SEC: Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies just completed a massive renovation of the first floor of the Bright Football Complex, where the football team is headquartered, and the project includes some sparkling new locker rooms that resemble a nightclub as much as it does a football facility. The 36,000-square foot renovation, which includes a barbershop and flatscreen televisions in the mirrors, is part of a $32 million improvement of the Bright Complex.
The new Lohman Center lobby inside of Bright, which cost $4 million, and the R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center ($12 million), where the athletes eat, were completed last year. The other $16 million is allotted for the new locker rooms, training rooms and meeting rooms (seen below) as well as the third-floor coaches offices, which will begin renovation next February with a scheduled July 2015 completion.
Here's a brief video tour of the finished product:
The locker room itself is large and the lockers have a sleek design:
Texas A&M unveiled their new locker rooms this week. In a word, they're...impressive pic.twitter.com/faE0aihMAe— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) July 31, 2014
A glance at Texas A&M's new locker rooms: pic.twitter.com/lXC2oCPlEI— ESPN Texas A&M (@ESPNTAMU) July 31, 2014
Above each player's locker is a digital display with player's name, position, hometown and Twitter handle: pic.twitter.com/u84hPwdKUt— ESPN Texas A&M (@ESPNTAMU) July 31, 2014
And there is a barbershop inside the locker room. No, I'm not joking:
The thing that stood out the most to me about Texas A&M's new locker room? Probably the barbershop. pic.twitter.com/Gt8TjZNgbp— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) July 31, 2014
TVs in the bathroom mirrors? TVs in the bathroom mirrors.
Oh, and there are flatscreen TVs inside the bathroom mirrors of the Aggies new locker room, too. pic.twitter.com/XrdpsTplJP— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) July 31, 2014
Here is a look at the "wet area" where players have a hot tub (that reaches over 100 degrees) and a cold tub (that dips into the low-50s):
The positional meeting rooms were renovated as well:
So was the training room:
Here's a look at the reconstructed Hagner Auditorium, where team meetings happen:
Needless to say, the reaction from the Texas A&M players is one of amazement. Junior punter Drew Kaser:
The new lockeroom, all I can say is WOW, just WOW— Drew Kaser (@drewkaser) July 31, 2014
Alabama, coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 2008, was ranked No. 2 behind defending champ Florida State. Auburn, fresh off an SEC championship, came in at No. 5.
Neither the Crimson Tide nor the Tigers received a first-place vote from the coaches surveyed, which included Bret Bielema, Les Miles, Mark Richt, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, and Kevin Sumlin of the SEC. The Seminoles, on the other hand, garnered 56 of the 62 total first-place votes.
South Carolina (9), Georgia (12), LSU (13), Ole Miss (19) and Texas A&M (20) also made the Top 25 from the SEC, which saw its total selections in the preseason Top 25 poll rise from six to seven this year. However, the SEC saw its numbers in the top 10 drop from five to three.
Missouri led all teams not in the Top 25 in votes received with 126. Mississippi State (74) and Arkansas (1) were also listed as having received votes in the preseason poll.
No, it's not the sound of former LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson making it rain with his new $70 million contract extension.
That sound you hear is another kind of excitement.
Football is here. Sort of.
Fall camp in the SEC gets going this afternoon at Mississippi State and will kick off at Auburn and Alabama tomorrow.
So, to celebrate, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban took his players out on the lake. Enjoy.
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming and a look around the rest of the conference.
- "Everything gets lumped into one bucket," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin lamented. The Aggies have had a tough offseason and Sumlin believes his players' off-field problems have been judged somewhat unfairly. (An aside, coach: It's not a saying but it should be, "The police blotter don't lie.")
- Tough news for former Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams. The Seattle Seahawk, fresh off an entire rookie season spent on the injured reserve list, was carted off of the practice field with a leg injury. The Monstar, as he likes to be called, has a history of knee problems. Here's to a speedy recovery for the lovable Aussie.
