Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said defensive end Myles Garrett, an incoming freshman from Arlington Martin, has “really, really impressed” older teammates since taking part in the Aggies’ voluntary workouts this summer in College Station.
Offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said Garrett, the nation’s top-ranked defensive end prospect by Rivals, should be an immediate contributor “for sure” when the Aggies open the season Aug. 28 at South Carolina.
“When they rank guys No. 1, they usually don’t screw that up. I don’t think they screwed this one up this year,” Sumlin said, reflecting on Garrett’s lofty credentials during Tuesday’s session of the SEC media days. “All signs point to him being as advertised. He’s explosive. I know he’s impressed (observers) in the weight room. Walking in the door, he’s one of the strongest guys on the football team.”
Garrett is expected to improve an A&M pass rush that generated only 21 sacks last season, 10th among SEC schools.
Spurrier on A&M: Because the teams meet for the first time in their Aug. 28 opener, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier spent much of Tuesday weighing in on the Aggies. Spurrier praised A&M coach Kevin Sumlin for his “excellent record” and creative offense but also has been impressed by Sumlin’s new contract that pays $5 million per year.
“He’s a good negotiator. We know that,” Spurrier said. “He’s got a good deal.”
Asked for a response, a smiling Sumlin said: “You guys are stirring the pot. You’re not going to get me on that.”
Spurrier also discussed the Bonham Trophy that reportedly will be awarded to the winner of the game in tribute to James Butler Bonham, who was educated at South Carolina and fought at the Alamo. Spurrier said: “If they want to do a trophy for it, that’s fine. I don’t know that you can have a trophy for every game … I’m sure this guy Bonham did a lot of good things. But I always thought Davy Crockett was the hero of the Alamo. So the trophy was a little surprising to me.”
In regard to the dormant A&M-Texas rivalry, Spurrier said: “I think it’s a shame that Texas and Texas A&M don’t play each other. I think it is sad.”
Avoiding Manziel talk: Sumlin went out of his way to redirect questions about departed quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner who was a first-round pick by Cleveland in this year’s NFL Draft. Sumlin told one reporter his question (What’s it like not coaching Manziel?) was “irrelevant” because roster turnover is part of college football. When another reporter asked Sumlin if he’d spoken with his quarterback in the wake of recent Manziel party photos posted on social media, Sumlin said: “Is this the SEC media days? That’s a great question for the Cleveland Browns. Anybody else got something?”
Better knowledge needed: Texas A&M defensive back Deshazor Everett said players need to make strides in “understanding the game” if the Aggies are to improve a defense that ranked last among SEC teams last season in scoring defense (32.2), total defense (475.8 yards per game) and rushing defense (222.3). Asked why he thought the defense would improve this season, Everett said: “Can we get much worse? We’ve got to play better, that’s all we can take from it. To give up as many points as we did as a defense is embarrassing. We’re definitely going to come out stronger this year.”
Big donor perspective: In college football’s never-ending arms race for better facilities and bigger TV rights fees, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said a huge part of any coach’s job today is currying favor with high-dollar donors. Toward that end, Spurrier and his wife will host a dinner next month for the program’s influential boosters.
“The big donors in college are like an owner in the NFL because they put the money up,” Spurrier said. “The best part of it, they don’t tell us what to do, though. They’re sort of the owners from a distance. They don’t tell you who to play, what plays to call and so forth. But they’re very important. You’ve got to have the facilities to keep up. That’s been a big reason for our success.”
Solid sleeper: Mississippi State, a 7-6 team last season, is a trendy darkhorse pick to contend in this year’s SEC race because the Bulldogs return 17 starters, including dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott. Players say a three-game winning streak to close last season, capped by a 44-7 bowl victory over Rice, elevated confidence and internal expectations.
“We learned how to finish these games,” safety Jay Hughes said. “Once you learn how to play all four quarters, the road is yours to take. We are excited.”