SEC: Jerrod Johnson

If Manziel can play, should he?

October, 24, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Will he play or won't he?

If it sounds like we've been here before with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, it's because we have, but this is the first time the Heisman Trophy winner's playing status is in doubt because of an injury. Manziel apparently hurt his throwing shoulder in a 45-41 loss to Auburn on Saturday, and while he left briefly, he returned to finish the final 9:06 of the game and complete 9 of 10 passes for 102 yards and also rushed for a touchdown.

Manziel continues his efforts to get healthy enough to play in Saturday's game against visiting Vanderbilt, but it might be worth asking whether Manziel should try to play.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has declined to offer specifics on what exactly ails the Heisman Trophy winner, but based on the way Manziel's right shoulder was driven into the turf and his reaction in the moments that followed, it appears safe to assume his throwing arm won’t be fully healthy.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Juan DeLeon/Icon SMIJohnny Manziel competitiveness will keep him in the game, but he will have to avoid direct hits to his throwing shoulder.
It's no secret that Manziel has hopes of playing in the NFL. Many have speculated that he could enter the draft after this season and he has admitted on many occasions that he'll consider it but won't make that decision until the time comes.

So does continuing to play harm his future? One NFL personnel executive, when asked how pro scouts might view a quarterback playing through a shoulder injury, said it depends on what the prognosis of the injury is.

"You take all of that in and weigh everything," the executive said. "It all comes down to the doctor's report on the shoulder. Then based on the severity of it, is it recommended to do surgery? If he plays on it, is he going to hurt it worse or anything like that?"

If surgery is recommended, the executive said it's better not to wait, at least in the NFL's eyes.

"I think any time you injure a shoulder or joint or something like that, if it needs surgery, you might as well go get it done now," the executive said.

If Manziel needed surgery but postponed it until after the season and his recovery was hindered by pre-draft preparation -- again, assuming Manziel declares for the 2014 NFL draft -- that could hurt him in some team's eyes.

"That part will hurt him some [if he were to do that]," the executive said. "Before anyone drafts him, they want to see him throw the football. Based on that information, it's hard to trust somebody if you haven't seen them throw. You want to know that shoulder's well and all that kind of stuff."

But clearly, the Aggies are foremost in Manziel's mind and are his first priority right now. While Sumlin or other coaches on the staff have not indicated how much Manziel has practiced this week, a source within the program indicated on Wednesday that Manziel is making an effort to do what he's able to when it comes to throwing the ball.

Teammates noticed that he did everything he could on Saturday after suffering the injury to come back into the ballgame. He could be seen on the sideline struggling to throw a football and wincing while trying to make throws before receiving treatment from the Texas A&M training staff.

Once he did, he was able to throw. Manziel’s injury is very familiar to that of former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who suffered a shoulder injury in his first career start in 2008.

Johnson recalls not being able to throw initially but being able to return and finish the game. Johnson said his injury was a Grade 2 AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder, which he suffered in the second quarter of a 41-23 loss to Miami on Sept. 20, 2008.

"It hurt like hell and you come out with a dead arm kind of," Johnson said. "But my adrenaline and because the pads are strapped on, you can throw again. So I was like, 'Oh, I'm fine.' As soon as the game ended, I took my pads off and I guess the pads were almost like a breakthrough. It swelled up and I couldn't throw.”

Johnson said the key with a shoulder injury is ensuring the range of motion is there. As long as it is, the player can throw. But obviously, there is still some risk.

"The issue comes, every time you get a hit on that shoulder again, all the same things that happened last week come back,” Johnson said. “That's the main issue with what I was going through and what he's going through. ... I feel like Johnny is tough and he can probably take the pounding. As long as he has the flexibility to throw the ball, I think he's a tough enough kid to where he can deal with that it's going to hurt like hell every time he lands on that shoulder."

Manziel’s return to the game earned him even more respect from his teammates. Senior receiver Travis Labhart, who made a diving catch on an out route during Manziel's first drive back in the game, said that Manziel told him afterward that he was in pain as he made that throw.

"He's outstanding," Labhart said. "Just his tenacity and his guts to go out there and help his team win and be a great leader, he's phenomenal."