- Tennessee is not necessarily lacking for talent. The problem for the Vols is that the majority of it resides in its freshman class. A veteran star in his own right, linebacker C.J. Johnson said you need to have the "right mindset" to play early. With a whopping 35 players in the 2014 signing class, the law of averages seems to favor at least a few possessing the ability to contribute as rookies, right?
- Wait, so Auburn got a commitment from Jeremy Johnson yesterday? No, it's not the same guy who already backs up Nick Marshall at quarterback. Unfortunately for our purposes the younger Johnson is a baseball player. But that doesn't mean he doesn't think toting the pigskin is out of the question. "Maybe Auburn was interested in me (for football) for some time, but I lost contact," he told Al.com. "I'm not sure. If they need a kick/punt returner, I specialize in that."
- South Carolina signed five cornerbacks in its 2014 class. But before Wednesday, only two had been cleared by the NCAA to get on campus. Well, good news for the Gamecocks: Chris Lammon and Wesley Green, two of their top four overall prospects, according to ESPN, are good to go, according to coach Steve Spurrier.
Yes, it’s still a couple of years away and we’re supposed to be focusing on what’s right in front of us. But, geez, that Saturday to open the 2016 season could very well provide the most attractive lineup of nonconference games on one day that we’ve ever seen.
For that, at least in large part, we all have the College Football Playoff to thank.
Some of the matchups were already set or in the process of being set. But the real impetus in beefing up all these nonconference schedules was that a playoff was coming.
And, now, with a selection committee holding the keys to those coveted four playoff spots, we’re going to be in store for some terrific nonconference showdowns in the regular season for years to come. Simply, teams that don’t play and win those types of games are going to be on the outside looking in, which makes the regular season as important as ever.
My only knock on that weekend to kick off the 2016 season is that there are too many good games. I want to watch them all.
We’ve all been clamoring for an Alabama-USCmatchup. Well, we’re finally going to get it in Arlington, Texas to open that season.
And if you like your football Southern style, Clemson at Auburn has a nice ring to it. Lewis Grizzard, the late Southern humorist, once said that Clemson was Auburn with a lake. In a lot of ways, they’re virtual clones of each other right down to their break-neck style of offense. Even more enticing, this is a home-and-home series with Auburn traveling to Clemson the next year.
There won’t be a more unique game that weekend than LSU facing Wisconsin in historic Lambeau Field. Perhaps we’ll get to see Les Miles perform the “Lambeau Leap” if the Tigers win.
Have the remote control ready because we also get UCLA at Texas A&M, Notre Dame at Texas and BYU Cougars at Arizona (in Glendale, Ariz.).
That’s just the first weekend, too.
A week later, Tennessee and Virginia Tech will “trade paint” at Bristol Motor Speedway. And two weeks later, Ohio State travels to Oklahoma and Oregon visits Nebraska.
So much for opening the college football season with a tune-up … or two.
The sportsbook released odds on each team's chance to win the conference earlier this summer and recently released an updated set of odds. Auburn remains at 5-to-1 and is joined by South Carolina, who is tied for second with the Tigers at 5-to-1 odds.
Georgia, a team that previously had 5-to-1 odds is now running at 6-to-1. LSU comes in behind the Bulldogs and interestingly, Florida comes in next at 13-to-2 odds. Clearly, oddsmakers are betting on the Gators bouncing back from last fall's 4-8 disaster. Notably, the Gators are ahead of rising Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Missouri -- the team that won the SEC East in 2013 -- in the updated odds.
Here's a look at the full list of odds for the conference:
Alabama -- 7/5
Auburn -- 5/1
South Carolina -- 5/1
Georgia -- 6/1
LSU -- 13/2
Florida -- 12/1
Ole Miss -- 14/1
Texas A&M -- 25/1
Missouri -- 40/1
Mississippi State -- 40/1
Tennessee -- 50/1
Arkansas -- 100/1
Kentucky -- 200/1
Vanderbilt -- 200/1
In the meantime this week, we are unveiling our rankings of the top 100 players in college football for the 2014 season. Before you dive in, here are some notes and nuggets when it comes to the SEC's inclusion on the list:
- The SEC leads all conferences with 30 players on the list.
