HOOVER, Ala. -- In 2012, Kevin Sumlin was dealing with being the new guy on the block at SEC media days. Last year, the Texas A&M Aggies head coach arrived in Hoover with a circus surrounding his starting quarterback.

Last week, Sumlin showed up without much of a media tail or the world's most popular college football player. He was just a successful SEC coach in a well-tailored suit.

But while the bright lights seemed a little dimmer and the attention wasn't as smothering inside the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel, Sumlin and his players did carry a little non-football-related baggage.

This time it dealt with arrests and dismissals for a team looking to build on its early momentum from its two years it's been in the SEC.

Just when Johnny Manziel was out the door and headed to Cleveland, Texas A&M had to deal with sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill getting arrested on a public intoxication charge back in March and being indefinitely suspended.

Then in early June, Sumlin dismissed two key defenders -- linebacker Darian Claiborne and defensive tackle Isaiah Golden -- after being arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. That leaves more holes for a defense that needs all the help it can get after finishing 12th or worse in the four major defensive categories in the SEC last year.

In another offseason involving more distractions, the Aggies held their heads high in Hoover. They smiled, laughed and scoffed at the distractions that could have an impact on their season. Instead of stressing about the past and who won't be on the team in August, the Aggies and their coach strutted through media days.

"I don't really believe in distractions," senior left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said. "If you're a football player, every football team has issues. You're a man. Be a man and just move on and do what you have to do to be a great player. That's all you can control."

Contrary to Ogbuehi's beliefs, distractions are real. But to his credit, he has the right idea. It probably comes from the years of training he has had since he's been in College Station.

"When you're on the field, you're in the zone and you block out everything -- you block out the fans, you block out the noise. That kind of contributes to the off-field [incidents] as well," punter Drew Kaser said.

You'd think a team just getting over the distraction of distractions in Johnny Football would be a little frustrated by the thought of having another non-football-related subject to discuss before actually getting to business. But this group just wades through the mess and focuses on the pigskin.

To Sumlin, this team has gotten through the offseason without the arrests and dismissals having much of an effect at all. For players like cornerback Deshazor Everett they haven't been distractions because the Aggies have enough bodies to fill those voids so why dwell on the people missing?

"The next step is for the guys that are behind them to step up and play,"Everett said. "It's the SEC. We recruit great players. I believe that they can step in and have as big of an impact as those players who got dismissed did. I have full confidence in our defense this coming season."

Moving ahead hasn't been a problem or the Aggies in the past. They did it two years ago when Manziel went from arrested to Heisman winner, and they did it again last year after Manziel's off-field life overshadowed A&M's actual football team.

Manziel is gone, and while more distractions have sprouted, this team isn't worried. As Ogbuehi puts it, the Aggies already have the pieces they need for 2014.

"We have guys who are stepping up as leaders and [the team knows] that guys who wanna be here are gonna play the first game of the year," he said.
At events like The Opening, prospects get together in a unique environment. RecruitingNation took advantage and asked a few questions.

Of Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, who would you want as your quarterback?

Choosing Newton:

ESPN 300 No. 2 Martez Ivey: You could pick Manziel, too, but it’s what Cam brings. He always has that smile on his face. I remember watching him when Auburn was down to Alabama, he still had a smile on his face and went out there and won the game. He wins.

No. 10 Tim Settle: He can be locked down and not be able to throw, but he can run. And I’m trying to tell you, he doesn’t get just 10 yards -- he can get 15 if you want 10. I also think he was more mature than Johnny and Jameis.

No. 19 Josh Rosen: Probably, Newton. Just because there are so many things you can do with him. He’s just one of those guys if he runs around on the college level he’s not as susceptible to injury because of his size and athleticism. I would probably pick someone that can stand in the pocket first, and I think if you put Cam in the right system -- he can do some damage.

No. 35 Calvin Ridley: I would definitely take Cam Newton because I like him, he can sling the ball, he’s a threat to run, defense had to pack the box in college against him and gives guys like me more opportunities one-on-one.

No. 51 Breiden Fehoko: I think Cam Newton. When you look at overall, playmaker, dual-threat, he has a gun [strong arm], he’s just as fast on his feet as others, he stands about 6-foot-6, weighs 250 and he can see the entire field with everything else he has.

*Of the 30 players asked, 22 picked Newton.

Choosing Manziel:

No. 38 Malik Jefferson: Manziel. He has the go-get-it attitude. He wants it every second. Even though people said he was a dumb butt off the field, he always wanted to play no matter what his circumstance was. He just goes out there and plays, and has fun while he is doing it.

Alabama commitment Blake Barnett: I would say Johnny Manziel, just because he’s a playmaker. He can drop back and throw the ball down the field, then he can beat you up with his feet. I think he’s a terrific player.