Sumlin earlier this month called Manziel "one of the greatest competitors I've ever been around," and considering that Sumlin has been around Drew Brees at Purdue, Sam Bradford at Oklahoma and Case Keenum at Houston, that's saying something.

So if Manziel can play, it's reasonable to surmise that he will play. But "should he," is still a different question.

AT&T Cotton Bowl

December, 6, 2010
LSU Tigers (10-2) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (9-3)

Jan. 7, 8 p.m. ET (FOX)

LSU take by SEC blogger Chris Low: For a team that went 10-2 in the regular season with both losses coming to top 10 opponents, LSU took its share of grief this season.

Part of that was another near disaster at the end of the game, this time against Tennessee. The Vols bailed Les Miles and the Tigers out by having 13 defenders on the field, though.

It looked like the clock had expired before LSU could push across that last touchdown. The Tigers got another shot thanks to the penalty on the Vols … and survived.

LSU’s defense was excellent for most of the season and carried a far heavier burden than it should have. That’s because the Tigers tried to do it without a passing game for the first two months of the season. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee split time for a while, but it's been mostly Jefferson at the end of the season.

About the time the Tigers found a passing game and beat Alabama 24-21 in their best win of the season on Nov. 6, their defense started to fade a bit.

The Tigers had trouble getting off the field defensively in both of their last two games against Ole Miss and Arkansas. They barely squeezed by Ole Miss, but were beaten by the Hogs in Little Rock -- costing the Tigers a BCS bowl.

Texas A&M take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: There weren't many who picked the Aggies to be here back in October. Texas A&M sat at 3-3 and 0-2 in Big 12 play, fresh off a three-touchdown home loss to Missouri. Forget the Cotton Bowl, the Aggies would have been thankful for any bowl at that point.

And yet, here they are, snug in the Big 12's No. 2 bowl spot. They have a six-game winning streak to thank, one that included wins over two top 10 teams. That streak was keyed off by making a switch from Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Jerrod Johnson at quarterback to Ryan Tannehill, who also happened to be one of Johnson's top receivers. He's not the only reason. Running back Cyrus Gray bulldozed his way onto the media's All-Big 12 team with his dominance down the season's stretch after top running back Christine Michael's season ended with a broken leg. The Aggies defense is one of the league's most improved units, too. Mike Sherman got what he expected with new coordinator Tim DeRuyter, and now, the Aggies are in the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 2004.

Expect the Aggies fans to head three hours west to Dallas in droves, eager to support their red-hot team.

Three keys: Georgia vs. Texas A&M

December, 28, 2009
Here’s a look at three keys for Georgia if the Bulldogs are going to beat Texas A&M today in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl:

1. Establish the run: Georgia shuffled things around in its offensive line late in the season, and the results in the running game were obvious. The Bulldogs moved the 6-5, 328-pound Cordy Glenn from left tackle to left guard, and he gave them a more physical run-blocking presence in the middle. Freshman running back Washaun Ealey also added a lot of pop once his carries increased. The Bulldogs rushed for at least 169 yards in their last four games and averaged 217 yards on the ground in their last six games. Not only will that kind of rushing effort open up some things for Joe Cox in the passing game, but it will allow Georgia to control the clock and keep Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson off the field.

2. Win the turnover battle: Georgia ranked 119th nationally this season in turnover margin at minus-17. The Bulldogs forced just 10 turnovers, which tied for the fewest in the country, and turned the ball over 27 times. However, in its 30-24 win over Georgia Tech to end the regular season, Georgia turned the ball over only once and forced two turnovers. That’s the kind of ratio the Bulldogs will need today against the Aggies, who haven’t been very good at stopping anybody this season. The bottom line: If the Bulldogs can take care of the ball, they’re going to have a chance to score a lot of points.

3. Avoid giving up big plays: Johnson is one of the more versatile quarterbacks in the country, and he’s as good at scrambling around and making plays as he is at throwing for big gains. He has 28 passing touchdowns, which means the Bulldogs have their work cut out for them. They gave up 23 passing touchdowns this season and were vulnerable against everybody they played that could throw the football. Johnson is going to hit some plays. He’s that good. But if the Bulldogs can keep people in front of them, not allow the Aggies to hit them with a bunch of quick strikes and force them to drive the football, then Georgia ought to be able to score enough points to win this game going away.