The Aggies coach couldn’t avoid interest in life without his former superstar quarterback on Tuesday at Southeastern Conference media days. First podium question: What’s it like to not be coaching Johnny Manziel?
A few minutes later, Sumlin smiled and didn’t take the bait when asked about Manziel’s night life these days.
“Is this the SEC media days?” he asked. “That’s a great question about the Cleveland Browns.”
Closer to home, the Aggies must replace three NFL first-round picks, including the swashbuckling quarterback.
Texas A&M won 20 games in its first two seasons in the SEC with Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. Now, the Aggies get a chance to prove they can win big in the powerhouse league even without Manziel. Sumlin said having players like the nation’s top-rated quarterback recruit, Kyle Allen, makes the task more exciting.
“I understand there’s not going to be another Johnny Manziel, the way he played the game,” Sumlin said. “Now does that mean that we change offensively? Maybe. Does that mean we changed offensively for him? That might be the case, too.”
Sumlin said he doesn’t adorn the walls at the football complex with motivational signs. Two that did make the cut, he said. “No excuses” and “It’s about us.”
“We have our own expectations,” Sumlin said. “We have to because Year One, nobody expected anything out of us. Last year, we were expected to beat the Green Bay Packers. I have to have a reasonable expectation for what we try to do.”
He said there’s no leeway to have “a bunch of rebuilding years” but they might not be necessary anyway after a couple of highly rated recruiting classes.
Sumlin tried to eliminate questions about whether sophomore Kenny Hill or Allen, an early enrollee, is going to be the Aggies’ quarterback in his opening statement. That will be settled on the practice fields — or perhaps during games — not at a podium before hundreds of reporters.
Left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said he has “a lot of confidence” in both young quarterbacks.
“Both of them are doing a great job,” said Ogbuehi, the latest Aggies’ linemen being touted as a future first-round draft pick. “They’re young but they’re still being vocal. It’s impressive to see young guys step up and lead some old players.”
That’s not the only question facing the Aggies despite the loss of offensive stars.
The Aggies defense yielded league-worst 32.2 points and 475.8 yards per game last season. Cornerback Deshazor Everett said there were issues with communication and understanding of the defense and believes they’ll be better this season.
“We couldn’t get much worse,” Everett said.