Johnny Manziel (Getty Images)
MOBILE, Ala. — We polled six SEC players who have had a good look at Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel over the past two seasons, and they roundly see him as a top talent whose skills should translate in the NFL as he prepares for May's draft.
Among the opinions of him we gathered here at the Senior Bowl, here’s a sample of them:
What stood out the most about facing Johnny Manziel?
Auburn DE Dee Ford: "Toughest player I ever faced. He’s a playmaker. He’s a true competitor."
Vanderbilt S Kenny Ladler: "I think he’s just unorthodox. He creates his own plays, he knows how to manage his offense well and he makes plays that normal quarterbacks usually don’t make."
Alabama LB Adrian Hubbard: "Everybody can be beat, but he’s a great player and he does what he does well within their system. It’s built for him to [improvise] and make plays on the run. I don’t know how that will work [in the NFL], but he’s tough and competitive."
LSU S Craig Loston: "He’s a great college player. We did a great job against him twice [in 2012 and 2013]. We defended him as well as anyone, I think. I don’t know if he’ll make a great pro because I am not paid to make those decisions, but he has skill."
Auburn CB Chris Davis: "Man, why are you asking me about Johnny Manziel? [laughs] No, he’s a great player, a truly great player."
What was your team's defensive gameplan to try to stop him?
Ford: "We just went at him. We weren’t going to sit back. The year before we did that. I told my coach [in 2013], ‘Hey, we can’t do that. We’ve got to go at him.’ It paid off in the end. I got to him [for sacks] twice at the end of the game."
Ladler: "We tried to contain him so he didn’t scramble and you try to make him throw short routes. He would run around until he just found someone open. We tried to make sure that didn’t happen."
Smith: "A lot of teams try to just contain him, but our coaches wanted us to go get him. That was the message before the game: Go get him. If you sit back and just try to contain him and keep him in the pocket, he’ll kill you with his arm. We tried to go after him, and we did a pretty good job of it, but Johnny’s going to be Johnny."
Loston: "Our plan was to try to keep him in the pocket, make him beat us from the pocket. We did a pretty good job of keeping him bottled up throughout the whole game. We kept him in the pocket for the most part, and he caught us in a couple of errors, but I think our D-line did a great job of collapsing things around him and forcing him into some pressure throws."
Davis: "He’s kind of hard to prepare for. He’s a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. He can beat you with his feet and his arm. It’s tough to prepare for a guy like Johnny Manziel because not many guys can play like that, so it’s hard to [simulate]."
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