Choosing Winston:

No. 16 Jashon Cornell: In college? I’m going to take Jameis. He has the ability to be the best of all. He plays baseball, too, which helps his arm strength, and just the leader he is.

Georgia commit Jackson Harris: I would probably go with Winston. I know [FSU quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders] pretty well, he recruited me, and he would just tell me the stuff that he can do and does. His stories were unbelievable.

Michigan verbal Alex Malzone: Winston, just because of his winning mentality. He’s going to work, you can tell he is a competitor and will do anything to win. As a quarterback, that is what you want.

Will Winston repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner?

Ivey: Those receivers made him look really good last year. It’s going to be a challenge for him, and there is always a young freshman that steps up from out of nowhere now. I don’t really think the off-the-field hurts him. People are always going to hassle him about something. It comes with being a Heisman winner and high profile player.

Settle: No. He can’t stay out of trouble. He’s always in trouble, and some of them are the littlest things that end up being big. He has to be hitting on all cylinders to have a chance, because there is some freshman that will pop up. I won’t be shocked if he has a great year, but you have to be smart in the decisions you make.

No. 12 Torrance Gibson: Yeah, I think he can. He has a lot of dedication and determination. He’s a great quarterback and a great leader, and I think he can repeat. The off-the-field could hurt a little. The politics too -- people don’t like seeing other people on top. If he keeps his head on straight, I think he’ll be fine.

No. 28 Damien Harris: I don’t think he will. Not saying he’s not a great player, as he was the best player in college football last year, but I actually have Braxton Miller winning the Heisman this year. I think he’ll win it, he’s a great quarterback. I don’t think the off-the-field should hurt Jameis, unless it’s something out-of-the-question horrible. I think Braxton will get him though.

Barnett: I think it’s a possibility. He’s an excellent athlete and a great quarterback. If he’s got a solid team at Florida State again, he will be productive. Almost every player goes through different adversities off the field, but just like Johnny Manziel did -- he’s continued to be very successful.

Texas A&M commit Jordan Davis: No. There is a lot of young talent. And if Johnny [Manziel] didn’t do it, I don’t think Jameis will. The off-the-field stuff hurt Johnny, so I think the stupid decisions Jameis made will hurt him, too, next year.

Strong encourages series with Texas A&M

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
5:18
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BRISTOL, Conn. -- Texas and Texas A&M have played 118 times, and their in-state rivalry was a longtime holiday tradition in the Lone Star State, with the teams meeting 64 times on Thanksgiving Day.

But one of the sport's most storied rivalries was a victim of conference realignment, as the Longhorns and Aggies stopped playing each other when Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC before the 2012 season.

While Texas and Texas A&M administrators have repeatedly said renewing the rivalry isn't on their front burners, new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said he wants the rivalry to resume.

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BRISTOL, Conn. - Texas and Texas A&M have played 118 times, and their in-state rivalry was a longtime holiday tradition in the Lone Star State, with the teams meeting 64 times on Thanksgiving Days.

But one of the sport's most storied rivalries was a victim of conference realignment, as the Longhorns and Aggies stopped playing each other when Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC before the 2012 season.

While Texas and Texas A&M administrators have repeatedly said renewing the rivalry isn't on their front burners, new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said he wants the rivalry to resume.

"You would like to see it happen," Strong told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "At some point it needs to happen. We need to play them."

The Longhorns and Aggies haven't played since Nov. 24, 2011, when Texas' Justin Tucker kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired for a 27-25 victory. Texas leads the all-time series, 76-37-5. The rivalry, which began in 1894, is the third-most played in FBS football.

Texas A&M is facing LSU on Thanksgiving this season. Texas is playing TCU.

Texas defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Vance Bedford, a former Longhorns cornerback, also has been outspoken about his desire to renew the series. On Jan. 30, Bedford tweeted (since deleted): "UT and the aggies should set up a schedule to play again in the future. What a great game for the state of Texas."

But there doesn't seem to be a major push from either side, at least not from those in charge of scheduling, to play the game again anytime soon. In April, Texas athletics director Steve Patterson told ESPN's Paul Finebaum that renewing the rivalry wasn't among his priorities.


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Whether you believe him or not, Alabama coach Nick Saban is playing his quarterback battle close to the vest.

You, me and everyone in between has former Florida State backup Jacob Coker taking the starting job in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but Saban isn't going to make it that easy. What Saban doesn't want is an overly confident quarterback walking into his program and screwing things up, so Saban's language makes sense.

Still, we're all pretty sure that Coker will leave fall practice ahead of Blake Sims and those youngsters who duked it out during spring practice.

