published Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Greeson: No Manziel means less commotion for Sumlin

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Hoover, Ala.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Hoover, Ala.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

HOOVER, Ala. — Last year, Kevin Sumlin arrived at SEC football media days wondering what could happen next.

Nothing was out of bounds, and truthfully, nothing could have been totally unexpected for the Texas A&M coach.

Not when you coach Johnny Manziel, the anti-Tebow in a social-media world craving lightning rods and selfies with bikini-clad coeds in Vegas.

It was a full-blown road show that Manziel now has taken to the NFL. The wake from it still gets a charge from Sumlin.

"Let me get this straight: The question was, 'What's it like not coaching Johnny Manziel?'" Sumlin asked after making his opening remarks about this year's team before his first question was about the walking, talking headscratcher/headache/headliner who was last year's Aggies star.

Gone is the background noise that Monsignor Football brought by the truckload.

The funny thing about background noise, though, is it almost always follows the rock stars. The tame do not move the needle; the talented do.

Manziel was the guy who could do anything and got away with everything. He landed in the first round of the NFL draft, taking his talents and distractions to Cleveland.

Last year, Manziel was the guy who rallied the troops, scoring enough points to keep an awful defense afloat and giving the Aggies a chance against everyone.

Now he's gone, and in his aftermath Texas A&M has a program that has grabbed the Longhorn State and is a team in the mix in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the country.

The talent is better and the run of NFL-ready left tackles continues with Cedric Ogbuehi, whose game is as tough as his name is to pronounce.

But no Johnny Football meant limited intrigue Tuesday, and that was fine by Sumlin.

"I understand there's not going to be another Johnny Manziel. The way he played the game, that's part of it," Sumlin said. "What we have done is we've gone out and been able to recruit very, very well to a system we believe in."

The Aggies are hardly alone -- almost half the league faces the challenge of replacing stalwart quarterbacks. Along with Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Missouri, Texas A&M is just part of the process of reloading in an unforgiving league that waits for no one and has sympathy for even fewer foes.

Sumlin embraces that fact. He should. He has become one of the best recruiters in a league so loaded with them that a top-10 recruiting class could be ranked No. 9 in the country, No. 6 in the SEC and No. 4 in the SEC West. Ouch.

"In college football every two or three years, you're going to have turnover, and you have to have a plan for that," Sumlin said. "Whether it's a quarterback, whether it's a great defender, whatever it is.

"To me, that's what's exciting about college football."

Exciting, like beauty, is gauged by the beholder.

Sumlin likes the process of reloading and dubbed it exciting. For all the adjectives that dubbed Johnny Manziel, "exciting" is chief among them.

His supporters and detractors alike can find common ground that wherever Johnny Football went, excitement followed -- be it midfield or the middle of a tavern or the mid-level blackjack table in Vegas.

Dude was famous and infamous at the same time, and for different reasons. He barely has slowed since becoming a professional and actually having a seven-figure bank account to match his seven-figure lifestyle.

For Sumlin, though, the prospect of losing talent is part of the job; the realization that Johnny Football's sideshow is someone else's problem is merely a bonus.

Pressed for one more thought on Manziel and his recent run of controversy, Sumlin smiled, shook his head and refused the bait.

"This is the SEC media days?" Sumlin said, accenting the conference letters for emphasis. "Seriously, that's a great question for the Cleveland Browns."

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter at @jgreesontfp.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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