- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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DESTIN, Fla. -- The new guys on the block are always going to be subjected to some sort of initiation process. You have to earn your stripes.
For Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, he's still wearing that moniker despite going 20-6 during his first two years with the Aggies -- Texas A&M's first two seasons in their new home in the SEC.
But Sumlin keeps reminding people that while he's had some early success, he still carries himself like a newbie, and so he talks like one as well.
That's why when he was asked earlier this spring about having to start the 2014 season against South Carolina, the Aggies' new permanent cross-division rival, he stuck to saying that it didn't really matter what his feelings were on the matter because he's still the new guy.
On Tuesday, Sumlin was asked again about opening with South Carolina, and he laughed off the idea about having much of an opinion about walking into Williams-Brice Stadium on Aug. 28.
“Doesn’t matter how I feel," Sumlin said. "We’re playing them the first game.”
When asked if he wanted any input on playing the Gamecocks -- and playing them in Week 1, no less -- Sumlin filled the room with more bellowing laughs, but hinted at a little frustration with having to face the Gamecocks right off the bat.
“Would I rather not go on the road the first game? The first year we went, what, five out of six weeks straight on the road? Hopefully in the next couple of years we’ll stop being the new guy,” he said.
All sarcastic laughing aside, Sumlin is focusing as much as he can on South Carolina. One thing that's caught his eye -- or ears -- is the fact that Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has been relatively silent when talking about his team. Despite losing Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw and a handful of talented players on the defensive side of the ball, South Carolina will no doubt be a top-15 team to open the season and a favorite to win the SEC East, and Sumlin is well aware of that.
“A new challenge and we better get it going pretty quick because Coach Spurrier has been pretty quiet," Sumlin said. "That means he thinks they’re pretty good. I’ve been around long enough to know that. He thinks they’re pretty good, and they are pretty good.”
One guy who won't be making the opening trip with the Aggies is former superstar quarterback Johnny Manziel. The former Heisman Trophy winner was a major part of Sumlin's rise at Texas A&M, but he's now with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL.
Manziel might be in norther pastures now, but that didn't stop Sumlin from talking about him. After pictures surfaced from Manziel's recent trip to Las Vegas, Sumlin was jokingly asked if he had a better Memorial Day weekend than Manziel.
Sumlin smiled and said that while he wasn't partying it up like his former quarterback, he did take his two sons to the Indianapolis 500, which has become an annual tradition for Sumlin.
“We had a great time," Sumlin said. "I wasn’t in Vegas, but my sons will tell you we had a pretty good time, too.”
Now, Sumlin is meeting with coaches in a relatively relaxed atmosphere barely 100 yards away from a pristine beach. What a rough life.
2hMark Schlabach and Sharon Katz