Kevin Sumlin entertained a few hundred Texas A&M fans in Fort Worth on Tuesday night, updating them on everything going on with the football program and fielding a few questions from the crowd.
He addressed topics varying from the off-the-field issues the Aggies have dealt with recently to their “easy” upcoming schedule to replacing offensive stars such as Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans and Jake Matthews.
Sumlin spoke as the featured guest for the Fort Worth/Tarrant County A&M Club’s Coach’s Night at Will Rogers Memorial Center but, of course, he still shared the spotlight with Johnny Football.
One of 25 autographed black A&M helmets signed by Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner, was the prized item during a live auction, drawing the night’s highest bid at $6,000.
Manziel helped put the Aggies back into the national headlines and become one of the hottest teams in the country. And Sumlin is sustaining that momentum going forward without him, signing some of the top recruiting classes in the country. Sumlin’s #Yessir hashtag on social media has become a hit among high school players and fans.
“We’re just in a different time right now and there are a lot of young players who understand where we’re headed,” Sumlin said. “Because of that, they’ve been able to come to our campus and see what’s going on from an instruction standpoint ... , from all kinds of standpoints, and they like the energy and where we’re going.”
It hasn’t been all positive news out of College Station, though.
Sumlin dismissed two defensive starters from last year’s team in linebacker Darian Claiborne and lineman Isaiah Golden earlier this month. Those are two significant losses to a defense that allowed more than 32 points and 475 yards a game.
Claiborne had been expected to become one of the defensive leaders. He had the third-most tackles with 89 last season, as well as seven tackles for loss. And the 310-pound Golden gave them an inside presence.
Asked about the difficulty of dismissing two starters, Sumlin said: “I don’t weigh it as far as our defense. I weigh it as far as when you have a mom in your office who is crying because in 17 years, she couldn’t get it the right way. And in 12 months, you couldn’t either. The human side of it becomes a lot harder than the football side of it.
“For me, it’s not about defense, it’s not about offense, it’s not about the impact of the team … It’s about people.”
Before that, Sumlin had to deal with potential starting quarterback Kenny Hill getting arrested for public intoxication in late March. Hill, a Southlake Carroll product, was found passed out in a planter outside a local restaurant and the team suspended him.
Sumlin said Hill is still working through some disciplinary action, but has returned to the team and is competing with Kyle Allen for the starting quarterback job.
Sumlin didn’t tip his hand on any potential frontrunner yet.
“A coach’s best friend is competition and that’s what’s going on at quarterback,” he said. “We’re going to have a real competition.”