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SEC Media Days

Manziel meets the media

Wed, Jul 17, 2013

By Rob Lehocky

HOOVER, AL -- Johhny Manziel's appearance at SEC Media Days Wednesday morning rivaled only Nick Saban's first trip here as the Alabama coach several years ago. A record number of media members converged on the Heisman Trophy winner, less than one week after he was asked to leave the Manning Passing Academy early.

 "The rumors about the other things weren’t really true. I just overslept and missed a meeting. I absolutely lived up to it.," Manziel said. "There was no excuse for not having my phone charged or having an alarm set. I was disappointed to not go on being a camper there three or four years prior. I was upset with myself, that was the biggest thing, but hearing Eli and Peyton afterward and the key thing was they wanted me to come back next year, that was great because I had such a great time working with the kids I had and doing some things we do at A&M. I’ve just been on a hectic schedule and overslept.”

“I’m learning every day. There are situations you learn to shy away from. I used to be a person that watched ESPN and Sportscenter all day, every day. I shy away from it now, articles and things on Twitter, I try to shy away from it. I’m waiting for Aug. 4 to get here.”

SUMLIN ON JOHNNY FOOTBALL

Manziel's coach, Kevin Sumlin, defended his quarterback, but admitted Manziel needs to work on some things.

“Off the field, there’s no question he’s made some mistakes and I think today will be a great experience for him," Sumlin said. "He’s done some things he’s not proud of; has made some poor decisions, made some good decisions. Unfortunately, the poor decisions are the ones that are publicized. Can he be better in that area? Certainly. And that’s one of the things we’re working on.”

MATTHEWS READY FOR SENIOR SEASON

Jake Matthews, Texas A&M's highly touted offensive lineman and potenial Senior Bowler, is excited about his senior season and is looking forward to the Aggies matchup with two-time defending BCS Champ Alabama.

“It’s definitely one we have circled beating them last year." Matthews said. "I’m sure they’ll want to come back and get some revenge on us.”

The pre-season All-American will block for Manziel, who he called a leader on the team

“It’s just his determination," Matthews said. "When he comes out there, he’s always giving 100 percent. The way he rallies the guys to get behind him. He’s so hard on himself, he never wants to make a bad play. All those things make him a guy we want to follow.”

As for all the attention Manziel has received since winning the Heisman Trophy, Matthews was asked if he gets tired of answering questions about his quarterback: “Yeah, maybe a little bit. I wish you guys cared more about me (smiling).” 

NEW FACES, DIFFERENT PLACES

Four new coaches will take over SEC programs this season and all four were in Hoover on Wednesday. Butch Jones of Tennessee, Mark Stoops of Kentucky, Gus Malzahn of Auburn and Arkansas' Bret Bielema all met the media today.

Jones heads to Rocky Top from Cincinnati and wants to bring the Tennessee program back to national prominence.

"We talked about building a championship culture," Jones said, "working to get Tennessee football back to its rightful place back among the elite of college football. We talked about doing that brick by brick. That's not a fancy slogan, we really meant that as every brick is symbolic of every individual in our football family and our football organization. It's having clearly defined and articulated standards, expectations and values that are going to guide you on a day-to-day basis."

Stoops, who comes to Kentucky from Florida State, takes over a squad that went 0-8 in the SEC in 2012.

"From what I've seen in the first 15 days of spring practice, we need to improve," Stoops said. "I think everybody understands that. We have to get better in all areas of our program. We have to continue to build more depth. But with that being said, it's our job to develop the players that we have, to put them in a position to be successful, and to go out there and compete each and every week. That's what we plan to do."

Bielema left a Wisconsin program that had been to three straight Rose Bowls to jump to Arkansas, where he will start the rebuilding process up front.

"I'm not a guy that starts in the back end and works forward," Bielema said. "I'm going to start with the offensive line and defensive line, two staples I believe are important for winning games that I want our team to play."

"Doesn't matter if we're in the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, whatever it is," he continued. "It's something I emphasize from day one. I'm so excited. For us at Arkansas, one of our better players, Travis Swanson, is a center. I've always been taught back from Hayden Fry, if you can build a team from the inside out on both sides of the football, you have a chance to be good."

Malzahn returns to the plains after one season at Arkansas State and also brings his fast-paced, spread offense back to Auburn, where he was the offensive coordinator when the Tigers won the BCS National Championship in the 2010-11 season.

On the top of Malzahn's list is finding a quarterback. He said he has four players vying for the spot and likely won't pick the starter until the middle of camp. Kiehl Frazier, who was recruited by Malzahn when he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn, is the likely frontrunner.

"Kiehl had a solid spring," Malzahn said. "The unique thing for us is coming in new with new coaches, it probably took about halfway through spring where we actually got the pieces of the puzzle around him to be in the right spot so we could properly evaluate our quarterback."

"The fact that he had a background in this offense, I think it helped. But anytime last year they went to a completely different offense, it takes a little bit of time to get back in a routine. Probably the last five practices, it started to click and you started to see him get more and more comfortable in this offense."

AUBURN LOOK FOR ITS 'EDGE'

If anyone has seen the Tigers' 'edge,' they're looking for it.

In a span of about five minutes on Wednesday, Malzahn, fullback Jay Prosch and cornerback Chris Davis all said the Tigers were trying to get their 'edge back.' That must be the theme for the season after a disappointing 3-9 record in 2012. 

RUSSELL BRINGS DAWGS TOGETHER

Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell didn't really enjoy the Dawgs collapse after a 7-0 start in 2012, so he gathered the team together last Winter to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"My main goal is to be a leader on and off the field," Russell said. "Right now, I got to get the guys to have the same mindset that I have – that sense of urgency. If I think about the things I had done, if I knew what I know now when I first started, my life would be a whole lot easier. I try to explain to those guys, if you learn it now, everything will be a whole lot smoother for you.” 

Coach Dan Mullen sees a difference in his signal caller.

"He comes in and understands what has to get accomplished," Mullen said. "He understands the work ethic that needs to go in. Like I said, he's understanding why we're doing what we're doing, not just within plays, but why we're doing what we're doing as a football program."

"When the guy up front, the guy that is the leader of your team, when he understands that, that message gets portrayed throughout the team. When Tyler walks into huddle to speak, stands up in front of team, everyone is going to listen to exactly every word he says. When he understands the message and the direction as a whole that the program is going in, why we're trying to go in that direction, it certainly helps you."



Rob Lehocky Rob Lehocky Rob Lehocky joined the Senior Bowl in December of 2012 after working 15 years as a television Sports Anchor. During his broadcasting career, he won more than 50 awards, including a National Edward R. Murrow Award, two Emmys and four Regional Murrow Awards.