Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas-Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
One of a Kind
Coaches can't compare Manziel
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) stands with his hands on his hips after a penalty was called on Texas A&M during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against SMU Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)
FAYETTEVILLE Chris Ash has watched his fair share of great college quarterbacks.
As defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Ash game planned for Terrelle Pryor, Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller. As a secondary coach at Iowa State, he had a first-hand look at Vince Young.
But nothing in Ash's 14-year coaching career compares to Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy quarterback on display when Arkansas hosts No. 10 Texas A&M this Saturday at Razorback Stadium.
"In the Big Ten we played some very athletic, mobile quarterbacks," Ash said. "The difference is this guy can throw it a lot better. He's just got a knack for running the ball and avoiding the rush and the big hit. He's a big target and when you mix that with a guy that can throw the ball, you've got a tough combination.
- Peyton Manning 73% 440 votes
- Danny Wuerffel 2% 12 votes
- Johnny Manziel 15% 92 votes
- Eli Manning 2% 14 votes
- Tim Tebow 6% 41 votes
599 total votes.
"It's kind of a circus, to be honest with you, out there. The way he runs around and the mechanics he throws the ball with at times is very unorthodox and different from what most people could even attempt to do and be successful doing it. That sets him apart."
Manziel broke onto the national scene with a career-game against the Razorbacks last season, a 58-10 Aggies win at Kyle Field. In that game, Manziel accounted for 557 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, throwing long passes and at times literally running circles around the Arkansas defense.
The Aggies finished the game with 716 yards of total offense.
Ash and most of the rest of Bret Bielema's defensive coaching staff weren't there for that game. But several Arkansas players remain and they remember well Johnny Football's highlight reel against them.
"Last year was worse because it was raining," said senior defensive end Chris Smith. "He was slippery, too. We had to learn from last year and we watched that film.
"We don't want to get Manziel-ed….Johnny is going to be Johnny but we've just got to make plays."
Making plays was something Arkansas struggled to do late in a 28-24 loss at Rutgers a week ago. The Razorbacks forced three turnovers in the first three quarters, returning an interception for a touchdown and setting up a score one play following a fumble recovery to go up 24-7.
But the Scarlet Knights' passing game shredded Arkansas' secondary in the fourth quarter, with Gary Nova passing for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. The Razorbacks' defensive line pressure had rattled Nova at times during the game, but Arkansas was unable to get to the quarterback when it needed to most.
"To me it's a completely different deal (than last week) because Nova had trouble escaping that pressure," Ash said. "This guy isn't going to have that type of trouble eluding one or two rushers."
Even the vaunted Alabama defense gave up 42 points to the Aggies two weeks ago as Manziel accounted for 562 yards of total offense. It was the second-most total yards in SEC history, just ahead of his game against the Razorbacks last season. He also holds the league record for a game last year against Louisiana Tech.
"They've done a good job with their opening script as an offensive staff getting some things going right out of the gate," Ash said. "We have to make sure we can keep them off rhythm and get them behind the sticks some on first down. If we can force them into second and long, and third and long, then we have a good chance to get them off the field.
"I haven't seen a perfect formula yet in all the games that we've watched."