This offseason was an exciting one for the Texas A&M football team. Not only did the Aggies bring Kevin Sumlin back to College Station but Texas A&M was making the switch from the Big 12 to the SEC. The Sumlin era was set to open up last Thursday night against Louisiana Tech but of course Hurricane Isaac had other ideas causing the game to get postponed. However, Sumlin’s SEC debut appears right on schedule. The Aggies will open up their season and make their SEC debut at the Swamp this weekend against Florida.
Kevin Sumlin joined KILT in Houston with Nick Wright and John Lopez to talk about how tough it was to prepare for a game and then have it get cancelled, how much the power of the SEC has been felt on the Texas A&M campus, the quarterback competition, and the excitement he feels getting ready for his first game as head coach of Texas A&M.
How tough it was to prepare for a game and then have it get cancelled:
“It’s just different. To build emotionally which you have to do as a football team and to play at this level and get close to 24 hours of getting ready to get on a plane and leave, it was a real letdown. I think the tough part is coming through camp and you have 28 or 29 straight practices of just practicing against each other with looking forward to playing a game that was the real letdown. I thought our guys handled it pretty well last week going through that practice and really saying ‘hey listen we’re all down but tomorrow when we show up and we’re moving on to Florida and our guys, all you have to do is turn that video on and watch them run around and you get excited really quickly. If you’re not you won’t be ready to play in this game.”
How much he has noticed the power of the SEC from being on campus and the recognition Texas A&M is getting:
“There’s a lot of different areas that I think the conference has affected before we have even played a game. The excitement it has created from a ticket standpoint, I’ve talked about it before and I wasn’t here last year so I don’t know what kind of impact it’s really had on recruiting but I know it hasn’t hurt at all. It’s increased our footprint moving east which we’re going to have to do to recruit defensively but we will see what happens. I think it’s given us a different stance for student athletes in the state, being the only team in the SEC. The big question is where are we athletically and where are we as a football program in terms of talent and being ready to compete in this league. I told people from the beginning we will know a whole lot more here in the next three months or after three months than we know right now. I think watching video we have a ways to go from a depth standpoint and particularly defensively. I think the difference in the SEC, I think we’re going to be alright speed wise, the Big 12 is a pretty fast league and we have good team speed here but the difference between the SEC I think and other leagues is the combination of size and speed and depth on the defensive front.”
On the QB competition over the summer that Johnny Manziel won:
“I think all three of those guys really improved throughout the summer from spring and then we came into camp and I think it wasn’t that the other two played poorly, I think Johnny was just able to handle it a little bit better and move the team. I think his grasp of the offense is pretty good. Is he there yet? No and I think the challenge for him has been, to move him from an athlete playing to quarterback to being a quarterback that is an athlete. He’s extremely gifted as an athlete and when he first got here his first notion was to take off and run and he was such a better athlete than a lot of people in high school, his ability to sit in the pocket and go through his progressions and run when it’s there and not run just because he can, that’s going to save him, it’s going to keep him healthy but it’s also going to create more offense for us and I think he’s understanding that but this game Saturday is going to be a little bit of excitement. You worry about him taking off and running around like a crazy man early in the game.”
On the excitement that he feels as he gets ready to coach his first game for Texas A and M:
“Remember when you’re kids and there was a call on the basketball court and you call a do over? I had that last week. We were supposed to play last week and play on the road and it’s funny, they’re like how is your freshman quarterback going to handle his first start in the SEC, playing Florida, and Gameday? I said last week you asked me how he was going to handle his first start on the road so we are going to get questions every week. For us, for me, it’s a big deal coming back here 10 years later and being the head football coach at Texas A and M and also with us changing conferences, it’s really an honor to be the head football coach as we move into the SEC. Playing Florida in our first game our fans are so excited. All the games are sold out and I don’t know where they’re going to put all the people for this one but it will be a big deal, national television at 2:30. For us it’s a huge deal and our guys, as I told them last week, if you can’t get excited to play in this one then you have real problems.”