COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Johnny Football was the elephant in the room Tuesday at Texas A&M.
The seventh-ranked Aggies head into Saturday’s home opener against Rice with questions still swirling about whether Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel will play against the Owls. The NCAA is investigating whether he was paid for his autograph, a potential violation of amateurism rules that could threaten his eligibility.
It was the only thing anyone really wanted to talk about on Tuesday when the Aggies addressed the media. The topic, however, was off limits.
Athletic director Eric Hyman said Monday night that he’d instructed everyone in the program not to talk about Manziel.
And if that wasn’t clear enough, a member of the sports information department slowly and sternly read the statement, not once, but twice during the session.
Reporters asked anyway, and coach Kevin Sumlin did what Hyman asked.
“We’re not discussing that,” he said. “I thought we went over that right from the beginning.”
He later added that they have a plan for any number of situations that could happen with their players and team, and that they plan for the possible absence of players every week.
ESPN, citing an anonymous source, reported that Manziel met with NCAA investigators over the weekend. CBSSports.com, also citing anonymous sources, reported that Manziel told the investigators he didn’t take money for his autograph.
Malzahn hoping for strong first impression: The Auburn Tigers are hoping their first impression will be considerably better than the last one.
The Tigers open the Gus Malzahn coaching era Saturday night against Washington State desperate not only to show they’re improved from last year’s debacle but that they have better character and chemistry.
Malzahn said Tuesday he’s most curious about “our effort, our attitude, how we handle adversity, how we handle success.” He said the Tigers have put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them.
There are plenty of new faces, led by starting quarterback Nick Marshall.
Malzahn said most of the newcomers will play in the opener.
BULLDogs’ DB s out to prove themselves: Connor Norman said he understands if fans are nervous about No. 5 Georgia’s secondary.
Georgia is listing two freshmen and a former walk-on with junior Damian Swann as the starting defensive backs against No. 8 Clemson, led by star quarterback Tajh Boyd, on Saturday night.
Norman, the former walk-on, is a senior strong safety who started two games in 2012.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Norman’s ability to share his superior knowledge of the defense with other defensive backs on the field is “huge.”
Projected starting strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is suspended for the game for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Free safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Brendan Langley will start as freshmen.
Norman acknowledged Tuesday the secondary is in the spotlight. “We’re ready to prove ourselves,” he said.