Texas A&M Aggies: SEC
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is not one to hold back his emotions. He's a very engaging person, both on and off the field, but his actions away from the gridiron can sometimes get him in trouble.
Especially with that blessing and curse known simply as Twitter.
According to a report by the Dallas Morning News, Manziel's Twitter personality (@JManziel2) sparked some controversy over the weekend when the reigning Heisman Trophy winner tweeted, "Bulls--- like tonight is a reason why I can't wait to leave college station...whenever it may be," early Sunday morning.
The tweet was quickly deleted, but Manziel followed up with this:
"Don't ever forget that I love A&M with all of my heart, but please please walk a day in my shoes."
An A&M spokesman said he didn't expect any sort of statement from Manziel about the tweets.
Although we don't know why Manziel decided to tweet his frustrations out to his 360,000-plus followers, maybe it's time for Manziel, who is juggling being a full-time quarterback and celebrity, to lie low until August rolls around. Maybe he doesn't need to bathe in the limelight as much for a little while.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with Manziel being the big man on campus. There's also nothing wrong with him being a big fish in A&M's little pond, but he has to realize that he's in an age when celebrities are monitored more and more. Everyone has a cellphone and anyone can read your tweets. One's narcissism is more readily available to the public like never before.
While Manziel is part of A&M's university, he has to make himself fit.
Manziel has to decide whether he's Johnny Football or a celebrity first. The thing that makes Manziel so fascinating to watch is that he's created his celebrity image through actual skill. He was relatively unknown before he was arrested last summer and charged with disorderly conduct and having a fake ID. At the time, most people thought he had squandered any hopes of being A&M's starting quarterback.
Five months later, Manziel was a college football rock star and the first freshman to win the Heisman.
Then, he started showing up everywhere. From late-night TV to the Super Bowl, Manziel's face was all over the place. Again, there's nothing wrong with that, but you have to be careful.
Tim Tebow didn't even garner this sort of attention, and he spent four years on Florida's campus. Sure, he was the most loved/hated player in the game, but he didn't have the off-field celebrity status Manziel has. He had no Twitter account to spout off on, and most of his vacations consisted of mission trips.
Also, Tebow arrived at Florida with a mountain of hype on his shoulders. He was one of the best high school players around, so he had been dealing with fame long before Manziel did and was properly prepared.
But that's not Manziel's fault. No one, including himself, thought he'd blow up like he did. It was great to watch, but if Manziel isn't careful with this whole celebrity persona, he could tumble in 2013.
A colleague brought up a very interesting point about Manziel: He has to decide whether he's Kanye West or Kim Kardashian. Kanye built his fame on being an amazing artist and producer while also having the bravado to tick people off. Kanye can be a certifiable jerk, but his credibility is never questioned because he's great at his craft: music. He can get away with his antics because when he goes into the studio, he cuts gold. Kim made her fame off much less and has to constantly be in the public eye or else she'll fade into nonexistence.
Manziel has that Kanye vibe about him when it comes to his craft, but he has to continue to cut gold on the field or he'll fade.
Manziel has so much going for him on the football field that his days in College Station are likely dwindling. He just has to make it to August and then through the season.
Maybe it's time for him to focus on the Aggies side of things and scale back his celebrity image. I'm not saying he shouldn't go out and have fun, but he could slow down a bit. If he doesn't want the attention, he can avoid it. He might be the biggest person in College Station, but he can hide if he really wants to.
If Manziel's celebrity stature outweighs football, people will turn on him in a way that I don't think he's ready for. Our society is good at building people up, but it's even better at breaking them down.
College football prognosticator Phil Steele continues his look at the top depth charts around the country. Today, we're looking at his top running back depth charts .
Steele has three SEC teams on his list, with Georgia taking his top spot. Alabama is No. 2, while Texas A&M is 14th.
It's hard to argue against having Georgia No. 1. The Bulldogs bring back the top one-two rushing punch in Todd Gurley, who led SEC running backs with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, and slasher Keith Marshall. The duo combined for 2,144 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. There isn't much behind these two, but they did just fine with the majority of the carries last year.
As for the Aggies, they're also very deep at running back. Leading rusher Ben Malena (808 yards) is back, and he'll be working with some younger but very talented teammates. Brandon Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma, has the potential to be very special. Then you have Oregon transfer Tra Carson and sophomore Trey Williams. There is a lot of speed and athleticism in Texas A&M's running back stable.