- LSU phenom running back Leonard Fournette is the lone true freshman to make the list.
- Alabama leads the conference with eight players represented on the list. The Crimson Tide do not, however, have the most of any team -- that distinction belongs to Florida State (the Seminoles have 11 players on the list).
- Ole Miss comes in second in the league with four players on the list. Auburn and Georgia each have three players represented; Florida, LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina each have two players and Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas A&M each have one player on the list. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the only teams in the conference without a player in the top 100.
- Not surprisingly, the SEC's best-represented position groups are offensive line, defensive line and running back (five of each). There are four receivers, four linebackers, three quarterbacks, three defensive backs and a tight end.
• AL.com gives us five storylines to know heading into preseason camp at both Auburn and Alabama.
• Benardrick McKinney was hardly a major prospect, but he's making the most of his opportunity at Mississippi State.
• USA Today's Dan Wolken explores how private gurus such as Ken Mastrole and George Whitfield seem to be growing their influence among college quarterbacks.
• In a weekend speech before the Houston A&M Club, Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin addressed some of the team's offseason disciplinary issues -- as well as the scheduling criticisms lobbed by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
• LSU's quarterback competition between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris should be a hot topic once the Tigers open camp in a week.
• Tennessee coach Butch Jones is fine with the prospect of fielding a team of unknowns.
• South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott knows his group has the experience and skill to rank among the SEC's top lines, but he's taking a wait-and-see approach.
• Former Mississippi State quarterback Dylan Favre is aiming to have a big season at Tennessee-Martin this fall.
• Darrion Landry hopes to become the next Kentucky receiver to experience success immediately after joining the Wildcats as a junior college transfer.
• Adding Korliss Marshall to last season's highly productive tandem of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, Arkansas has three strong options at running back.
• Florida players like Jeff Driskel, Clay Burton, Latroy Pittman and Demarcus Robinson shared their knowledge with campers at the Brantley Quarterback Camp over the weekend.
• Davin Bellamy's weekend arrest will shuffle the deck for Georgia's outside linebackers early in the season.
Texas A&M suspended cornerback Victor Davis after he was arrested and charged with shoplifting, and defensive end Gavin Stansbury, who was arrested in April, left the team for personal reasons.
At Georgia, Mark Richt dismissed yet another player a day after defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was arrested for aggravated assault.
These incidents are just the latest in what has been a troubling offseason for the SEC. With media days behind us and fall camps about to begin, we want to know which team's offseason issues will present the greatest on-field questions for this season.
Dillon Lee and Jarran Reed were both arrested for driving under the influence, Altee Tenpenny was caught with marijuana, and Kenyan Drake was arrested for disobeying a police officer. None of the players involved has been dismissed, but this is becoming both a problem and a distraction for Alabama.
Across the state, Auburn is still trying to figure out what to do with quarterback Nick Marshall. The potential Heisman Trophy contender was given a citation for possession of marijuana this month, but will he miss any time as punishment? To make matters worse, teammate Jonathon Mincy was arrested for the same thing, possession of marijuana, just two weeks prior.
The school that has been in the news the most this offseason is Georgia. Four players were arrested in March for theft by deception. Two of those four, Taylor and Tray Matthews, were later dismissed for separate incidents. A third, Uriah LeMay, opted to transfer. Back in February, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons also was dismissed from the program following multiple violations of team rules.
At Missouri, it was three strikes and you're out for star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. The sophomore was arrested for the second time on drug-related charges in January, and after being involved in an altercation with his girlfriend in April, he was dismissed from the team. Green-Beckham has since joined Oklahoma.
