COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The countdown to Texas A&M's first Southeastern Conference season officially began on Friday, as Kevin Sumlin and several Aggies players met with the media before their first practice of the year.
Sumlin, who is in his first year with the Aggies after spending the last four as the head coach at Houston, said there are no butterflies for him but there's an excitement and an edge for the coaching staff to get things going.
"No butterflies, just excitement," Sumlin said. "Particularly in a new job and a new situation. ... I think it's all of our staff. We have a new staff and you saw guys yesterday starting to get edgy a little bit as coaches. We've only had 15 practices with these guys. So the 29 opportunities that we have before the first game, we've got to maximize those opportunities to get ready to play a very difficult schedule."
That schedule includes games against five teams ranked in the top 25 of the preseason coaches' poll and eight total that are either ranked or received votes. Sumlin said there will definitely be a learning curve as the Aggies navigate their first SEC season.
"We haven't seen them and they haven't seen us. It's pretty simple," Sumlin said. "There's a learning curve for everybody. We've approached it in the same way since we've been here as an SEC job and an SEC program. So for us the transition is probably a little bit different than it is for everybody else because we weren't here last year. I think there's going to be a learning curve for us obviously just like everybody else. I said that a long time ago. There's only so much you can see on video."
Some noteworthy items that emerged from media day:
• Sumlin said that the quarterback competition is wide open and includes all four scholarship quarterbacks: Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel, Matt Joeckel and Matt Davis. The timetable for when the staff decides a starter could vary.Troy Taormina/US Presswire
Linebacker Sean Porter is impressed by his new coach's enthusiasm.
"We will name a starter as late as two weeks before the first game and maybe by Sunday," Sumlin said. "Whenever we feel like somebody has clearly surfaced."
• Senior receiver Ryan Swope, who broke school records last season in catches and receiving yards, said he's excited to be a part of the Aggies' new up-tempo, spread offense.
"What they did at Houston was an incredible offense and a great scheme," Swope said. "I'm excited just to learn new knowledge and absorb the coaching. We've got great coaches on the staff and with a great offense and a fast tempo, it'll be interesting to see how these defenses adapt to that fast-tempo offense. As a senior on this football team, I'm thrilled to play for these guys, can't wait to come back and win games with this new coaching staff."
• As for the offseason, the tempo has also been increased there, according to senior linebacker Sean Porter. New director of sports performance Larry Jackson has increased the intensity of workouts, Porter said.
"The major difference is that we go faster," Porter said. "Before it was kind of at your own pace, you lifted weights at your own pace. Now, everything is all fast speed, it simulates the game. He tries to crank it up a little bit. It's high intensity, that's probably the biggest difference from last year."
• Porter also said that one of the biggest things that stands out to him about Sumlin is his enthusiasm.
"It's his first year and a lot of coaches I know would come in in their first year and try to rebuild and be like 'I'm starting over, it's my first year, I've just got to get through it,'" Porter said. "Coach Sumlin's not like that at all. He's ready to win right now. He knows that we have a lot of athletes on this team and that if we can put it all together, we can see a lot of wins. That's what has impressed me the most about him. He has a good expectation of our team. He doesn't expect us to lose. He wants us to be good right now."
• Freshman running back Trey Williams, who was the nation's fifth-ranked high school running back in the 2012 recruiting class, has gained weight this offseason. "I was a little bit surprised," Sumlin said of Williams, the Spring (Texas) Dekaney product. "He was 185 pounds this morning. For a little guy, he's put together."
A couple of personnel notes:
Sumlin said he is still awaiting word from the NCAA on the eligibility status of running back Brandon Williams. Williams, who transferred to Texas A&M from Oklahoma, applied for a hardship waiver in order to be eligible this season rather than sit out the year, which is customary under NCAA transfer rules for players who transfer from one Football Bowl Subdivision school to another. As for when he might hear word on Williams, Sumlin said, "That's up to the NCAA. ... It'll probably be pretty soon."
One of the Aggies 2012 signees, Edmond Ray, did not qualify academically and will be headed to junior college. Ray was a 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive lineman from St. Louis (Mo.) Ritenour High. Also, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly defensive lineman Alonzo Williams is on campus with the rest of the freshmen but is still awaiting certification from the NCAA.
Sophomore offensive lineman Ben Compton posted on his Twitter page on Thursday that he would be moving from center to guard. Compton spent the spring at center and he enters camp behind senior center Patrick Lewis on the depth chart. When asked about Compton, Sumlin said: "We'll see. He'll still snap for us. We've got to find a backup center though, obviously." True freshman Mike Matthews, younger brother of Jake Matthews, could also be a center candidate.
Sumlin said that sophomore running back Will Randolph has decided to leave the program and will transfer. Though Randolph's destination is unknown, Sumlin said the decision was mutual.