I'd also keep an eye on Florida, LSU and Ole Miss this fall. The Gators will be led by sophomore Matt Jones, who had a very good spring and should pick up right where Mike Gillislee left off. He'll also get help from redshirt junior Mack Brown, who left spring as the No. 2 back, and freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane. Taylor had a good spring and Lane should come in and help right away.
LSU might have made Steele's list if Jeremy Hill wasn't suspended from the team. Hill's recent arrest has his future at LSU in doubt, but if he plays this fall he'll be one of the league's best. Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue are nothing to sneeze at. Both have shown flashes in the past and Blue should be healed from a knee injury that cost him most of his 2012 season. Losing Hill will really hurt, but the Tigers have a solid duo in Hilliard and Blue to work with.
Ole Miss returns rushing leader Jeff Scott and a talented bunch of youngsters. Scott is a solid all-purpose-type back, while sophomores I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton came on strong late last year and this spring. True freshman Mark Dodson will get his chance to see the field as well after a strong spring.
Months later, they proved to be two of the hottest things associated with the sport. Sumlin helped lead the Aggies to a stunning 11-2 season and watched as his quarterback -- Johnny Manziel -- became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
But with that success has come more attention thrown the Aggies' way, especially Sumlin. He told the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday that he's had opportunities to take his coaching talents to the NFL. The article even states that Sumlin was offered by the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and Auburn after the stellar season he and his Aggies had.
However, Sumlin is still in College Station, and it doesn't sound like he's leaving anytime soon.
"Maybe later — some time later," Sumlin said of the chances on him heading for the NFL. "But it won't be anytime soon. My family likes living here and I like living here. Heck, we just got here. People ask me to respond to the (NFL talk), and I say, 'You've got to be kidding me.' Because I remember what was being said at this time a year ago.
"I didn't really respond to that last year, and there's no reason to respond to this now."
One reason Sumlin isn't looking to skip town is that he isn't quite satisfied with the job he's done with the Aggies. Sure, last year was a special season for the program, but Texas A&M was still behind Alabama and LSU in the SEC Western Division.
All that razzle-dazzle for third place.
This program has far more than third place on its mind.
It would have been easy for Sumlin to bolt for the NFL or a more high-profile college job, but he decided to stick with the Aggies. In fact, he probably didn't decide anything. He knew where he wanted to be.
Sumlin's name will continue to come up in NFL circles, but he has unfinished business to take care of at A&M.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The SEC is up today.Biggest obstacle: When it comes to recruiting in the SEC, the biggest obstacle arguably comes from within. No conference recruits as consistently strong from top to bottom as the SEC and the margin for error is very small. From 2006 through 2013, the SEC has had no fewer than six programs finish within the top 25 of the class rankings in any given year, and the 2013 final class rankings saw all 14 teams finish in the top 40, including 10 in the top 25. A program could be having good success on the recruiting trail and still find itself in the middle or even the back of the pack. Mississippi State, for example, finished with the 25th-ranked class this past cycle only to finish 10th within its own conference.
Being able to recruit as a member of the SEC brings with it many benefits, but as a result of that there are no weak links among SEC teams on the recruiting trail. Alabama has posted back-to-back top-ranked classes and a group that includes programs such as Florida, Georgia and LSU are usually top 10-15 staples, if not top class contenders themselves year in and year out. Other programs within the SEC have shown the ability to have success and even make a big impact as well. Ole Miss this past cycle broke from the pack to land a top-five class that included the nation's top-ranked prospect (Robert Nkemdiche). Even Vanderbilt, long considered a back-of-the-pack staple, made a surge on the recruiting trail as well under the direction of James Franklin and finished with a top-25 class for 2013.
Competition on the recruiting trail is tough all over, but in the SEC it has proved to be extremely fierce and a class that would be great in any other conference simply might not be good enough as a member of this conference.
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No. 13 Mike Evans
Redshirt sophomore receiver
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Now, after magical 11-2 campaign that saw the Aggies blow away outsider expectations, some wonder whether the Aggies could win the conference or even win a national championship.
GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. takes a look at the factors that could help the Aggies in their journey and some of the concerns that could prevent it from happening with some statistical analysis sprinkled in.
Read the full story here
Here's what he's looked at so far:
Now, we're taking a look at Kiper's top quarterback and cornerback draft prospects. We'll start with the quarterbacks and look at the corners later today.
