The first few press conference weeks are normally too boring to cover. Unfortunately, the off-season parade made its way into the game with Johnny's return, and the ensuing self-righteous media coverage of Johnny's antics ensured that we had to cover every little detail said today.
Let's start from the football side of things - you know, the important side - and then address the claptrap.
I want to start off with one of my favorite pieces from the presser at the top; Coach Sumlin addressing the Silver Taps this evening which will include Polo's family. If you are in the area, I hope you make time to attend.
"The other thing I wanted to mention is, for many people in this room they know what Silver Taps is all about, but nationally it may not be recognized. The first Tuesday of the month, Silver Taps is a ceremony that recognizes (students) that have passed away. Tonight at 10:30 is Silver Taps for Polo and his family. At the game there were 30 to 50 family members. As I expressed to his family and his mother, once you're part of the Aggie Family you're always part of the Aggie Family. And Silver Taps will recognize that tonight."
Over the weekend I wrote an article on the Deshazor Everett suspension and GBH became intimately involved with the #FreeDeshazor movement. Sadly, what I pointed at then was confirmed today by Coach Sumlin. There is no appeals process, and Deshazor will be sitting out the first half of the SHSU game. The only review is done in the booth, and they determine whether or not an ejection should take place.
Sumlin's feeling is that this is what it is, and the players will have to hit lower. Mark Snyder also commented stating that the defensive players are all aware of the new rules, and has taught them that they need to strike lower and wrap up. He also knows that he and the team need to work on tackling drills. Per Mark Snyder:
"We've been focusing quite a bit on it already. Obviously it'll be a point of emphasis. But when guys are trying to get lined up, strike a target, disengage ... I'm not making excuses for them, but there was a lot going on. Their back was pretty big - and we'll see big backs this week. Some of it will come. Everybody was missing tackles across college football. It's the evil of early games because you don't tackle a lot in practice. Will we work on it? Without a doubt."
Coach Sumlin revealed that he knew for the last two weeks about the two game suspensions that a litany of players faced after violating team rules, and that a plan was in place to handle it. The younger players practiced more, but obviously aren't experienced with the tempo that comes with playing in real games.
In total, there were 16 true freshman playing on Saturday. 11 of those players were on defense, and although they gained some valuable reps, having seasoned guys back on the field, uninjured, for the Alabama game will be even more valuable. Currently, all of the suspended defensive players are practicing with the twos.
Matt Joeckel's Start
Matt Joeckel spoke to the media about his start today against Rice. Joeckel was notified that he would be the starter on Friday afternoon, and he was more nervous during the week about starting than he was with actually playing in the game. He and the coaching staff were happy about his performance. Clarence McKinney felt that Matt did a terrific job of managing the game, and that he can depend on Joeckel to lead the offense when needed.
Sumlin noted that he doesn't intend for Kenny Hill to keep his redshirt on all year. He originally thought of playing both Hill and Joeckel in the first half, but felt Joeckel was playing extremely well, and deserved to finish out the half.
Preparing for Sam Houston
The coaches are obviously aware of what Sam Houston is bringing with them next weekend. Back-to-back FCS championship appearances, and putting up 49 points in the first half of their 74-0 rout of Houston Baptist University. What is more important is how the players are preparing. With the game against Alabama being two weeks away, the fear is that the players will look past a strong FCS opponent. Ben Malena quieted my worries this afternoon:
"You can look at the game last year and tell they're not a team to be messed with. They went to the national championship game two years in a row and, if you're not ready for them, they'll come out and beat you. We'll be prepared."
The week two press conference kicked off with new fan favorite, punter Drew Kaser. His impressive outing on Saturday showed that he is an asset to the young Texas A&M defense. Drew was filled with adrenaline on Saturday, and in his first outing he kicked a 76-yard punt, almost all of it in the air, and now holds the record for the 6th largest punt in school history. When asked if he was surprised by the punt, Drew responded:
"No. I know I'm capable of doing things. I've done them in practice. I was game-hyped and had some adrenaline going too. I don't think it was too much of a shock, but it definitely felt great."