While we might have it all figured out for the Crimson Tide, competition will take place next month to see who starts the opener against West Virginia on Aug. 30. And that's not the only QB battle that we'll be diving into in the coming weeks. Other teams are trying to sort things out under center heading into fall camp:

KENTUCKY

Patrick Towles vs. Drew Barker vs. Reese Phillips vs. Maxwell Smith: Coming out of spring, Towles, a redshirt sophomore, had a slight lead over everyone. He's an impressive athlete and has matured considerably since his arrival on campus. Phillips and Barker have yet to take snaps with the Wildcats in a real game, but that won't stop the coaches from throwing them in on Day 1 of the season. Barker arrived with a ton of hype and is clearly the future of the position. Smith, the quarterback with the most experience on the roster, is finally throwing again after undergoing extensive shoulder surgery before the spring. If he's healthy, he'll compete, but it looks like this really is a three-horse race right now. Advantage: Towles

LSU

Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris: Jennings ended last season with mixed reviews after replacing an injured Zach Mettenberger. And his spring got even tougher with the emergence of Harris, a true freshman. Both are incredibly inexperienced, but have that dual-threat quality that will help either this fall, as they try to run this offense. Harris really impressed his coaches and teammates this spring, and many think he might have a slight advantage. Coach Les Miles raved about him at SEC media days and praised his throwing ability, something Jennings has to work more on going forward. Advantage: Harris

TENNESSEE

Justin Worley vs. Josh Dobbs vs. Nathan Peterman: Worley is the old soul around the football complex. The senior had an up-and-down 2013 season that included thumb surgery, but left spring with a bit more confidence. Dobbs has the athleticism and upside to be a stud, but he has to get more comfortable in the pocket and mature as a passer. Peterman had limited reps this spring, causing some to think he would transfer, but he'll compete this fall for the starting job. Honestly, it's a murky situation at quarterback, but a complete overhaul of the offensive line might make it tough for any quarterback to succeed in 2014. Advantage: Worley

TEXAS A&M

Kenny Hill vs. Kyle Allen: Hill's arrest during the spring perked a lot of ears in the Allen camp, but this race is far from over. While Hill is still looking to regain trust, he has more experience than Allen, a true freshman, and knows the Aggies' offense better to this point. Both are athletic guys, but you'll see a little more running out of Hill. Allen has the potential to be a star with his throwing ability and awareness in the pocket, and might be little more polished than Hill in that category. Sumlin isn't the kind of coach who wants to shuffle his quarterbacks, a la Steve Spurrier, but he won't be afraid to play both guys this fall if he has to. Advantage: Push

VANDERBILT

Patton Robinette vs. Johnny McCrary vs. Stephen Rivers vs. Wade Freebeck: During the spring, we thought this was going to come down to Robinette and McCrary. Robinette has the only game experience on the roster at quarterback, but McCrary is a big, physical player who can make plays with his arm and legs. He might be the most athletic of the bunch and is viewed as an exciting up-and-comer. But when Rivers transferred from LSU, things changed. He only has one year to compete, and his coaches are raving about him. Coach Derek Mason also likes that he's gotten bigger since his arrival. As for Freebeck, Mason calls him "phenomenal" and is intrigued by his size. He's grown two inches (6-foot-5 now) and is up to 217 pounds. Advantage: Push
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: ESPN.com conducted a survey of the top 300 2015 football recruits, and throughout the week it's been exploring the results. This includes a look at how recruits are open to playing with gay teammates and how they would support unionization, stipends and an expanded College Football Playoff.

So which schools scored with recruits for the best food, top facilities, greatest campus atmosphere and coolest uniforms?

Video: Sumlin interested to see new QBs

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
11:40
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video
Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin breaks down his team's quarterback competition and some of the other young prospects the Aggies have heading into this season.

Gavin Stansbury leaves Texas A&M

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
7:34
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury has left the team to focus on what coach Kevin Sumlin calls "personal issues."

"While we will miss Gavin being a part of our program, there is more to life than football," Sumlin said in a statement. "We wish him the best as he focuses on the personal issues ahead of him."

Stansbury had been a starter on last season's Aggies' defensive front, playing in 10 games and recording 47 total tackles and three sacks. Sumlin did not elaborate on the personal matters Stansbury was addressing.

In April, Stansbury was arrested and charged in Harris County with misdemeanor assault after a Rice University student accused him of pouring beer on the student's head and punching him in the face. Stansbury's attorney has said the charge is a case of mistaken identity.

Sumlin also confirmed in a statement that freshman defensive back Victor Davis has been suspended from the team after his recent arrest in his hometown of Rosenberg on a shoplifting charge.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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Baylor fans were beyond excited July 15 when ESPNJr300 No. 133 Kameron Martin committed, adding more speed to the Bears program. The excitement went to a whole other level July 18 when Art Briles and staff flipped one of 2016’s best, No. 20 prospect Patrick Hudson, from Texas A&M.


