Wednesday Grid Update, 9/25

Can Arkansas get a handle on the Johnny Manziel magic? That's the challenge this week with Texas A&M coming to town. The Hogs know it will take numbers to get the Aggie legend on the ground.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash liked the turnovers in Saturday's game at Rutgers. But he'd like it better if all of the mistakes were cashed by the Razorbacks.

"When a team makes a mistake, you have to capitalize," Ash said. "That's what we emphasized after the game, that we had a shot at a lot more turnovers. You have to take them when the other team makes those kinds of mistakes."

That's a point of emphasis this week as Arkansas prepares for Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the Houdini of college quarterbacks. The Hogs hope to force Manziel into mistakes, but Ash knows it won't be one man breaking through to make a play on the Texas A&M star.

"It will have to be done with numbers," Ash said after Wednesday's practice. "One man isn't going to make many plays on him. You do it by committee. He escapes from the first most of the time. You have to keep coming at him."

Arkansas linebacker Jarrett Lake said no one makes as many plays as Manziel.

"You think a play is over, then he does something and it's not over," Lake said. "You think, there's no chance he's getting away, then he pulls a rabbit out of his hat. It's like magic."

Head coach Bret Bielema said on his Wednesday radio show that on the highlight tape, Manziel once patted the ball 12 times while he waited on a play to develop.

"That's a long time to pat the ball," Bielema said. "Usually, a quarterback pats it a couple of times, someone is there. But he can buy time and he has a great offensive line."

Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said the Aggies are good in all phases on offense.

"That's a powerful offense," Partridge said. "The offensive line, they have strong, powerful hands and they get you and don't let you go."

Bielema said the Hogs need to produce points and run the clock. And they will likely do it without starter Brandon Allen at quarterback. Bielema said on his Wednesday night show that Allen did a few more things in practice Wednesday than Tuesday when he "took snaps on the side. I think he'll be back next week fine, but this week it's going to be nip and tuck."

AJ Derby is taking all of the first-team reps at quarterback. Bielema said certain things have improved with each day. He pointed to a two-minute drill to end Wednesday's practice as a good example.

"Last week, he ended it with an interception," Bielema said. "Today, he ended it with a touchdown."

Bielema said the key this week has been a fun atmosphere at practice.

"I know this is a game that needs to be fun," he said. "We were down Sunday when we went through corrections. But when they came back Tuesday (after an off day Monday), it was like a whole new team. They were bouncing around, excited."

Linebacker Jarrett Lake said it's always fun when there is a challenge.

"We want to get back at them for what they did to us last year," Lake said. "There is excitement when the No. 9 team in the country is coming to your stadium."

As for playing Manziel, Ash said he's had experience defending great running quarterbacks like Denard Robinson at Michigan, Braxton Miller at Ohio State and Taylor Martinez at Nebraska.

"But none of them can throw like Manziel," Ash said. "I've never seen anyone like him. This guy throws it much better than any of them. That's what makes him so tough, he's great at both areas.

"It's like the circus out there because he's sometimes unorthodox throwing. That's what sets him apart.

"They've got a great plan for him when he scrambles. If he goes right, the receivers on the right break off their routes and go to their spots. And, if he goes left, they do it on that side. They know exactly what they are doing when he escapes. They are very well coached on their scramble responsibilities with the receivers.

"Last week, we played a quarterback in (Gary) Nova who had trouble escaping our pressure. But Manziel is not going to have a problem. He hasn't in 15 or 16 games.

"You can't go after the big hit in one-on-one because he will make you miss. You have to do it with numbers.

"But maybe we can force him into some mistakes. What we know, he's still human. When we force a mistake, we must capitalize.

"Our players seem excited. It's very seldom that you get to play against a Heisman Trophy winner. Generally, they are not coming back. So to go against the current Heisman winner, that's a rare chance for our players.

"They know that and they look forward to it, but they also have great respect for him. The only way you play against a great one like that, try to get him with numbers."

Lake was asked about all of the drama around Manziel over the summer and the constant focus on Sportscenter and all forms of media.

"He earned every right to be in the position he's in," Lake said. "He won the Heisman. His team was in the SEC for the first time and he was the reason for their success. That's Johnny (Football) for you. Keep all eyes on him."

Defensive end Chris Smith has played against Manziel.

"It will be fun, a challenge," Smith said. "It's going to be a night game and our fans will be crazy. We just have to go out there and have fun. We are ready for the challenge."

Ash said the Hogs have started the week in fine fashion.

"Our preparations have been good this week," Ash said. "Every week, they prepare a little better and better. That's a credit to the kids and where they want this program to go to. I think it's been a good start to the week through two days of practice."

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