HBO’s Hard Knocks picks an NFL team – as unwilling as NFL teams seem to be these days – every year to follow during training camp and give viewers an insiders look into the process of building an NFL team during the preseason. Hard Knocks has been a success, as has the 24/7 series that follows boxers before a fight and NHL teams in the weeks leading up to the annual New Year’s Day outdoor game, the Winter Classic, but it’s time for HBO to take it a step further and make a Hard Knocks series for the college ranks.
This idea has been tried before, last year, with marginal success. It was an inside look, but it wasn’t must-watch television.
The ESPN “All-Access: Ohio State” experiment last year was tame. It was a half hour show, with commercials, on ESPNU, a channel that most people don’t even know exists.
Urban Meyer, as great as he is, isn’t as exciting as his teams normally are. Ohio State assistant coach Mike Vrabel is awesome and intense, but he was a minor character. Meyer lacks the charisma of Kliff Kingsbury and Les Miles, while also lacking the ability to cause outright fear, like Nick Saban.
If there is one dynamic program, a program that is the new kid on the block, with a high profile quarterback who is never one to avoid media coverage, it’s Texas A&M.
The HBO “School of Hard Knocks: Texas A&M” would be an opportunity to see how the young upstart team of the SEC handles the pressure of expectations. They lost their offensive coordinating savant, Kingsbury, to his alma mater, Texas Tech. They lost their best offensive lineman, Luke Joeckel, to the Jacksonville Jaguars. And the hopes of bringing a national championship to College Station reside with their court-side sitting, Pebble Beach playing, online classes taking, current Heisman-trophy-winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel. The same Manziel who can leave for the NFL after this season, and could be the first repeat Heisman trophy winner since Archie Griffin. He causes controversy with his tweets, he parties all around the world, and he still maintains his eligibility. How is there not a show about him already?
Kevin Sumlin seems like a nice enough guy, but this show would be about Manziel. The only hangup with producing this show would be the expenses of hiring a camera crew to follow Manziel around to Los Angeles and Miami and wherever he happens to be that week. Also, for a not-as-high-profile team like Texas A&M, the HBO series could introduce America to some of the unsung heroes of the team, just like Hard Knocks does with players who usually get cut. The next Ryan Swope, perhaps.
This could be a series that follows the Aggies from fall practice up to their Sept. 14 matchup with Alabama, sort of like the NHL Winter Classic 24/7 series. Make it happen, HBO, or Showtime. I’d settle for Showtime.