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Pre-game Tuesday: MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins using Malcolm Gladwell to stop Johnny Manziel




Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - One of Geoff Collins' favorite books is Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Blink - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking'. Collins figured out this summer after reading this book he'll want his 11 players on defense to instinctively know where to go on defense before the snap and not react to the offense's speed.  


In Wednesday's print edition of The Dispatch, I examined this topic, including Collins using the phrase "pre-cognitive thinking" and Gladwell's ideas on how to handle the speed and tempo that has led to Manziel's success including 440 total yards last year in Starkville.  


Okay, let's ignore the fact that Gladwell has publicly said playing football should be and could be made illegal due to injuries and symptoms related to head injuries. That's just the definition of opposite minds attracting. 


It's the only way to slow Johnny Manziel's offense down. The defensive players essentially must know whether if the play is a pass or run. If it's a pass, they must know where the first couple progressions are and finally, where does Manziel want to throw from (either from the pocket or out on the perimeter). Then the ball will be snapped. All of those pre-snap answers handle the passing, running and improvisation of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner that MSU coach Dan Mullen was speaking about Monday.  


"It's all about precognitive thinking with our guys on defense when facing Manziel," Collins said Tuesday. "We have to get our guys to respond and essentially in a cerebral way get our guys to play the game out in their mind before anything on the field Saturday ever happens." 


And oh by the way, ignore the 83,000 fans screaming in your ear in one of the loudest stadiums in the country. Seems like a impossible task right? Collins described the task similarly to how former multiple world champion Bobby Fischer described playing chess - being three or four moves ahead of your opponent.  


"What Manziel and (A&M head coach Kevin) Sumlin do a great job of making sure the offense is going so fast that all the indicators we teach them look like a blur," Collins said. "So then adding on that we're on the road in a hostile environment, my job is to make sure our players are operating mentally at a high precognitive level. They have to be able to process the information given naturally." 


Manziel threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more scores in less than three quarters to lead No. 12 Texas A&M to a lopsided 57-7 win over UTEP last weekend. Manziel threw touchdown passes of 44, 15, 17 and 26 yards and had TD runs of 10 and 49 yards before being taken out of the game with 7:39 left in the third quarter. Manziel has accounted for 33 touchdowns on the season, 25 passing and eight rushing. 


"We are playing the defending Heisman Trophy winner," Mullen said. "We went from playing the best defensive player in the country to this week playing probably the best offensive player in the country." 




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage. 




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