Lastly, there is Texas A&M, which has not seen any decline in off-field distractions since quarterback Johnny Manziel left. Quarterback Kenny Hill was arrested in March for public intoxication. Two months later, head coach Kevin Sumlin dismissed a pair of key defenders -- Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden -- after they were arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. Then the news broke this week with Stansbury’s departure and the suspension of Davis.
- Brandon Marcello of AL.com wonders if a Nick Marshall suspension would actually hurt Auburn this fall.
- When I was little, people said my batting stance and swing made me look exactly like Frank Thomas when I stepped into the batter's box. Too bad my body never grew like Thomas' did. The super athlete that he was, Thomas actually played some football at Auburn, but he'll be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
- Alabama players are saying that freshmen cornerbacks Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey "want to be somebody great" for the Crimson Tide.
- So big, bad Nick Saban was once afraid of ... Santa Claus. He also said "Roll Tide" and took a selfie with Colin Cowherd during a "Cage Confessional" -- so my mind is officially blown.
- LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette became the first high schooler to win the Corbett Award for amateurs. The award is given to Louisiana's most outstanding male amateur athlete for the past year.
- LSU freshman defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao has been released from the hospital and will begin rehab after he punched through a window Monday.
- Despite losing Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and Bruce Ellington, South Carolina could still have a better year in 2014.
- As Tennessee looks to completely rebuild its defensive line, expect freshmen to factor into the mix up front.
- Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree says he's ready for a "freak" season in 2014.
- Another talented group is expected at Florida's annual "Friday Night Lights" camp.
- Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun writes that we still aren't sure if new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will have full reign over the Gators' offense.
- Mississippi State adds three-star athlete Mark McLaurin to its 2015 recruiting class.
- Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegram has a preseason primer for Georgia's offensive line.
- Why was Bob Stoops gigging Texas A&M and his old pal Kevin Sumlin earlier this week?
But one of the sport's most storied rivalries was a victim of conference realignment, as the Longhorns and Aggies stopped playing each other when Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC before the 2012 season.
While Texas and Texas A&M administrators have repeatedly said renewing the rivalry isn't on their front burners, new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said he wants the rivalry to resume.
To read more, click here.
The coaches have all returned to their schools, and fall camp is just around the corner. Be sure to read Wednesday's lunch links for the latest news and notes around the SEC.
- For Alabama to get over last season's late collapse, it has to move on and hit the field.
- Wide receiver D'haquille Williams, the top junior college prospect in the country last season, will be the key to a more balanced Auburn offense.
- When Gerald Willis reached out to his half-brother Landon Collins for advice before making his commitment, Collins steered him to sign with Florida.
- Construction on Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium won't take a break for the upcoming football season.
- LSU's Tiger Stadium South end zone expansion is one month from completion.
- Whether it's in front of 61,000 fans on the field or 1,200 or so media members at SEC media days, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is poised in the spotlight.
- The Clarion-Ledger's list of the 75 most important Rebels continued Tuesday with Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram at No. 9.
- Despite their family legacy, brothers Elliott and Evan Berry are blazing their "own path" at Tennessee.
- With the loss of returning defensive MVP Gavin Stansbury, Texas A&M faces a more uncertain future at defensive end.
You, me and everyone in between has former Florida State backup Jacob Coker taking the starting job in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but Saban isn't going to make it that easy. What Saban doesn't want is an overly confident quarterback walking into his program and screwing things up, so Saban's language makes sense.
Still, we're all pretty sure that Coker will leave fall practice ahead of Blake Sims and those youngsters who duked it out during spring practice.
