Texas A&M tries to navigate life after Johnny Manziel

HOOVER, Ala. – Drew Kaser sat in the same seat as Johnny Manziel.

He wore a suit like Johnny Manziel and answered questions from reporters like Johnny Manziel.

Only, he was Drew Kaser, a little known player for Texas A&M. He wasn’t Johnny Manziel, A&M’s now-departed Heisman Trophy winning quarterback.

“I love the guy to death but the camera followed him,” Aggies defensive back Deshazor Everett said.

On the second of the four-day Southeastern Conference media days Tuesday, Texas A&M swept into the Hyatt Regency in suburban Birmingham without the fanfare of last July.

You remember. The Aggies brought their high profile quarterback, Manziel, to media days after his snafu at the Manning Passing Academy and eight months after winning college football’s biggest individual prize.

About 200 reporters flooded around the star, thrusting microphones and cameras in his face in one of the biggest frenzies the event has ever seen.

On Tuesday, there was Drew Kaser, sitting in that same seat Manziel occupied and devoid of about 180 reporters.

His position, of all things, is punter.

“There are not too many punters and specialists that come to SEC media days,” Kaser said.

Manziel may have been absent, but his presence was still heavy.

A&M coach Kevin Sumlin put an end to the questions about Manziel early in his afternoon address in the event’s main ballroom.

“That’s a great question about the Cleveland Browns,” he shot back at his final inquiry on his former quarterback, who was drafted by the Browns.

Sumlin stayed mum, too, on the replacement for the speedy Manziel.

A battle is expected to wage during fall camp between sophomore dual-threat Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen, an early enrollee who went through spring practice and was ranked the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the nation.

Allen appears to be the favorite, especially after Hill’s arrest this spring for public intoxication. The boldest statement on the two QBs came from Everett, who said that Allen is the more risk-taker with the ball.

Quarterback isn’t the only worry.

A&M had four players picked in the first round of the draft in May: Manziel, offensive linemen Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel and receiver Mike Evans.

Meanwhile, its defense ranked last in the SEC in scoring and yards allowed. The unit was 110th nationally in rushing yards allowed.

“Couldn’t get much worse from last year,” Everett said inciting laughs. “Got to believe we can get better.”

But back to that QB spot.

Sumlin said he’ll name a starter “a couple of weeks” before the season opener at South Carolina – a 5 p.m. kickoff on college football’s opening day, Thursday, Aug. 28.

In the meantime, he’ll hear questions about not having you know who.

“I understand there’s not going to be another Johnny Manziel,” Sumlin said. “Now, does that mean that we change offensively? Maybe. Does that mean that we changed offensively for him? That might be the case, too.”

Players shrugged off suggestions that A&M’s offense would change. The spread-happy scheme that Sumlin used to win big in Houston and make a splash in his first two years in College Station, Texas, is expected to remain the same.

The change will be behind center - and we all know about that.

“He definitely made a name for himself,” Everett said of Manziel. “Hopefully, we get some players to step up and they can make a name for themselves.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU football, follow our Tiger Tracks blog.