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Now that you've seen the media's preseason All-SEC team, and Chris' ballot, it's time to see what I cooked up after a week of fun in Hoover, Ala.:

OFFENSE
QB: Nick Marshall, Auburn
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: Derrick Henry, Alabama
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
TE: O.J. Howard, Alabama
OL: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Corey Robinson, South Carolina
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn

DEFENSE
DL: Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Tre'Davious White, LSU
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama

SPECIALISTS
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Andre Debose, Florida
AP: Christion Jones, Alabama

East
1. South Carolina
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Missouri
5. Tennessee
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

West
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Ole Miss
4. Mississippi State
5. LSU
6. Texas A&M
7. Arkansas

SEC Champion
Alabama
The extended version of SEC media days is behind us, and we've seen the way the media voted in terms of picking the champion and the preseason All-SEC selections.

Alabama was the pick, which given our track record, might not be the best news for the Crimson Tide. As Nick Saban so willingly reminded everybody, it's not like the media has had a crystal ball lately when it comes to picking the SEC champ. Only four times in the last 22 years have the media correctly picked the SEC champion at the SEC's preseason shindig.

Maybe this is the year we start the kind of streak John Wooden would be proud of. Here's a look at the selections from SEC media days this year.

Below is my own ballot, and Edward will unveil his later today after he finishes breaking down tape from all of the World Cup matches (or are they games?).

OFFENSE
QB: Nick Marshall, Auburn
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn

DEFENSE
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Trey DePriest, Alabama
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

SPECIALISTS
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Marcus Murphy, Missouri
AP: Christion Jones, Alabama

EAST
1. South Carolina
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Missouri
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

WEST
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Mississippi State
4. LSU
5. Ole Miss
6. Texas A&M
7 Arkansas

SEC CHAMPION
Alabama
Roughly one out of every five players on Thursday's Doak Walker Award watch list comes from the SEC.

The conference did not have a finalist for the award, which goes to the top running back in college football, last season, as winner Andre Williams of Boston College and finalists Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) and Bishop Sankey (Washington) hailed from the ACC and Pac-12. And of the 10 semifinalists, only Auburn's Tre Mason and South Carolina's Mike Davis came from the SEC.

That could easily change this season since the league is brimming with star-caliber tailbacks, as evidenced by the 11 SEC backs on the Doak Walker watch list, led by the two players whom the media selected to its preseason All-SEC first team this week at media days: Todd Gurley of Georgia and T.J. Yeldon of Alabama.

Here is the full list of 11 SEC candidates out of the 53 total players on the watch list:

Tra Carson, Texas A&M
Alex Collins, Arkansas
Mike Davis, South Carolina
Todd Gurley, Georgia
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Terrence Magee, LSU
Josh Robinson, Mississippi State
Kelvin Taylor, Florida
Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
Trey Williams, Texas A&M
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

SEC Media Days Live (10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET)

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
8:00
AM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 
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HOOVER, Ala. -- In a move to further protect players from dangerous hits, the SEC has defined a "strike zone" from below the neck to above the knees in which an unabated defender may attempt to tackle an "offensive player in a passing posture."

"This is a player safety issue," said Steve Shaw, the SEC's coordinator of officials.

Shaw, who spoke at SEC media days Wednesday, said the rule to protect quarterbacks from being hit below the knees will be enforced regardless of whether the hit occurs inside or outside the pocket. A penalty will not be called, however, if a defender is blocked into the quarterback.

"When a player is under his own power, he's directing his hit and he chooses to go low, that is going to be a foul," Shaw said.

"This rule change, I think, will create the player behavior change."

Shaw also touched on last season's controversial targeting penalty in his address, calling it "the biggest change of my officiating career."

Last season, the NCAA changed the penalty for targeting defenseless players with hits to the head by adding an ejection to the 15-yard penalty.

"What were the results of that?" he said. "Well, first of all, let me say we simply had to change player behavior for the good of the game. I believe we started to see this type of player behavior change that we were looking for."

Shaw said "the trend is good," citing fewer targeting penalties in the second half of last season. Shaw said 14 targeting calls were made in the first eight weeks last season and only five after that.

One change to the rule is that both the ejection and 15-yard penalty can be overturned if officials decide upon review that the foul was incorrectly called.

Shaw did point out, though, that the 15-yard penalty will stand if another foul occurs on the same play.


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Sumlin Interested To See New QBs
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin breaks down his team's quarterback competition and some of the other young prospects the Aggies have heading into this season.
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