While we might have it all figured out for the Crimson Tide, competition will take place next month to see who starts the opener against West Virginia on Aug. 30. And that's not the only QB battle that we'll be diving into in the coming weeks. Other teams are trying to sort things out under center heading into fall camp:
Patrick Towles vs. Drew Barker vs. Reese Phillips vs. Maxwell Smith: Coming out of spring, Towles, a redshirt sophomore, had a slight lead over everyone. He's an impressive athlete and has matured considerably since his arrival on campus. Phillips and Barker have yet to take snaps with the Wildcats in a real game, but that won't stop the coaches from throwing them in on Day 1 of the season. Barker arrived with a ton of hype and is clearly the future of the position. Smith, the quarterback with the most experience on the roster, is finally throwing again after undergoing extensive shoulder surgery before the spring. If he's healthy, he'll compete, but it looks like this really is a three-horse race right now. Advantage: Towles
Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris: Jennings ended last season with mixed reviews after replacing an injured Zach Mettenberger. And his spring got even tougher with the emergence of Harris, a true freshman. Both are incredibly inexperienced, but have that dual-threat quality that will help either this fall, as they try to run this offense. Harris really impressed his coaches and teammates this spring, and many think he might have a slight advantage. Coach Les Miles raved about him at SEC media days and praised his throwing ability, something Jennings has to work more on going forward. Advantage: Harris
Justin Worley vs. Josh Dobbs vs. Nathan Peterman: Worley is the old soul around the football complex. The senior had an up-and-down 2013 season that included thumb surgery, but left spring with a bit more confidence. Dobbs has the athleticism and upside to be a stud, but he has to get more comfortable in the pocket and mature as a passer. Peterman had limited reps this spring, causing some to think he would transfer, but he'll compete this fall for the starting job. Honestly, it's a murky situation at quarterback, but a complete overhaul of the offensive line might make it tough for any quarterback to succeed in 2014. Advantage: Worley
Kenny Hill vs. Kyle Allen: Hill's arrest during the spring perked a lot of ears in the Allen camp, but this race is far from over. While Hill is still looking to regain trust, he has more experience than Allen, a true freshman, and knows the Aggies' offense better to this point. Both are athletic guys, but you'll see a little more running out of Hill. Allen has the potential to be a star with his throwing ability and awareness in the pocket, and might be little more polished than Hill in that category. Sumlin isn't the kind of coach who wants to shuffle his quarterbacks, a la Steve Spurrier, but he won't be afraid to play both guys this fall if he has to. Advantage: Push
Patton Robinette vs. Johnny McCrary vs. Stephen Rivers vs. Wade Freebeck: During the spring, we thought this was going to come down to Robinette and McCrary. Robinette has the only game experience on the roster at quarterback, but McCrary is a big, physical player who can make plays with his arm and legs. He might be the most athletic of the bunch and is viewed as an exciting up-and-comer. But when Rivers transferred from LSU, things changed. He only has one year to compete, and his coaches are raving about him. Coach Derek Mason also likes that he's gotten bigger since his arrival. As for Freebeck, Mason calls him "phenomenal" and is intrigued by his size. He's grown two inches (6-foot-5 now) and is up to 217 pounds. Advantage: Push
ESPN’s “Car Wash” continues Tuesday with Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier among the coaches in Bristol for the day. If you missed anything or want to know what’s going on around the league, be sure to check out Tuesday's lunch links.
- The SEC claims three of the last five Heisman Trophy winners. Here are 10 candidates from the SEC who could win the prestigious award this year.
- Wide receiver Christion Jones explains Alabama’s 2013 leadership issues and why the “entitled” freshmen weren’t to blame for the two late losses.
- Opening the season at Auburn is a huge challenge for Arkansas, but it also serves as "huge motivation" for the Razorbacks.
- A decision is near as to what Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall’s punishment will be per head coach Gus Malzahn.
- Florida has a chance to be one of college football’s most improved teams for 2014.
- Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was arrested for aggravated assault early Tuesday, his second arrest of the offseason.
- LSU freshman defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao tweets he’s "doing well" after suffering a severe arm injury in the team weight room on Monday.
- Freshmen focus: Tennessee newcomers aiming to revive Volunteers football team.
- Texas A&M defensive end Gavin Stansbury, who was arrested in April, announced Monday that he was leaving the team for personal reasons.