With Manziel Gone, Kevin Sumlin Focused on Texas A&M's Defense at SEC Media Days

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJuly 15, 2014

HOOVER, Ala. — Don't ask Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin about Johnny Manziel.

In fact, just avoid the past altogether.

The third-year head coach of the Aggies spent the majority of his mid-afternoon in suburban Birmingham dodging questions about the past, including the off-the-field social activity of his former quarterback.

"I thought this was SEC media days," Sumlin said. "That's a great question...for the Cleveland Browns."

It wasn't just the past, though. Sumlin opened his time in the main ballroom at the Hyatt Regency with a goal not to talk about his current quarterbacks either.

"I didn't come here today to tell you who the quarterback was going to be, so we can eliminate those questions," Sumlin said. "I think we're looking at a couple of weeks before we play South Carolina that we'll name a starter."

What he did, though, was talk up his defense—a defense that finished last in the SEC and 111th in the nation last year in total defense (475.8 yards allowed per game).

"Defensively I think we have, believe it or not, more depth in our front seven (than last year)particularly the front four," he said. "We ended the year rotating five defensive linemen out of the four spots, and that took its toll. As anybody will tell you in this league, it's a line of scrimmage league."

Do you believe it?

With Julien Obioha, Gavin Stansbury, Jay Arnold, Daeshon Hall, Hardreck Walker and Alonzo Williams all featured prominently on Texas A&M's recently released depth chart (via the Houston Chronicle), there are certainly options at Sumlin's disposal.

Texas A&M Defensive Line—2013
PlayerYearTFLSacksHS Star Rating
Julien ObiohaJunior5.01.03*
Gavin StansburySenior3.03.03*
Jay ArnoldSophomore3.02.03*
Hardreck WalkerSophomore004*
Alonzo WilliamsJunior2.52.53*
Daeshon HallSophomore3.004*
Myles GarrettFreshmanN/AN/A5*
Justin ManningFreshman (RS)N/AN/A4*
DeShawn WashingtonFreshmanN/AN/A4*
Qualen Cunningham FreshmanN/AN/A4*

However, the man everybody wants to hear about is hotshot prospect Myles Garrett.

The 6'4", 240-pound defensive end was rated as the top overall prospect in the 2014 class by 247Sports and the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports composite index.

He arrived on campus this summer, and Sumlin expects his prized recruit to contribute right away.

"We don't go off lists and rating," Sumlin said. "When they rank guys No. 1, they usually don't screw that up. I don't think they screwed this one up this year."

Depth up front will be key, as the front four will have to create a pass rush in order to take some pressure off of Sumlin's biggest concern—his secondary.

"The key to our defense will be the rotation up front, the maturity of the guys who played last year and getting better safety play," Sumlin said. "We'll challenge those guys who played last year at safety early in camp, and we've got some young guys that we brought in, so we'll see what happens there."

A&M's defense doesn't have to be great. It just has to be adequate.

Whether it's Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill at quarterback, Sumlin knows how to produce a successful offense.

The reason he got the job in College Station was his ability to turn Case Keenum into a star at Houston with the air raid offense. Then he helped dual-threat star Manziel win a Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M.

If the Aggie front four is as good as Sumlin thinks it can be, it will go a long way toward fixing the problem at safety, easing the transition to the post-Manziel world and keeping the program in the national spotlight in the rough and tough SEC West.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.


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