Manziel is getting all sorts of draft attention after his record-breaking, Heisman-winning season. He's the most talked about quarterback in the country and while he doesn't have an elite arm, he's extremely athletic and slippery. He's looking to develop more into a passer, but his ability to improv will continue to help him when his arm can't.
McCarron is someone who could have left for the NFL this year, but decided to stay in school. He makes great decisions with the ball (he threw 30 touchdowns to three interceptions last season) and certainly knows how to win. He has two national championship rings and is going for his third straight. He hasn't been asked to do a lot at Alabama, but he's put up some pretty good numbers and is easily the most talented quarterback Saban has had at Alabama.
Wallace has a tremendous amount of athleticism, but he had a lot of decision-making issues last year. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards, but threw 22 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Fixing his turnover issue is the biggest thing Wallace has to work on this fall. He has good arm strength and can get out of trouble situations with his feet.
Then you have Murray, who isn't getting a lot of draft love. He flirted with heading to the NFL, but also decided to stay in school. Murray's height (listed at 6-1) has hurt his draft status, but he has a solid arm, moves around well with his feet and has really improved his decision making. He had the stigma of not coming up in big games, but showed improvements in 2012 with his second-half effort in the Dawgs' win against Florida and with the way he played against Alabama in the SEC championship game. He'll probably end the 2013 season with a handful of SEC/Georgia records and should become the first SEC quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in four straight seasons.
Other draft-eligible quarterbacks I'm keeping an eye on this fall:
- Jeff Driskel, Florida: He wasn't great last year, but there's no denying Driskel has talent. He's more comfortable with the playbook, and he has a lot more confidence. He must have more command and develop better chemistry with his receivers this fall.
- James Franklin, Missouri: He spent most of last season battling injuries, but finally isn't dealing with excruciating shoulder pain. His confidence was up this spring and that will go a long way this fall.
- Zach Mettenberger, LSU: He really came along in November and has all of his receiving targets back. People at LSU feel like he's much more comfortable with Cam Cameron's guidance.
- Tyler Russell, Mississippi State: He's had an up-and-down career with the Bulldogs, but when he was on last year he was extremely efficient. He lost all of his receivers from last year and can't press like he did late last season.
- Connor Shaw, South Carolina: It's hard to find a tougher quarterback out there. Shaw has dealt with a lot of injuries, but when he's been on the field, he's had a lot of success. Here's a chance for him to really improve his draft stock.
The first day to mark off the calendar is Thursday, when his Parkway team scrimmages Alexandria (La.) Senior High to conclude spring drills. He'll play in front of coaches from several major colleges. At the end of the scrimmage, sometime around 7 p.m, he'll announce which six schools he plans on visiting this summer.
"It's going to be a big day," he said. "I can't wait."
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Alabama Crimson Tide
What they are selling: What's not to sell? Alabama is coming off back-to-back national championships, and the Crimson Tide had nine players taken in April's NFL draft, including three in the first round. For the critics who say you won't play early at UA, ask T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper how much they contributed as freshmen.
What they are missing: Although they won a national championship, the Tide didn't generate much pass rush last fall, and they had trouble containing freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Also, they need to rebuild the offensive line, a unit that anchored the offense last year.
What they are selling: New head coach Bret Bielema runs a completely different offensive system than the previous two Arkansas coaches. The Razorbacks are selling an opportunity for freshmen to come in and earn playing time early in their careers.
What they are missing: The Razorbacks signed only one offensive lineman, Denver Kirkland, who was rated a four-star prospect or higher last year. In this run-heavy system, look for Arkansas to focus on landing talented players along the offensive line.
What they are selling: It's a new regime for Auburn, but there's a familiar face running the show. New head coach Gus Malzahn knows the program from his days as offensive coordinator. He's already shown the ability to recruit, stealing ESPN 150 linebacker Tre Williams away from the Tide. There's a sense of excitement on The Plains again.
What they are missing: Malzahn filled out his first recruiting class with playmakers, but Auburn needs to build up front on the offensive and defensive lines. No matter what offense you run, if you want to win in the SEC, you need to be able to compete up in the trenches.
What they are selling: With no proven wide receivers on the perimeter, Florida is attempting to sell early playing time at the position. A chance to play for one of the best defensive minds in college football in Will Muschamp is another selling point to defensive prospects.
