Well, it's not hard to grade out the QB position this week. There's not a lot of critiquing to be done when Johnny Manziel accounts for 557 yards of total offense and the unit scores 51 points in a 58-10 romp over the Piggies. What was interesting about Saturday's game was the playcalling by offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. In the Florida game, Kingsbury allowed Muschamp and the Gator defense to dictate match-ups in the second half, condensing the field and forcing Manziel to adjust. The result was a goose egg. On Saturday, after several long runs by Manziel, Kingsbury started to use play action and zone read fakes to get the safety out of position to open up the windows of opportunity on the field. On the 80-yard TD pass to Swope, Kingsbury loaded up the right side with three receivers. All three cut on the slant which brought in the cover men and the safety. As soon as the safety broke up, Swope hitched and took off down the field and he was behind the safety. On another play, Manziel faked the end around to Thomas Johnson, faked to the running back, pulled up and quickly fired to a wide open Mike Evans on the slant in a quick tempo play that hit before Arkansas could figure out what was happening. Arkansas simply did not have the speed or athleticism to close the opportunities that Kingsbury created with his scheme and Manziel created with his legs. It was a complete mismatch.
Despite the 11-yard TD pass to Ben Malena where he navigated around several tacklers, if there was one area that Manziel and the offense can improve on, it would be the swing pass. Manziel has a tendency to throw that pass high and to the outside which slows the tempo. Also, it seems something is tipping the defense on these calls as the opponent is waiting in the backfield on most of these swing passes. If the offense can iron out the kinks, that will make the offense just that more dangerous.
Fans are wondering what is going on with the running backs. Well, the scheme is what's happening to the running backs. Of the 79 plays run from scrimmage, there were only 17 rushes by the running backs for 116 yards. That's a 6.8 yards per attempt average which is pretty good by any measure. In a traditional offense where 30+ plays out of 79 are runs by the backs, that equates to over 200 yards. Ben Malena continues to make a case that proper conditioning and body weight can make a huge difference in performance. He's a completely different running back in 2012 than he was in 2011 when he lacked any kind of burst or top end speed. Despite his struggles off the field and the lack of big plays, I personally think Christine Michael is running lower and with more power than he has at any point in his career. He's better in this role than when he was the exciting spinning top who ran high and was susceptible to fumbling. He will be critical in the red zone this season as the field condenses. I'd like to see more razzle-dazzle plays trying to get Trey Williams into space where he can use his entire bag of tricks.
You can see Ryan Swope becoming more intuitive in his route running as he is beginning to understand this scheme, and more importantly as he is starting to understand Manziel's mind in the pocket. The receivers as a group have gained confidence over the past month, and they make just abou every play and catch every ball that hits their hands. It would have been nice to see Uzoma Nwachukwu come up with that low ball on the sliding catch at the goal line, but I wouldn't call it a drop. It was a tough catch he couldn't make. Mike Evans has been money the past four weeks. Thomas Johnson had some drops early in September but he's been sure-handed in recent weeks. Johnson is making strides, but he still has upside to reach. On the long throw to the northwest corner of the end zone, I felt he did run through to the ball and as a result the ball landed just outside his grasp. That's the kind of stuff he'll learn from in the film room this week. Nehemiah Hicks has made some critical tough catches that helped move the chains on third down.
The A&M quarterbacks had all day in the pocket to throw the ball. I'm not talking about 3-4 seconds. It was more like 5-6 seconds which gave Manziel more than enough time to carve up the Arkansas defense with his arm and his legs. The big running lanes still aren't there in the zone blocking schemes, but you can't pin that exclusively on the offensve line. The running backs need to quickly identify the best lane and hit the hole. At times the runners will hesitate and try to extend the play looking for the lane. Bottom line, the offensive line is doing what its asked to do in this scheme…keep the defensive front seven out of the backfield and allow Manziel to do his thing. Mission accomplished.
OVERALL GRADE – OFFENSE A
Hop's Offensive Report Card - Arkansas
Aggie Digest Top Stories
Evans Leads Defensive MaturityTexas A&M senior safety Justin Evans met with the media Tuesday in advance of the Aggies Saturday road match-up with South Carolina.
Aggie DigestYesterday at 10:15 AM
Game Week Media: South CarolinaThe Texas A&M Aggies have solidified themselves in the top 10 heading into their week's SEC road game with South Carolina. The Aggies met with the media Tuesday in advance of this…
Aggie DigestYesterday at 9:52 AM
Post Game Media: ArkansasThe Texas A&M Aggies moved to 4-0 on the season with a 45-24 win over Arkansas inside AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Kevin Sumlin and several players spoke with the media afterwards.
Aggie DigestSunday at 7:22 AM
Game Balls: ArkansasThe Texas A&M Aggies squared off with the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday in their annual game in Dallas. The Aggies came away with an impressive 45-24 win.
Aggie DigestSunday at 5:45 AM