The most amazing aspect of Johnny Manziel’s rise from typical SEC frat boy quarterback to historic Heisman winner and final metamorphosis into college football’s Lindsey Lohan was that, last August, I couldn’t tell Johnny Football apart from Johnny Bravo. Ironically, he’s since transformed into a caricature of the iconic quarterback he was after the season. Three summers ago, there were whispers about Cam Newton’s ability at Auburn and RGIII gradually built his cult following over four years. Entering the 2012 summer practice, Manziel was projected to lose the competition to Jameil Showers.
The hot water that Manziel and Uncle Nate have gotten themselves into this summer is exactly what we would have seen if there had been a gratuitous sequel to The Waterboy. Like Manziel, Bobby Boucher rose from the vapor of anonymity to revive the Aggies program and solidify himself as college football’s most recognizable figure. Manziel-itis infected college football and attacked the system like Fernando-mania did Major League baseball in ‘81 or SARS a decade ago – depending on your outlook.
But we live in a short attention span society where pundits prognosticate about the 2016 presidential election less than six months after the 2013 inauguration. Jeremy Lin and Manziel should be in the same instant fame support group.
This season, there’s still the typical presumption that the experts’ preseason Heisman top tens actually mean something. Over the last two months, we’ve been laying out the résumé for college football’s Heisman favorites and dark horses. This week, we’ll ball up all our work and throw the lid off of college football’s underground candidates. Some of these guys are so under the radar that their own mamas will just now be finding out that they play foosball.
So let’s peek under the microscope at which off-the-grid stars could make a Heisman push. It’s only right to start off with the quarterback who is actively vaccinating himself against Manziel disease.
Jameis Winston is a two-sport star as an ace on the mound and a redshirt freshman in the Colin Kaepernick mold. He’s probably a bad example, though, as he’s been anointed the next great Seminole quarterback since he arrived on campus. This season, we’ll get a peek at his potential. Throw your shades on, Tallahassee. The future is bright at quarterback.
Kansas State’s Jake Waters took the scenic route to Manhattan. After enrolling at Iowa Western Community College, Waters led the Reivers to a perfect national championship season and was named the NJCAA National Offensive Player of the Year. Bill Snyder’s got the Midas touch when it comes to mobile quarterbacks, but Waters may be more of a dual threat than Collin Klein because of his superior arm. He’s still got to beat out Klein’s former backup Daniel Sims, but, from all accounts, it’s only a matter of time before Snyder names him the regular season starter.
Lubbock’s Michael Brewer is almost a carbon copy of College Station’s 6-1 Manziel. If you were mining for a dual threat quarterback, the 2011 recruiting class was a coach’s dream. Lodged between Manziel and Marcus Mariota in Rivals’ recruiting rankings that year was Texas Tech’s Brewer. Although, Sumlin was the Gus Fring of the College Station operation, Kingsbury was the Walter White to Manziel’s Jesse Pinkman.
This season, Brewer’s in the lab of Manziel’s former offensive coordinator, with Kliff Kingsbury as his head coach cooking up a batch of touchdowns. Brewer has the mobility and arm to be a combustible force in the Big 12. With any luck, he and Kingsbury will be able to create a potent offensive attack on par with what that the Red Raiders were accustomed to during the Mike Leach years.
Arizona’s BJ Denker is another signal caller that will reap the benefits of learning directly from the father of the zone read option offense. If his Twitter handle is any indication, Denker regards himself as something of a vanilla Mike Vick. If he’s named Arizona’s starting quarterback by the season opener, he may look like Mike in Rich Rodriguez’s zone read offense. However, he’ll have to share the fanfare with Carey.
The running back position already has Ka’deem Carey settin’ it off in the backfield. The odds of a running back coming out of nowhere to sweep the nation off its feet are slim. Not many fans can even identify Ka’boom Carey as the nation’s top rusher last season, but in year two of the Rich Rod era, one of the nation’s best big play offenses could be even better.
Baylor’s Art Briles is another offensive mastermind whose rep is on the rise. His newest Frankenstein creation, Bryce Petty, could rival RGIII’s 2011 Heisman campaign and deliver a WACO wakeup call to the nation. Unlike Griffin, the Bears quarterback is a blank canvas entering this season after observing for his first two and a half (redshirt) seasons. Petty completed 13 of 15 passes in the spring game for 181 yards and two touchdowns, but can move the chains with his feet as well.
Rees doesn’t inspire much confidence and has been benched on umerous occasions during his Notre Dame career. While Everett Golston works to get back in school, redshirt freshman Malik Zaire is in the passenger seat licking his chops to take the wheel if Rees gets groggy under center.
Check your couch cushions and scour your favorite program’s depth chart. Somewhere on there is the next Manziel, waiting for his 15 minutes.