Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has a chance to beat one of only four teams he's lost to in two years as a starter against LSU on Saturday. This time around, Tigers coach Les Miles sees a different quarterback.
"The Heisman Trophy winner from last year, Johnny Manziel, is bigger, faster, stronger," said Miles, according to fox8live.com's transcription of his Monday news conference. "He's thrown for 3,300 yards, 31 touchdowns. I see him as a much more complete quarterback, a very good player. If there's a better player in college football, I'd like to know who he is."
LSU toppled Texas A&M 24-19 last season, a loss which ultimately cost the Aggies a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Manziel, a frontrunner for his second consecutive Heisman Trophy in a race with FSU star freshman Jameis Winston, hasn't done as much rushing this year as last. But he has improved significantly as a passer, and Miles took notice during LSU's bye week.
"I think a year ago he was a runner. I think this year he's a much more capable quarterback. I think he steps back in there, understands what to expect, and seems to be stronger in the ability to throw it," Miles said.
Finally, Miles addressed about the only part of Manziel's game that hasn't been dissected: the way he carries the ball with just one hand and away from his body while scrambling. Securing the ball by holding it to the chest is as old a fundamental as there is in the sport, but Manziel's unorthodox style hasn't resulted in a fumbling problem.
"It's an amazing thing, isn't it? The idea that you handle the ball so effectively with one hand. I mean, it's the dangdest thing I've ever seen. He makes the turn, he'll circle the ball with his hand to make that left hand turn," Miles said. "Again, it's a very special talent, strength and ability to move his feet and control the ball. You know what, it doesn't come out of his hand in the pocket, either. He's a guy that has ball security even though he carries it unusually."
Count that habit among those pro coaches will try to break Manziel of when he moves onto the NFL.