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New A&M Assistant Won’t Rein In Johnny Football

gfx - they said itNew Texas A&M co-offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney made it clear yesterday that he has no intentions of hindering Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel:

 

“We’re going to let Johnny do what he does best.  We’re not going to try and control him.  We’re going to give him the system and let him play football…

I don’t see a reason to change much.  We’re going to add some things to get better, but our philosophy offensively is to take what the defense gives us.”

 

McKinney has been with Kevin Sumlin since serving as his running backs coach at Houston.  In other words, he knows the offense and he knows how Sumlin wants it run.

Listen closely and you can hear a deafening sigh of relief emanating from College Station.

 

(CORRECTION — An earlier version of this story said that McKinney came to A&M from West Virginia after serving on Sumlin’s Houston staff.  In fact, it was Jake Spavital — the other co-offensive coordinator — who was hired from Dana Holgorsen’s staff.  Apologies.)

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Texas A&M Football Player Missing

Texas A&M freshman wide receiver Thomas Johnson has been missing since Monday, the school announced on Wednesday.

The Texas A&M University Police Department is seeking assistance in locating Johnson, who was last seen leaving his residence in College Station on Monday at about 5 p.m. central time, according to police.

Anyone with information regarding the location of Johnson is asked to contact University Police immediately at 979-845-2345.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin released a statement Wednesday evening. From KBTX-TV:

“All of us are obviously very concerned about the safety and well-being of Thomas Johnson, who has been missing since Monday evening. Authorities are working closely with his family, friends and law enforcement agencies to help locate him. Thomas is a tremendous student-athlete, greatly admired by his fellow teammates and all of us on the coaching staff. If anyone has any current information about him or knows of his whereabouts, please  contact his family or law enforcement authorities immediately. We pray for his quick and safe return.”

Update: Johnson found safe overnight.  No other details given at this time.

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A&M Planning A $425M Renovation Of Kyle Field, Wants Cash From Local Government (Or Else)

As soon as Texas A&M entered the SEC, discussions began in College Station regarding the state of the Aggies’ football home.  Word leaked that A&M might even consider flattening Kyle Field in order to build a bigger, newer facility from scratch.

Well, the current Kyle Field isn’t going to be torn down yet.  But if Aggie officials have their way, it will be upgraded.  In a big way.

According to The Bryan (Texas) Eagle, TAMU chancellor John Sharp told a select group of local government officials earlier this week that the school plans to spend up to $450 million to renovate Kyle Field… and that the school wants local politicians to kick in an additional $38 million.

A&M’s leverage is this: We’ll tear down our current stadium and play an entire season of games — worth about $86 million to the local economy — somewhere else while we rebuild if you don’t help us with a three-year renovation project of the current facility.  Whether the school is bluffing — and whether politicians would risk calling that bluff — remains to be seen.

TAMU president R. Bowen Loftin said via statement yesterday:

 

“It is important to reiterate that no decisions have been made as to whether the Aggies will play a season away from Kyle Field, and we continue to hope that this will be an unlikely option.”

 

The seating capacity for a renovated stadium could be anywhere from 93,000 to 103,500, depending on the plan chosen.  The stadium currently seats 83,000.

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A&M Puts Out Official “It Wasn’t Us” Statement Regarding Gainesville Billboard

Jason Cook — the VP of marketing and communications at Texas A&M — just sent his school’s official statement regarding the Gainesville billboard to MrSEC.com.  Here’s what it says:

 

“This billboard was not placed by Texas A&M University, and it is certainly not reflective of how we have handled our transition into the SEC. We are investigating aggressively, as we believe that our institutional trademarks have been infringed upon. Texas A&M has tremendous respect for the University of Florida, and we look forward to hosting the Gators in our first SEC football game this weekend.”

 

I don’t think anyone for a second believes the university was behind the placement of a trash-talking billboard in Gainesville, but it’s still a wise move by the folks at A&M to make that point explicitly clear.  If there’s anyone upset by this affair, you can bet it’s the people in the A&M administration and on the Aggie coaching staff.

As I stated in my initial post on this affair, all it takes is one oaf to ruin a party.  So was this oaf an Aggie, a Gator trying to motivate his own squad, or someone connected to another program altogether?  Clearly, the folks in College Station are trying to figure that one out ASAP.

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Michigan’s Hoke Just Made Texas A&M’s Sumlin Look Bad

Hurricane Isaac provided Kevin Sumlin with an early test of his brand of discipline at Texas A&M.  Compared to the action taken today by Michigan coach Brady Hoke, Sumlin failed that test.

