Johnny Manziel has a "groupie" in UA assistant Lance Thompson

Alabama linebackers coach Lance Thompson, speaking to a football club in Mobile, Ala., Monday night, bestowed about the highest possible praise on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

"I'm a Johnny Manziel groupie because we've watched him so much," Thompson said, according to

Watched him go up and down the field against the college game's top defense for two consecutive years, that is. While Manziel has split two games against Alabama on the scoreboard, he's split the Crimson Tide's vaunted defense in both. His combined numbers in last year's 29-24 road win and this year's 49-42 home loss: 52 completions in 70 attempts, for 717 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. As a rusher, he's carried 32 times for 190 yards in those games, for 907 yards in total offense.

Thompson, clearly, has respect for that. He identified Manziel, McCarron and Oregon's Marcus Mariota as the three most deserving Heisman Trophy candidates, saying of why Manziel belongs: "One, because we haven't stopped the cat yet, and two, because he got better from last year to this year. ... Johnny sees the field as well as anybody I've ever played against. He reminds me of Fran Tarkenton, if some of you remember him. And that cat is hard to get down."

Crimson Tide assistant coaches aren't permitted to engage in media interviews by team policy, so when one of Nick Saban's nine hands gets a rare chance to go on record, people listen.

And when it's Thompson talking, it's usually going to be colorful.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread.*

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