AUBURN, Ala. — As we do every Thursday evening, the War Eagle Extra blog was able to track down a beat writer for Auburn's opponent this weekend. Robert Cessna, who covers Texas A&M for The Eagle in Bryan, Texas, took time to answer five questions about the No. 7 Aggies before the 24th-ranked Tigers arrive in the Lone Star State this weekend.
Ryan Black: Everyone seems to know about Johnny Manziel the player; what I want to know more about is Manziel the person. How is he during interview sessions? Does he always seem to answer with candor, as it normally appears? (I ask this knowing full well he's not always made available to interviews.) On a day-to-day basis, does he seem pleasant to deal with?
Robert Cessna: I've only been around Manziel once in a one-on-one situation for a few minutes. Heck, he's tough to get to these days in a group setting. Never has so much been written about someone who doesn't talk. He's always handled himself with the media the way he handles defenses — he's almost flawless. He listens, he answers. He doesn't get caught off-guard.
Black: I know I mentioned in the last question we know a lot about Manziel the player, especially his ability to make plays with his feet. But his passing numbers — notably in completion percentage — are even better than last season. Is it just the natural progression a quarterback makes with another year in an offense? Or is there something else you would point to?
Cessna: It's obvious his sessions with George Whitfield in San Diego along with just his maturity are paying huge dividends. He's only going to get better with each snap. It also helps to have an offense that has two tackles and a wide receiver who all are projected as first-round picks in April's NFL Draft. That's not even counting the talented underclassmen who eventually will be the same. A&M's offense is loaded.
Black: The defensive stats for the Aggies are really, really ugly. Last in the SEC in total defense. Next-to-last in the conference in scoring defense, pass defense and rush defense. Is the unit really that bad, or are the numbers (slightly) misleading?
Cessna:The unit is that bad, but injuries, youth, suspensions and an offense that scores quickly and gets off the field don’t help. The unit can only go up and key stops in the last two games were the first steps.
Black: What factor that no one is talking about might make a difference in Saturday's game?
Cessna: It's gotta be the defense. Yeah, you can say Manziel's two interceptions ended up costing A&M the Alabama game, but other than the T.J. Yeldon fumble, the unit defense didn't do much. A.J. McCarron looked better than Peyton Manning. If the A&M defense can get 3-4 stops against Auburn, it might be enough.
Black: Given how lopsided last season's contest in Auburn turned out to be, have any players or coaches made it a point of discussion this week? Do they seem impressed at the Tigers' turnaround? Or have they lapsed into political correctness and/or coach-speak and noted that "last year is in the past" and they are only focused on "taking things one game at a time?"
Cessna: Sumlin has done a great job of making his players reflect him. Sumlin has tons of respect for Gus Malzahn and what he's done. The Aggies aren't looking past Auburn. Then again, on paper, this is A&M's toughest obstacle in going to LSU sporting a 9-1 record.