A&M’s new coach had initially suspended starting linebacker Steve Jenkins and backup defensive back Howard Matthews for his squad’s season opener with Louisiana Tech.  But when Isaac hit Louisiana and the Aggies’ Thursday night opener with Louisiana Tech in Shreveport was postponed, Sumlin backpedaled faster than a corner at the NFL combine.  Instead of sitting Jenkins and Matthews for A&M’s opener — which will now come against Florida in College Station — the coach decided to delay their suspensions.  They’ll still miss the LaTech game… on October 13th.

Sumlin has not opened up about what those players did to deserve their suspensions, but if it was bad enough to miss the opening game, why alter that plan just because the opener will now be against a better foe?  Is that really teaching a lesson to those players and to the team as a whole regarding discipline?

Apparently Michigan’s Hoke would think not.  His team will face Alabama tomorrow night in what most are viewing as the game of the week in college football.  The Wolverines will try to beat the defending BCS champs without starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and backup defensive end Frank Clark.  Hoke made the call today to suspend his players today.

Toussaint pleaded guilty to drunk driving on Tuesday.  Clark stands accused of stealing a laptop computer from a dorm room.  Maybe those actions are worse than whatever it was Jenkins and Matthews did to land in Sumlin’s semi-doghouse in College Station.  Maybe not.

Either way, Hoke comes out looking tough on crime while Sumlin looks rather weak.

“The decision was not easy, but I feel it is in the best interest of this program and for these kids, and that will always be my priority,” Hoke said in a press release.  “We have choices every day, and you have to be accountable to this program, your teammates, your family and the University of Michigan.”

Hoke also added: “It’s not always just about football, or a football decision.  It’s about teaching life lessons, and if this helps these kids or someone else make a right decision later, then we’ve won.  That is ultimately what we are here for, to help them grow and mature to become better sons, fathers, husbands and members of society… They are good young men who made poor choices, and we will continue to support them as members of our team and family.”

Big advantage: Hoke.

That said, the reality — sadly — is that if Jenkins and A&M beat Florida next week and a Toussaint-less Michigan gets clocked by Alabama tomorrow, Aggie fans will approve of Sumlin’s backtrack and Wolverine fans will question Hoke’s choice.

That’s too bad.  Because in cases like these, if you’re going to have discipline you shouldn’t pick and choose when it will be meted out based upon your upcoming opponent’s skill level.  Sumlin is hardly the first coach to go that route, of course.  But we at MrSEC.com would be a lot more impressed if he’d stuck to his guns in this matter, his first true test as Aggie head coach.

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A&M Coaches React To Nearby Shooting

Yesterday’s shooting in College Station — three dead, four wounded, shooter killed — was just a matter of blocks from Texas A&M’s football facilities.  That fact left a number of Aggie coaches stunned.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin:

 

“A lot of times you see thigns on the national news, and (then) you look up, and the national news is (just) blocks away.  It really hits home for you.  From my office window, you can see across the street, and they had blocked off the street.”

 

Tight end coach Mike Lamothe:

 

“When I first heard about it, I thought I was dreaming.  It was (happening) in College Station?  Really?  It was just shocking and really sad, and I’m praying for the families affected.”

 

Special teams coach Brian Polian:

 

“It was hard to fathom, and for something like that to happen three blocks from our practice field is scary.  Honestly, (the coaches) live in such a bubble and such an isolated world, and we were in the meetings, and suddenly everybody’s cell phone started buzzing.

I didn’t realize CNN had picked it up, too, and we have family all over the place, so I was geting texts asking, ‘Is everybody all right?’  We didn’t even know what was going on…

It’s a scary deal.  My heart breaks for the people who were affected, and my heart breaks for this community.  It was just shocking that something like this could happen in Bryan/College Station.  It doesn’t feel liek that kind of place, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in today.

I guess nobody is immune.”

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Our Thoughts Go Out To The Texas A&M Community

Another day, another shooting spree by an American madman.  This time, a constable and two others were killed Monday near the campus of Texas A&M in College Station.  Four more others were injured.  The gunman was also killed.

You can read more about the shooting and the background of the shooter here and here.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to what must be a shaken College Station community today.

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A&M Fans Turn Out In Force To Take Part In ESPN Promo

ESPN filmed a promo for it’s “College GameDay” show in College Station yesterday.  After winning an online poll for the right to have the spot shot at Kyle Field, 3,500 Aggie fans turned out to take part.

ESPN’s Chris Fowler was impressed:

 

“They were camping out in 100-degree weather.  I said they were loyal; I didn’t say they were smart. But that’s what you do when you’re passionate.  This (scene) doesn’t really surprise me, because it’s well known around the country, and particularly around football, the level of passion and loyalty here.

We’re flattered, (but) we also know this is more of a statement of what they think of their program than it is our program.  The lure of being on camera is pretty strong for a lot of them, too.”

 

The A&M/ESPN spot will begin airing by the start of football season.

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Texas A&M’s Sumlin At The Podium – 7/17/12

Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin kicks off our SEC Media Days coverage.  New to the SEC and to College Station, the ex-Houston coach is getting his baptism into the big-time head coaching world today.

