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Manziel’s advice to Ohio State on how to beat Alabama: Respect, don’t fear them

Johnny Manziel (Photo: YouTube)
Johnny Manziel (Photo: YouTube)

Not many teams have beaten Alabama recently — only eight times in six seasons — but former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was a key part of one of those losses.

Manziel, now a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, had some advice for Ohio State as they prepare to take on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.

“You absolutely give respect where it’s due, and they’re a program that has won numerous national championships and been at the top of the SEC,” Manziel told cleveland.com this week. “You respect them, but you don’t fear them.”

The Heisman Trophy winner had his highest profile games against Alabama, with the 2012 victory over the Crimson Tide solidifying that trophy. Manziel had 252 yards passing and two touchdowns with 92 yards rushing against Alabama in 2012, and 464 yards passing with five touchdowns, 98 yards rushing in a loss in 2013.

For Ohio State and third-string quarterback Cardale Jones to win the Sugar Bowl, they need to play with high efficiency and limit turnovers and major mistakes, according to Manziel.

“My advice to [Jones] is not to try and do too much,” said Manziel. “Put the pressure on Coach Meyer and Coach Herman to put you in good position to succeed and go from there.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer coached against Alabama three times during his tenure as Florida head coach and is 2-1, with the lone victory coming in the 2008 SEC Championship. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is one of only four coaches to beat Meyer more than once.

Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman understands how good Alabama has been and respects them, especially the defense he has to face.

“I see an extreme amount of depth. They’re really, really big up front. I mean really big,” Herman said in his Sugar Bowl press availability. “They’ve got defensive ends that are 270, 280, 290 pounds. They’ve got defensive tackles that are 320-330 pounds. And they don’t just have one group of them, they play about nine or 10 defensive linemen in what we would call competitive situations, not mop-up duty, not end of the game or special teams, third and long, pass rush guys. They literally play 8-10 defensive linemen a game. Their linebackers are big, big dudes, 255-260 pounds.

“That stood out to me, not only the size of them but then the fact that they had back ups that were just as big and good and then they had back ups of back ups that were just as big and as good and they played. They really didn’t miss a beat when those back ups were in.”

Manziel had his Heisman moment against Alabama, and might have gone 2-0 against them if his Aggies had a better defense. Now it’s up to Ohio State and Jones to try and replicate Manziel’s success.

“‘Bama being ‘Bama, they are pretty prestigious and what’s made them so good is their defense. You approach it as you would any other game and you don’t put them on a pedestal,” Manziel said. “At least that’s how we did it. It’s Alabama, it’s a big game and you have to perform well if you want to have a chance to win.”

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