Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
The latest edition of SEC Media Days is behind us, which means that the 2013 college football season is right around the corner.
Players and coaches for all 14 SEC schools made the rounds at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey hotel in Hoover, Ala., this week, setting the stage for what could be one of the most intriguing college football seasons in recent memory.
Aside from that tiny little story known as the "Alabama dynasty," the Johnny Manziel circus, Jadeveon Clowney-palooza and the Mad Hatter all made noise at the event.
What did we learn?
Manziel Is as Cool as a Cucumber
Without a doubt, the star of the show was Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Aside from spending the offseason in the gossip columns, Manziel made waves the weekend before SEC Media Days when he was sent home from the Manning Passing Academy after he overslept.
That's a little different than the inconsequential drama that has followed the 20-year-old Manziel this spring and summer. He was there to be a mentor and a coach, and he failed to meet that responsibility.
He didn't buckle under the pressure in Hoover.
Manziel admitted making a mistake at the camp, but he didn't apologize for living his life.
"I continue to be living my life," he said in one of the smaller TV rooms. "I'm continuing to grow up. I made some mistakes, and I'm absolutely manning up to those. There are some things that I regret, and there are some things that were blown a little bit out of proportion. But at the end of the day, that's just how it goes."
Good for Manziel.
He doesn't—and shouldn't—have to apologize for being himself. He didn't when the pressure was on, and for that he should be commended.
Les Miles Is a National Treasure
LSU head coach Les Miles is everybody's quirky uncle who's always two seconds from doing or saying something totally off the wall.
He complied when he made the rounds on Thursday.
After a lengthy Q&A session in the main ballroom that included references to the "Harlem Shake," an Australian accent and hyperbaric oxygen research, he went "full Les" in the radio/Internet room.
"It's amazing, I promise you that I'm the first one who sits back and scoffs. 'Offer an eighth-grader, are you kidding me'?" Miles said sarcastically. "Offer a sixth-grader. I want you to know something, I'm looking at fourth-graders now. 'How fast do you run? Do you play four square?' It just happens. LeBron James? We would have recruited and offered him in the second grade."
Yelling? Oh, there was that too—specifically on the subject of scheduling.
"Hopefully, there will be some people in here that have strength and stand up in the crowd and say THIS ISN'T RIGHT! LET'S DO THIS THE RIGHT WAY! That's going to be YOUR JOB, not mine."
The only thing he didn't do is recreate the dance that came at the end of this memorable response to a question after last season's Ole Miss game.
Jadeveon Clowney Is a Boss...And He Knows It
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney knows he's good, and he's not hiding from it.
That's a good thing.
Clowney exuded confidence in a way that was incredibly refreshing. He knows he's a real-life video game cheat code, and he didn't hide from it. In fact, he embraced it when he said Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Georgia's Aaron Murray and former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson were scared of him.
"I can tell Tajh Boyd is scared back there," Clowney said in the main ballroom. "He ain't no sitting duck, but you can see in his eyes that he's scared of our D-linemen. You can look at a guy and tell that he's scared. If he's staring at me before the ball is snapped and he's staring at me every play before the ball is snapped, oh, we got him."
Would Johnny Manziel get around Jadeveon Clowney in the open field?
When asked what would happen if he found Manziel one-on-one in a hypothetical 2013 SEC Championship Game matchup, Clowney was confident.
"Can I get him?" Clowney said. "Yes, I can get him. Does Johnny think he can get away? That's the question. No, I'm just playing. How would I approach him? Full speed. He's got to make a move. I'm going straight, and I'm going to make him make a move. I'm going to try to hit him in the mouth."
If that college football fantasy ever came to fruition, it'd be quite the scene.
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, this will be Clowney's last season in Columbia. He looks and acts like a pro now.
Come on...20 voters left him off the first-team All-SEC team? I certainly wasn't one of them.
New School Versus Old School
Coming into the event, the debate on how—or if—to slow down hurry-up offenses and whether they posed a significant injury risk for defenders was one that flew under the radar.
With Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Arkansas' Bret Bielema making the rounds at the same time on Wednesday, fireworks erupted.
Malzahn was in the main ballroom first and fired what was essentially a preemptive strike against those, like Bielema, who think hurry-up offenses imperil the safety of exhausted defenders.
"When I first heard that, to be honest with you, I thought it was a joke," Malzahn said. "As far as health or safety issues, that's like saying the defense shouldn't blitz after a first down because they're a little fatigued and there's liable to be a big collision in the backfield."
Bielema fired back when he took the stage, saying his concern for the safety of his players was no joke.
"I'm not a comedian," he said. "Everything I say is things I truly believe in. When I go into a young man's home, when you go to recruit a kid that's 17 years old, move him halfway across the country, you can look a mom and dad in the eye, and you say, I'm going to look out for the personal well-being of your son in everything that I do."
Auburn at Arkansas. Nov. 2. New school versus old school. Get your popcorn ready.
No News Is Good News
For the most part, several big-time schools went the conservative route this year, taking the stance that no news is good news.
Representatives from Alabama and Georgia were all quite reserved, and they didn't let the circus wear off on them.
Sure, there were some bright moments like when Georgia defensive end Garrison Smith spoke on head coach Mark Richt's anger-management "issues."
"I've seen Coach Richt so mad before that he almost said a curse word," Smith said.
But there weren't many noteworthy moments for the two reigning division winners. If you're a fan of either program, that's a good thing.
It's Going to Be a Fun Year
So, in recap, we have poised and confident Georgia and Alabama teams, Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, divergent styles with coaches who aren't afraid to defend their preferences, a confident Steve Spurrier, crazy Les Miles and—oh yeah—up-and-coming Ole Miss and Vanderbilt teams.
It's no wonder SEC Media Days is spread out over three days, because the Wynfrey can't fit in that much star power in one 24-hour period.
That so much star power was in attendance signifies just how fun the 2013 season will be.
Sure, Alabama's dynasty—and if it can be preserved—is going to be the biggest story once toe meets leather. But there's still so much to talk about besides the Tide.
As former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott would say, "CAN'T WAIT!"
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.