For a lot of you, Saturday's spring game was the first and only time to see the Aggies in action on the field and I've enjoyed reading your thoughts and observations. Sometimes it's good to step back and see what others have to say from a different perspective.
The different perspective is that I've been watching this group work out for the better part of a month. It's like your kids. You see them every day and you don't realize that they've grown until a family friend comes over for the first time in six months and comments on how much junior has grown. Then you realize, "Yeah, junior has grown."
I will admit that I was very skeptical about today's game (in terms of analyzing the performance) when I heard that the 1's were going up against the 2's...and then on Thursday I saw Alonzo Williams and Gavin Stansbury with walking boots on.
So Johnny Manziel and a very potent offense was matched up with a 2nd unit front line of little-used walk-ons Caleb Smith and Tyler Godwin in the middle, although the offense did have to face Brandon Alexander and Tyrone Taylor on the ends and a couple of mid-term true freshmen at linebacker. Add in a mid-term freshman and walk-on at corner and a walk-on at one safety position....well, you get the picture.
So I'm not going to live and die on my observations from the spring game. Really, Friday Night Lights was the scrimmage to do your hardcore performance analysis as the staff matched up the 1's and more players were healthy.
But as I've been reading some of your observations, I realized that while we can't project today's performance to what we'll see on September 14 against Alabama, having players make good football plays on Kyle Field on ESPN in front of 45,000 does have its value.
It was clear that the staff wanted Johnny Manziel to have a very strong performance to eliminate any risk of negative talk about a sophomore slump. Not only did the staff match-up Manziel against a depleted second unit of inexperienced scholarship players and walk-ons, but they also made sure Manziel was throwing with the 8-10 mph south wind at his back throughout the entire first half. On top of that, it was clear that the A&M coaches/SID really pushed Johnny's arm strength in their pre-game prep for Kirk Herbstreit.
Yes, Johnny has improved his mechanics and as a result he throws tighter spirals with greater velocity than last year. But you could hear Chris Fowler quite surprised on the air when Herbstreit said that Manziel had the strongest arm in the country and repeated it a couple of times.
Personally, I thought it was a genius move. Stop any talk about a weak arm and plant the seed with opposing coaches that Johnny can beat them deep. And in reality, he just might by next September. He made huge strides in delivery and velocity from this time last year, and the best news all day was hearing Manziel mention that he will go back out to California to work with Whitfield again to improve his mechanics even further and take his passing to yet another level.
Hell, I'm not ever going to doubt that he can make another significant leap after what I witnessed last season. He could come back from Cali firing the ball like Dan Fouts and it wouldn't surprise me. Yes, I believe in the magic of Scooby.
But as far as Saturday's game, I'm not going to jump up and down about his 24-of-30 for 303 yard and 3 TD performance. Why? Because it was just too easy. He was never stressed. It's no big deal because that was the plan for ESPN, but by the same token I'm not going to run to the mountain-top and praise his performance other than to say that he did what he was supposed to do and showed well for the cameras.
What Manziel did wasn't a surprise, and that is a good thing. I thought my favorite pass was the quick slant to Derel Walker for the red zone TD strike. He hit it quickly and stepped into the throw that gave it good zip to find the limited window to Walker. The other pass to Walker over the top was a beautiful spiral that was a mix of touch and strength. The long strike to Mike Evans was also impressive.
Matt Joeckel looks better on longer throws down the field. He shows decent accuracy and timing in those routes, but when it comes to quick hitters and short passes, he really struggles. It may be his height and inability to naturally move and throw quickly without sacrificing mechanics. He had major accuracy issues with those quick tight end passes.
I know a lot of people are down on Matt Davis. I'm not there yet. He has flashes of good play, albeit brief flashes. He's still a freshman. Physically, he's gifted both with his legs and arm. In fact, I thought he showed some nice scrambling sequences that bought him plenty of time....but therein is the problem right now. He needs time...and time....and time. He's still processing information and not reacting naturally and quickly. Sometimes the light bulb goes off and the speed of the game slows down and performance shoots through the roof. Other times a QB never gets it and the ton of physical potential finally turns into reality of not being a good QB in the mental part of the game.
I'll give Davis one more season and spring practice. If he still has these same timing issues this time next year, then I think the writing is on the wall. But for now, the potential is too great to not continue along the development path.
At this point, I don't think either QB has earned the upper hand in the back-up QB race. This one will go into the fall. We'll also see what Kenny Hill can do, but he's a true freshman that didn't get a spring practice season under his belt like Manziel and Davis did recently. I seriously doubt he'll be ready to be the back-up QB after only three weeks of fall camp. But because neither veteran stepped up and won the job outright, Hill will be given a chance to impress.
Hop's Spring Game Thoughts - QB
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