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Texas A&M begins spring drills

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy last season.

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Despite the unprecedented success in Manziel's rookie season, coach Kevin Sumlin still sees plenty of ways he can improve as the Aggies prepare for the start of spring practice on Saturday.

Texas A&M went 11-2 in its first season in the SEC after moving from the Big 12, its first 11-win season since 1998. Manziel led the Aggies to a win at national champion Alabama, and became A&M's first Heisman winner since 1957.

Manziel threw for more than 3,700 yards and added more than 1,400 yards on the ground last year to win the award for college football's most outstanding player.

Still, Sumlin sees plenty of room for growth.

``He can help his footwork, his mechanics, his thought process and overall knowledge of the offense,'' Sumlin said.

He'll also have to adjust to a new offensive coordinator in Clarence McKinney after Kliff Kingsbury left to become coach at Texas Tech.

McKinney was A&M's running backs coach last season, and along with promoting him to offensive coordinator, the Aggies hired Jake Spavital to be co_offensive coordinator and coach the quarterbacks.

Manziel wasn't available on Friday, but discussed the coaching change recently.

``He's very familiar with everything, he's been around long enough to where I have a lot of confidence in him, me and him had a good relationship,'' Manziel said of McKinney. ``(I) feel confident with him back there.''

Sumlin said Manziel and Spavital have already met, watched film and went over ways in which he can be better in his second season. Sumlin talked about how much he developed from A&M's first game last season to its win over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

``One thing about him that a lot of people think they see but don't really know is how hard he is on himself,'' Sumlin said. ``As much as we want him to improve, as hard as we can be on him, nobody is harder on him than himself.''

Manziel will also adjust to a revamped offensive line this spring after top lineman Luke Joeckel gave up his final season of eligibility to declare for the NFL draft.

Despite the departure of Joeckel, the Aggies still return six starters on offense.

The Aggies also took a big hit on defense with star defensive end Damontre Moore also leaving early for the draft.

``You've always got a new group of guys coming in,'' defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. ``Guy gets injured, another's got to step up. But it gives guys the chance over spring ball to show us they can contribute.''

Sumlin isn't worried about his team handling increased expectations after its surprising success last year.

``That's OK. That's part of it,'' he said. ``I would rather it be that way than nobody talk about us at all. That helps recruiting, that helps everything.''

Sumlin hopes to have his two-deep roster set by the end of spring practices. If he doesn't, he at least wants to have a clearer idea of who is in the mix to start at each position.

``We've got a number of players on this list, this two-deep, that haven't played,'' Sumlin said. ``I think we've got to get a number of these guys who have been role players ready to be serious contributors in this program. At the end of spring practice, that's going to be the big evaluation individually.''

The Aggies will have to wait to see the progress of several injured players who won't be healthy enough to participate in spring drills. Linebacker Justin Bass (knee), defensive lineman Kirby Ennis (knee), linebacker Steven Jenkins (shoulder), running back Trey Williams (sports hernia) and defensive lineman Ivan Robinson (Achilles tendon) will all sit out this spring.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
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