Aggies pushing aside distractions ... again

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
10:30
AM ET
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.

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