We’ll live blog the gist of his conversation and then circle back with a stand-out quote or two soon after.

* Sumlin says he’s glad to head things off because he didn’t want anyone to say the “new guy” threw things off schedule.

* Sumlin says he and the A&M family are excited about joining the SEC.

* He seems a tad bit nervous, but it’s early and he’s likely never seen a room of media as big as he’s seeing right now.  Seems likable and conversational, however.

* Sumlin says he and his team understand how tough the SEC is and he said everyone’s pointed out to him — and he was already aware of it — that the Aggies will face the last four BCS title-winners all in his school’s first season.

* Sumlin said walking into the SEC’s coaching meeting this spring, he knew the move to the SEC “was real.”

* He says he’s been through the search for a quarterback before — which helps — but it’s always more comfortable having a starter come through spring practice.  He says at the latest A&M will name a starter a couple of weeks before the school’s opener.

* “We need to be bigger and faster against the SEC’s defenses.”  That was Sumlin’s answer when asked if he needs to change his system in the new league.

* Sumlin pointed out that his system is not “pass happy” and that his pass-run split is usually a lot closer to 55-45.

* “We took a little team from Houston over to Starkville and won once.  We’ve played against some teams in the SEC.”  Sumlin added that he’ll know more about the strength of the league next February than he does right now.

* The coach says he’s focused on the opener with Louisiana Tech, but “there is no doubt” that A&M fans are excited about the SEC home opener against Florida.  Points to ticket sales as proof.

* Asked if moving the kickoff spot shows that football is moving toward a kickoff-free game, Sumlin says he’s not in favor of nixing that element from the game.

* On a sidenote, he’s now much more comfortable.  When he got through the opening remark and into the Q&A portion, Sumlin seemed more at ease.  He seems more relaxed than most SEC first-timers.  He cooled off quick… in a good way.

* Sumlin says Texas will be the emphasis in recruiting, but “being in the SEC has improved our footprint nationally, particularly moving east.”  Says A&M will have to have a “national recruiting prowess” to become the type of program he wants to become.

* Asked about LSU possibly becoming A&M’s last game of the season, Sumlin said he has nothing to do with scheduling.

* Sumlin says the SEC West is “a pretty damn hard league.”  He says the combination of size and speed are what sets the league apart.  “And the depth in the front.”

* A&M will have to develop depth up front on defense as it moves from a 3-4 to a 4-3.

* Sumlin says tailback Christian Michael “looks fine” and that he pulled him out of spring practice just for safety’s sake.

* Seems to be tired of having people act like he didn’t know A&M was heading to the SEC when he took the job.  Makes it clear he knew what he was walking into.  He also said that he expects to win.  (What coach would say otherwise?)

* Les Miles said Missouri and Texas A&M need to “strap it up” to join the SEC a few months ago and Sumlin isn’t disagreeing.  Says he knows what he’s talking about having come from the Big 12 and Oklahoma State.  Well done.

 

Our overall grade for Sumlin’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 4 on a 1-5 scale.  A good debut for A&M’s young coach.  No wonder Aggie fans are excited.  Now all he’s got to do is win football games.

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A&M’s Sumlin Gets Snippy With UF’s Muschamp

There once was a day when a coach could go speak to a booster club, poke a little good-natured fun at a rival school, and no one but the folks on hand would know about it.  But that was before talk radio, cell phones, social media and websites (not unlike this one).

Last week, Florida’s Will Muschamp — the former defensive coordinator at Texas — told a Gator fan club the following:

 

“You ever been to College Station?  It’ll be the only time you go.”

 

Ha, ha.  Big deal.  Technically, Muschamp could make that same comment regarding just about any other SEC school’s hometown, including his own.

But asked about the comment from Florida’s coach, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin took the bait and responded.  That wasn’t all he took.  His response seemed to suggest he’d also taken offense to the joke:

 

“He needs to worry about his own team.”

 

Good grief.

Technically, Muschamp’s joke wasn’t about A&M’s team, it was about a town in Southeast Texas.  And also he happened to say that A&M could boast “a very SEC-like atmosphere.”

When a coach calls another coach Ray Goof as Steve Spurrier used to do with Georgia’s Ray Goff, that’s crossing a line.  There’s a difference between funny-poke and funny-mean.  ”Ray Goof” was funny-mean.  Muschamp’s comment was of the funny-poke variety.  (Like Spurrier’s other oft-quoted dig at Tennessee: “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.”  Funny-poke.)

Still, Aggie fans will love the fact that Sumlin won’t take any guff — not Goff or goof, either, probably — from anyone.  Even when the guff given was pretty darned tame to begin with.

And some people thought A&M wouldn’t fit in the SEC.  Please.

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