Through five weeks of the season, the conference's leader in total offense per game is not a guy you've seen before this year. It's because it's a redshirt freshman import from the Big 12, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
It's true that Manziel's opponents thus far have included SMU, a I-AA team, and the dystopian horror that is Arkansas's defense. However, he sat out the second half against South Carolina State and sat all or most of the fourth quarter against SMU and Arkansas. Plus, the only SEC player ahead of him in total yards amassed on the season is Tyler Bray, and he's played five games versus Manziel's four.
Besides, Manziel has been on a record breaking roll. He broke the A&M freshman record with 294 passing yards against SMU. He then smashed that record and set a new school record against Arkansas with 453 passing yards. If that's not enough for you, his 557 total yards against the Razorbacks set both the A&M and SEC records for total yards in a game. The old record was 540 yards and was shared by Archie Manning and Rohan Davie.
In short, Manziel has had a brilliant season thus far. Will Muschamp, owner of the defense that did the best against him so far, even has said on multiple occasions since their matchup that he's glad he won't have to face Manziel in the regular season again. [Ed. note: Maybe. The future schedule rotation hasn't been set yet. Muschamp is guessing here.]
Here's how Johnny Football's season stacks up so far against other notable figures. All of these comparables have played only four games to match Manziel's four games, save one obvious exception:
|Entity||Claim to Fame||Att/Comp||Pass Yds||TD||INT||Carries||Rush Yds||Rush TDs||Total Offense|
|Geno Smith||National TO Leader||141/169 (83.4%)||1,728||20||0||21||98||1||1,826|
|Baylor/WVU||Single Game||74/98 (75.5%)||1,237||13||1||82||270||6||1,507|
|RG3's 1st 4 Games||2011 Heisman||92/113 (82.1%)||1,308||18||1||36||173||1||1,481|
|Johnny Manziel||SEC TO Leader||87/124 (70.2%)||1,094||10||0||52||366||6||1,460|
|Jared Lorenzen||Most Fr. TO/G, '00||120/198 (60.6%)||1,406||10||6||22||32||1||1,438|
|A&M's Opponents||UF, SMU, I-AA, Ark||83/158 (52.5%)||930||2||4||139||424||3||1,354|
|Auburn||Entire Offense||48/90 (53.3%)||579||3||7||148||612||3||1,191|
Here, under Claim to Fame, "TO" means "total offense".
Manziel has had a whale of an opening set, but he's not in the vicinity of the guy who seems to be the current Heisman frontrunner, Geno Smith. Not that he's supposed tobe, as a redshirt freshman with Smith a senior, but it shows where he's at compared to this year's best. Manziel is also well off of the combined offensive output from this past weekend's Baylor-West Virginia game, but only 16 players have gained more yards than those two did on each other (and most of them played five games).
Notably, Manziel is only 21 total yards off of Robert Griffin III's Heisman-winning pace of a year ago, though he hasn't accounted for quite as many touchdowns. Since 2000, the freshman who accumulated the most total offense per game nationally by a wide margin was another SEC quarterback running the Air Raid: Jared Lorenzen in 2000. The Hefty Lefty in his first four games of that year did not rack up as many yards as Manziel has in his initial quartet, and the Aggie signal caller's 365 total yards per game is more than the Pillsbury Throwboy's 347.9 per game for that season.
He's also done much better than A&M's combined opponents, though the strength of schedule caveat definitely applies here. Finally, Manziel has racked up 269 more total yards and scored 10 more touchdowns than the entire Auburn offense. In fact, he's within 100 yards of Vanderbilt and within 200 yards of both Florida and Mississippi State.
The point of this post is not to go coronate the guy after a third of his first season is over. He still has yet to play the likes of Alabama, LSU, Missouri and Mississippi State, all of whom are allowing fewer total yards per game than Manziel is currently averaging. I've watched a good bit of his play, and he's as a confident a slinger and scrambler as they come. That has worked well for him so far, but it didn't do a thing for him in the second half against Florida. He'll have a few more halves like that one before this season is over.
With that said, Manziel is one of the most fun and exciting freshmen to come along in this league in a while. He's got some, "NO NO NO YES" in him, but it usually does end with that "YES". The kid can play, plain and simple.