He became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy after setting an SEC record with 5,116 yards of total offense. He accounted for 47 touchdowns and is the only player in NCAA history to compile 5,000 total yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.
Those numbers represent his baseline, and fair or not, Manziel’s personal life will be assailed if his production drops by a meaningful degree this season.
“My offseason, all this stuff that’s gone on, will have no effect on me going into the season,” he said.
Encores can be tricky, though, because they’re usually accompanied by grand expectations that are hard to duplicate. Manziel is a marked man now and every opponent would love to turn him into a human piñata.
“Everybody wants a piece of him,” Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith said. “If you sack him, it makes you feel pretty good about yourself. He’s a great player with a lot of moves and very few sacks. You just try to contain him and get after him.”
Manziel is slippery in close quarters and at his best when forced to freelance, but he focused his summer workouts around developing as a pocket passer. He trained in California with quarterback guru George Whitfield on drills designed to improve his footwork and fundamentals.
“Are we going to change who is fundamentally? No,” Sumlin said. “Are we going to try to develop him as an overall quarterback? Yes. The ability to go through his reads, the ability to see the presentation of the defense quicker comes with experience, comes with knowledge.”
Manziel’s hallmark will remain those highlight plays that shape his Johnny Football persona. Depending on the NCAA’s investigation and how Texas A&M officials proceed, Act II of Manziel-mania could begin this week with the start of a new season.
The spotlight is here to stay.