NFL was the next logical step. We’re less than two weeks away from the 2014 Draft and no one seems to have any idea where he’ll get picked, with guesses ranging from top 5 to the second round.
Recently, rumors surfaced that the Dallas Cowboys would find a way to draft him, regardless of how ridiculous it sounds to use a first-round pick on a quarterback after signing Tony Romo to a $100+ million deal and having the worst defense in franchise history.
Even more intriguing than Manziel’s future in the NFL is this: What will Texas A&M look like in the SEC without him? Most expected the Aggies to start off slow in their new conference, but the emergence of Manziel put them in the hunt for the conference title in their first season. Manziel spearheaded a shocking win over #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa and helped dismantle Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Where will A&M fall in a conference with loaded teams like LSU, Auburn and the Crimson Tide? For one thing, they’re quite loaded too.
The last two seasons have helped propel College Station ahead of Austin as the big destination for blue-chip prospects in the state of Texas. Mack Brown and DeLoss Dodds are gone, and Charlie Strong has a lot of work to do if he want to start pulling down the players that Kevin Sumlin has started to get with regularity. ESPN’s 2014 recruitment class ranking had Texas A&M at #4,with the Longhorns at 16. The most recent 2015 class ranking has the Aggies at #2, trailing only Alabama.
Big recruitment classes are key to success, but the big question on everyone’s mind is who will take over Manziel’s position in 2014. The short answer is that no one has a clue. The candidates are dropping like flies. Sophomore Kenny Hill was arrested for public intoxication and has been suspended from the team indefinitely. Matt Joeckel decided in April that he was transferring to TCU. Kyle Allen is a freshman that hasn’t played a snap of collegiate football. As of now, it’s still between Hill and Allen, but if you listen to the coaching staff no one has a leg up.
The SEC schedule is much more daunting when you don’t have that Heisman talent under center, and the Aggie defense knows it won’t be bailed out of games by Manziel in 2014. There is work to be done in College Station, but Sumlin and his staff have worked tirelessly to restock the cupboard. Texas A&M is now in for the fight they expected in 2012, and the Aggies will get their first test in Week 1 when they travel to Columbia to take on South Carolina.