What they are missing: Production on offense. After finishing 114th nationally in passing offense, it will be hard to sell playing time to wide receivers without an explosive passing game in place.
What they are selling: Freshmen, if they're good enough, play early at Georgia. From running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to offensive tackle John Theus to defensive end Jordan Jenkins, several freshmen Bulldogs made major contributions on a team that was a few yards away from making the national championship game.
What they are missing: Georgia has brought in four top-12 recruiting classes in the last four years. Depth might become an issue for some recruits, but Georgia has certainly shown a willingness to play younger players.
What they are selling: After finishing 2-10, Kentucky fired coach Joker Phillips. New head coach Mark Stoops is offering a fresh start and a chance to help build Kentucky in to a contender in the SEC East.
What they are missing: Plain and simple -- tradition. Sure, Kentucky is full of basketball tradition, but the success on the hardwood completely overshadows the football program. A record 50,831 fans attended the Wildcats' spring game, so the interest level is certainly headed in the right direction.
What they are selling: An unprecedented 10 underclassmen declared for the NFL draft. LSU is selling the opportunity, not only for early playing time because of the departures, but a chance to make it to the NFL in three years.
What they are missing: Because of all the departures, there are some holes on both sides of the ball. Depth is now an issue at running back and LSU will need to replace Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and linebacker Kevin Minter.
Ole Miss Rebels
What they are selling: Ole Miss landed the No. 5-ranked class in the country, including No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche and No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Look for Ole Miss to sell recruits on the opportunity to help build something special under head coach Hugh Freeze.
What they are missing: Freeze brought a creative and innovative offense to the SEC, but the defense is still a work in progress. Ole Miss finished 12th in the SEC in pass defense and will need to continue to build depth in order to compete for the SEC West championship.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
What they are selling: Only 11 of 22 starters return for a team that finished 8-5 last year. The Bulldogs offer recruits a chance to play early and play in the best division in college football.
What they are missing: Mississippi State returns its starting quarterback Tyler Russell, but who will he be throwing to? Last year's four leading receivers, including Chad Bumphis, are gone. Look for the Bulldogs to focus on offensive weapons in this recruiting class.
What they are selling: The Tigers return 14 of 22 starters on a team that went 5-7 in its first year in the SEC East. Missouri runs a fun and innovative offense that is sure to attract recruits, and there is certainly an opportunity to play early.
What they are missing: The defensive line is probably the most critical area on any defense in the SEC, and the Tigers lost their best lineman in Sheldon Richardson. Mizzou must find a viable replacement for Richardson and linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner.
South Carolina Gamecocks
What they are selling: The Gamecocks have been dominant on defense over the last few years, and a strong line is a big part of their success. South Carolina is selling an opportunity to be the next Jadeveon Clowney and be a part of one of the top defenses in the SEC.
What they are missing: Hard to believe, but head coach Steve Spurrier needs help at wide receiver. The Gamecocks signed only one wide receiver in their 2013 class. They have young bodies, but not much depth or production from the returning group.
What they are selling: A fresh start under new head coach Butch Jones. Since 2011, Tennessee has finished with the No. 13, 21 and 29 recruiting classes in the country. There plenty of holes to fill, and any incoming freshman will have plenty of opportunities to earn a starting spot.
What they are missing: Tennessee lost wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to the NFL draft and must replace their production on the outside. The Volunteers are also thin in the secondary and will look to recruiting to plug some key holes on defense.
Texas A&M Aggies
What they are selling: There is a lot to sell a recruit on at Texas A&M right now. An explosive offense which led the SEC in total offense by more than 100 yards a game, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and a team that went into Tuscaloosa and handed Alabama its only loss last season.
What they are missing: There are still some holes to fill on defense. The Aggies finished with the No. 8-ranked defense in the SEC and the No. 10-ranked pass defense in the league. They also need to replace talented defensive end Damontre Moore, who is now in the NFL.
What they are selling: Head coach James Franklin has taken Vanderbilt to a bowl in two consecutive years, and the Commodores are bringing in a solid recruiting class. Selling recruits on an opportunity to play at Vanderbilt during one of the best eras in the school's football history is enticing to high school recruits.
What they are missing: Vanderbilt is not yet on par with other SEC schools as far as facilities. The Commodores, though, are certainly headed in the right direction. A new indoor practice facility is being constructed, and stadium renovations are in the planning stages.