Manziel and the Aggies Wake a Sleeping Giant

Mike Zarrilli

Football at Texas A&M always had the resources it needed to be a giant in the college football landscape. The massive and loyal fanbase. The location in the middle of the hottest recruiting location in the country. The access to all the resources it would ever need. All the Aggies were missing was a coach and a player that could electrify the team, the fans, and the nation. Enter Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel.

Texas A&M football has long been referred to as a sleeping giant. That's putting it nicely. Aggie Football was more like a sleeping giant that keeps trying to get up and storm the castle, but it kept tripping over its own feet causing the whole village to just point and laugh. The Athletic Department and administrators of A&M simply couldn't get out of their own way. Coaching hires of Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman were made under what was considered to be the right hires to get the Aggies back to the top of college football. However, both hires set the program back further than anyone could have imagined and now cast a giant shadow over the worst decade of Aggie football in recent memory.

The move to the Southeastern Conference presented Texas A&M with an opportunity to start a new chapter in the history of the program. When rumors about the Aggies heading to the SEC started making the rounds for the second season in a row, the national media caught on to the smoke signals and most started their personal campaigns to say what a simply stupid idea it was for the Aggies to leave the comfortable confines of the Big 12. The Aggies were heading into their first year in the SEC West with a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator, and a redshirt freshman quarterback that looked to be sitting third on the depth-chart coming out of spring practices. While immediate success in the SEC was never looked at as a reasonable expectation, those close to the program were very well aware of what the SEC could do for the Aggies over the years from exposure, brand differentiation, and recruiting standpoints. With that said, nobody (myself included) could have imagined the Aggies would be sitting where they are today as the "it" program in the college football landscape.

First year head coach Kevin Sumlin has made it very clear that he was the man the Aggies have been looking for. Coach Sumlin brought in his own staff in a complete overhaul of the Aggie Football program. Sumlin made it clear in the offseason that every position was going to be an open competition for spots on the depth chart. The departure of 1st round draft pick Ryan Tannehill meant the spotlight of that competition was going to be focused on the quarterback position. The outcome of that competition was the rising superstar in college football that is Johnny Manziel. The combination of Coach Sumlin and Johnny Manziel appear to be the perfect recipe for what Aggie fans have been waiting for since the late 90's. This is the rebirth of Aggie Football.

As of today, the Aggies are ranked 8th in the BCS and they are second in the SEC West. This all comes after a program defining/changing/revolutionizing 29-24 win over top-ranked Alabama on the road in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies held the Alabama rushing attack to their lowest of the season while putting up more points than the Crimson Tide had surrendered all season. Rather than discussing what is taking place in College Station, much of the national media is talking about how the SEC's shot at another BCS title are ruined and what Alabama didn't do rather than what A&M did do. We could spend an entire article focusing on what was done on the field, but what just took place off the field will define the future of Aggie Football.

The Aggies exorcised a lot of demons from the program Saturday. After not being able to compete on the road in the past, the Aggies have now won all 6 road games this season, including 3 ranked opponents. Years of getting trounced by higher ranked opponents on the national stage are now a distant afterthought after winning on the road twice in two weeks against higher ranked SEC West teams. Perhaps the biggest demon overshadowing the A&M football program is the two year streak of being a team that builds an early lead only to be completely undone in the second half. The issue of closing out games is easily the biggest reason Mike Sherman is now an offensive coordinator in the NFL and not on the sidelines as the head coach of the Aggies. After being up 20-0 against Alabama, it looked like the ghost of Mike Sherman was ready to rear its ugly head as Alabama scored 17 unanswered points through the 3rd quarter. This is a new Aggie Football team though. Big plays in the fourth quarter created by a combination of superb offensive line play, solid pass blocking by Christine Michael and Ben Malena, great catches from Ryan Swope, and more highlight reel material from Johnny Manziel kept the game just out of reach. Big defensive stops from Dustin Harris and the game ending interception from Deshazor Everett sealed the biggest victory in the next generation of Aggie Football.

The outcome of the Aggies season isn't a statement of the SEC, they do have 6 teams in the top 12 of the BCS afterall. It certainly isn't a statement to the Big 12. Anyone who says otherwise is simply being narrow minded and short sighted in ignoring the change that has taken place in College Station. The seemingly impossible success the Aggies are having this year are a testament to the importance of coaching hires. With the hire of Kevin Sumlin the Aggies are on the rise. Coach Sumlin and his staff already had an ace up their sleeve on the recruiting trail with the appeal of playing in the SEC. Now, highly touted recruits now the Aggies can compete in the SEC and that they are ready to be a perennial top 10 program and clearly the best football program in the state of Texas. The head coach the Aggies needed is in place. The electrifying player the Aggies needed is breaking records as a freshman. The nation got a sneak peek at what the Aggies are going to be capable of for years to come. Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Football not only woke up the sleeping giant that was Aggie Football, it looks like they might have pissed him off.

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