The questions many were waiting to ask surrounded Johnny and his antics on Saturday. Most of the media wanted to know why they haven't been given the opportunity to ask Manziel in a press conference, and Sumlin came prepared to answer. When he was asked about why he has been keeping Johnny from the media again, Sumlin responded:
"He's done a lot of media, December, January, SEC Media Days in the biggest media - I won't say circus - deal there is and talked like he did ... it's important now based on where he is that his focus is to be our quarterback and a student athlete. That's his biggest challenge right now, not to be here. That's me. This is college football, not pro football. That will be coming, but certainly right now I don't think - we don't think - it's the right time."
I think that was the right answer. Johnny isn't a professional, but certainly is being treated by the media like he should be one. When questioned on why they should care at all about his off the field life, most media members start pointing at the taunting and ignoring of his coach. Sumlin jumped right in to deny that there was any such disrespecting of him from Manziel.
"It's kind of amazing to me. He came off the field and I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to. They weren't questions. They were direct statements that I can't repeat right now. What amazes me is the perception that he ignored me. The worst thing that could have happened is for him to reply, based on what I told him. People saying he doesn't listen to his coach and there's no discipline in this program, they're not around this program."
He added more to this later in the presser:
"Why isn't he talking? Coming in here and saying words isn't going to change some people's opinions about who he is. That's my job as a coach, to prepare him and keep his energy positive, channel that energy and that emotion and make it positive. At the appropriate time he'll be able to speak for himself."
I'm hoping that some people will start eating a bit of crow this week, but I sincerely doubt it. Even if they do admit that maybe, just maybe, Coach Sumlin does have control over his program, they will never admit that the taunting/hand signs were no big deal. Coach Sumlin, Ben Malena and even Drew Kaser were asked about hand signs during the presser, and all of them said pretty much the same thing - Who Cares?:
Sumlin on Hand Signs:
"A lot of things are being made out of some things that went on last year. I had somebody come in and ask me about some money signal, whatever. Same thing he did last year.
A couple other players around the country are doing that. But when he does it? It's an issue. Has he painted himself into a box with things like that? Probably. But at some point his actions on the field have to show where he is, and nobody wants to be successful as much as he does. Nobody's going to practice harder than he is. These guys understand that."
Drew Kaser gave us something to look forward to regarding future hand-signs. I for one can't wait to see it:
No. I do a little shake-and-bake with Taylor. It hasn't come out yet. We're waiting for the right moment for it to come out. A little magic man, El Diablo action there. It's going to come out, I guarantee you.
Everyone with a microphone wanted to apply meaning to the gesture. They all thought it showed disrespect to his team, the NCAA, and to all babies that have been or will be born during his time as quarterback on this earth. Ben Malena laid it straight, and let them know what the hand sign really means:
"It doesn't have a significant meaning. It's just a fun gesture we made up and it gets everyone going. It doesn't mean (show me the money). We do it because we think it's fun."
I don't think it gets more simple than that. Kids are going to be kids, players are going to play, and no matter what we do the offseason won't escape us. Even Coach Sumlin realizes the truth of the situation and how ridiculous it has gotten:
Like I said, I'm shocked. I shouldn't be shocked by anything anymore. But people have got to talk about something. Of all the things there are to talk about in this program, that is probably the last thing that needs to be talked about. I just told you what happened - and I didn't think twice about it.
Hopefully the media will stop this circus, but I doubt it. The saddest part about most media members is that they hang on to this notion that Manziel made himself a target, and deserves the criticism. I don't think they have ever sat down in an honest moment and thought about whether or not the shooter is actually at fault. I really can't say anything better than Ben Malena did in four words:
@onlyoneSP bro they trippin lol— Ben King Malena™ (@King1Malena) September 3, 2013