COLUMBIA — Before the Missouri defense faces Texas A&M on Saturday night, it will need to prepare for one of the country’s best players.
But who will be Missouri’s Johnny Football this week?
No. 5 Missouri (10-1) vs. No. 19 Texas A&M (8-3)
6:45 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium
Coaches are mum on the player they’ll use to simulate Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, and Gary Pinkel said Maty Mauk is out of the question.
So that leaves …
“Trent Hosick will probably do that,” defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said. “He likes to run and extend plays, so I’m sure the coaches will try to get him to mimic (Manziel) as much as possible.”
Hosick is a true freshman quarterback from Staley High in Kansas City. He stands 6-foot-1 and was the 19th-ranked dual-threat quarterback prospect in the nation last season.
But this year, he’s redshirting to preserve a fifth season of eligibility in 2017. In the meantime, he has been called upon to imitate opposing quarterbacks on the scout team offense. This helps the defense prepare for teams such as Texas A&M, so Hosick will do his best Johnny Manziel impression this week.
“(Hosick) is mobile; he can throw; he can do it all,” cornerback E.J. Gaines said. “I wouldn’t call him Johnny Football, but he’s probably the best look we have this week.”
There’s no doubt Hosick faces a big challenge. In 2012, Manziel destroyed Missouri during a 59-29 A&M victory and two weeks later became the youngest Heisman Trophy winner ever.
Manziel was so dominant — 439 total yards, five touchdowns — that Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said he won’t even go back and watch the tape from last November.
Steckel compared the game to being beaten up during a fight. “Do you want to go back and relive that? Me either.”
Despite the beat-down, Missouri and Johnny Manziel’s roles have reversed this season. Texas A&M will be the underdog Saturday despite its all-star quarterback. Thanks to the Aggies’ 108th-ranked defense, Manziel will likely need to put forth another Heisman-worthy performance to pull off the upset.
“He’s got some sort of special force-field around him,” Missouri quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “Like a ‘Lost in Space’ bubble where nobody touches him. He makes a lot of things happen because people are scared of him doing those things.”
By “those things,” Hill meant the crazy plays that Manziel manufactures easily with his rocket arm and 4.5-second 40-yard dash time.
“He’s obviously one of the best players in college football,” safety Matt White said. A lot of his plays are improvisational, "so when he does make some plays, we’ve just got to shorten the game and focus on the next play.”
Hosick’s scout team performance could go a long way toward helping the defense prepare for Manziel.
“In high school, you’d see him do a lot of things that Johnny does — a good combination of passing the ball and running,” wide receiver Marcus Lucas said. “I think he’ll be a good fit for it, and he’s gonna give the scout team the best look he can.”
Still, Vincent isn’t completely convinced that anything he sees this week will mirror what Manziel does on the field.
“You can’t mimic him,” Vincent said. “He’s just too good.”