Sumlin laments lack of respect, vows Aggies will ‘fight our ass off’

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A handful of days before Texas A&M opens its first summer camp as a member of the SEC, the Aggies have morphed into the Rodney Dangerfields of college football.

Speaking at an event in Houston this week, and with his tongue buried deep in his cheek, first-year A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin lamented the lack of respect he felt his squad received during the SEC media days earlier this month.

“Guys, based on every question I got, they don’t think we have any defense. They don’t think our offense will work, and we don’t have a quarterback or kicker. Other than that we have no problem guys,” Sumlin told the crowd according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

The head coach wasn’t the only playing the respect card; his players had the same feeling coming out of the media days.

Sumlin said he’s stressed an upbeat approach from day, but negatively is always a question or thought away, which was the case last week when he and three of his players attended the Southeastern Conference Media Football Days in Hoover, Ala.

“ I don’t think those people think we’re any good,” A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel said on the plane ride back. “They kept asking me what’s it like to be in the SEC. I tried to be positive, but I got the felling they think we’re going to get our brains kicked in.”

Joeckel didn’t exactly say “get our brains kicked in,” said Sumlin who got that same feeling after five hours of interviews.

Sumlin, though, did vow his Aggies wouldn’t just roll over in a conference that’s won the past six BcS titles.

“We’re coming to play, we’re coming to fight our ass off and win every game we can.”

A&M, along with Missouri, officially joined the SEC in July of this year after announcing they were moving from the Big 12 last year.  At least part of the reason for the pessimism on the part of the media when it comes to the Aggies’ first year in the conference is likely due to the fact they were dropped in the SEC West, home of the last three national champs (Alabama, Auburn) along with a program that will start the 2012 deep inside the Top Five (LSU) and another (Arkansas) that should find itself somewhere in the neighborhood of the Top Ten in the preseason polls.

Add that to the Aggies c0ming off a season in which it stumbled and bumbled its way through a 7-6 season that featured several late-game collapses, and breaking in a new starting quarterback in the best defensive conference in the country, and you get the low expectations on the part of the media.  Or, the lack of respect, if you will.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.