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November 6, 2012

Johnny Football has Tide's attention

TUSCALOOSA | Just three months ago, Texas A&M fans didn't even know who their quarterback would be.

The Aggies had a new face as a head coach, and no face for their offense. Today, as Texas A&M prepares to visit the University of Alabama this weekend, Johnny Football has answered those questions, and Southeastern Conference defenses have come up with few answers. Aggies freshman Johnny Manziel, who has been tagged with the nickname Johnny Football, leads the SEC's most prolific offense. The Aggies are averaging 44 points and 559 yards per game, both league highs.

And in his first year as a starter, Manziel is the engine under the Aggies' offensive hood. By the end of the regular season, on his current pace, he'll have more than 1,200 rushing yards, over 3,000 passing yards, and at least 40 total touchdowns.

"Johnny Manziel is a terrific player. He can do a lot of things, creates a lot of plays, extends a lot of plays. He's a great scrambler. A very effective passer," said UA coach Nick Saban. "They're in the spread, no-huddle, going fast. He does a really good job of executing it. They've got good receivers, they've got good runners, they've got a really good offensive line."

Last week, Manziel shredded a 7-1 Mississippi State team with 129 rushing yards, and 311 passing yards while completing 30 of 36 attempts. By the end of its third possession, A&M had 21 points and 239 yards of offense.

"They want to get up on the ball and they want to run plays fast and put a lot of points on the scoreboard and as a defense, we're trying to do the exact opposite," said UA defensive end Damion Square. "So we've got to come in prepared and prepare the best way we can, prepare and go out there and execute what coach draws up on the game plan."

Saban said Manziel's skills remind him of former Boston College and NFL quarterback Doug Flutie, whose scrambling ability and dynamic presence helped him win a Heisman Trophy.

"He can throw it, he's not great big in stature or anything like that, he's extremely quick," Saban said. "He's very instinctive. Has a unique ability to extend plays and seems to know when to take off and run it."

Blake Sims, Alabama's most athletic quarterback, will do his best to mimic Manziel on Alabama's scout team this week in practice, as he often does when UA is preparing for a mobile quarterback.

"Blake provides us with a good look when we played Michigan and Denard (Robinson) was at quarterback. Everyone always asks you what's the difference between Denard and this guy named Johnny," said linebacker Adrian Hubbard. "Our scout team, they always give you a good look every week. So I give a lot of credit to them."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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