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College coaches break down Johnny Manziel, others

Rice defensive coordinator Chris Thurmond's players only had to defend Johnny Manziel for eight pass attempts last year -- recall, the former Texas A&M star quarterback was suspended for the first half of the season opener against the Owls -- but even in losing 52-31, Thurmond dodged a bullet.

Or, in his own words, an explosion.

"He's like carrying nitroglycerin around," said Thurmond, who broke down film of Manziel for chron.com. "If you put it in the trunk of your car, you might get where you're going. But, boy, you're always afraid it's going to blow ..."

With the Houston Texans holding the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and needing a quarterback, the questions about Manziel and two other fellow top quarterback prospects -- Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater -- aren't just about which of the three is best, but whether any of them are worthy of being the top overall choice.

While Thurmond reviewed Manziel film having faced him head-to-head, University of Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs broke down Bridgewater and Bortles, both of whom he faced late last season.

"I see two safe picks. ... I don't see the bust," Gibbs said.

Gibbs' defense, playing on the road, held Bridgewater to a season-low 203 yards and was the only defense to hold him without a touchdown pass all year. Still, Gibbs indicated Bridgewater's skills were confounding.

"If I'm an offensive coach, if I'm a quarterback guy, this is exactly the kind of guy I want," Gibbs said. "He'll do exactly what you tell him to do."

By contrast, Thurmond touched on the one Manziel skill that may have NFL general managers scratching their heads the most: his ability to improvise.

"Sometimes in coaching, we want to make this a creative, robotic game," Thurmond said. "This is not a robotic game. This is a creative, reaction game, and he proves it."

As for Bortles, Gibbs was more critical of the former UCF star than Bridgewater, suggesting that Bridgewater is both the better athlete and the more accurate passer. He also broke down an interception his defense had of Bortles in which Bortles failed to read the defense properly.

"Clearly, there's no question he knows the coverage, right? Why did he throw it right to us?" Gibbs said of the play. "He has shown that he will do this every now and then. (Bridgewater), you never saw him do this."

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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