Manziel handles himself well at SEC Media Days


South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney got the largest crowd and provided some beefy material for reporters on Day 1 of SEC Media Days.

That was small-time compared to the Sharknado* of attention given to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Heisman Trophy winner has had an interesting offseason fueled largely by polarizing opinions over his visibility on social media and rumors about his behavior away from the field. Manziel’s perception took another hit when a report over the weekend said the quarterback was sent home from the Manning Passing Academy, where he was a student counselor, for allegedly being hungover.

(*We had to get that reference in there somewhere.)

Speaking on ESPN Wednesday morning during SEC Media Days, Manziel had a chance to tell his side of the story. As one would expect, Manziel denied being hungover. “Absolutely not,” Manziel said, adding that nothing about last Friday night contributed to him missing meetings the following morning; rather, Manziel explained that he overslept the next morning. Manziel described the decision to leave the Academy as “mutual” but “disappointing.”

Maybe it was bogus. Maybe it wasn’t.

Joe Tessitore conducted a good interview with tough questions, but Manziel, who has always been good in front of cameras, handled himself relatively well.

His responses were a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, Manziel was engaging and seemed genuine when talking about the whirlwind of the past year. Manziel recognizes the missteps he’s taken, but he doesn’t necessarily apologize for them. He certainly doesn’t pretend to be something he isn’t. On the other, he gave some answers that sounded scripted (because they probably were) and skirted around other questions. For example, Manziel gave a “no comment” when asked if he was drinking at the Manning Academy.

That’s all to be expected. Manziel is in damage control mode now, even if the damage isn’t all that bad. This morning will be the first of many times the redshirt sophomore has to answer for something he did besides throwing a football. That’s the expectation that goes along with being the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and current face of the program, regardless of age.

Personally, it never felt like much of what Manziel did was all that bad (although if Manziel genuinely was hungover at the Manning Passing Academy, that’s a different story). As long as he’s a good teammate, respects his coaches, and prepares for each game the way he should, the other stuff will be quickly forgotten.

Will Manziel actually cut back or otherwise eliminate his visibility away from the field — the very thing that brings extra attention to him? Probably, at least for the immediate future. Fall camp provides some structure that helps with that.

But here’s hoping Manziel, a likable and interesting guy, doesn’t start putting up a wall when speaking to media. Even though he has every right to.

Sean McDonough on leaving Monday Night Football: College football is more fun

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While we’re not exactly formal media critics here at CFTalk, you really don’t have to have too much experience watching television to know that ESPN’s Sean McDonough calling Monday Night Football the past two years was a bit of a round peg in a square hole. The veteran play-by-play man has called a lot of major sporting events over the years but was known to most prior to his NFL stint as one of the regular voices on the college football circuit after all.

McDonough is just now starting to open up about his departure from MNF and is perhaps not surprisingly excited at the prospect of returning to the college level, which he insists was his decision. Awful Announcing passes along an interview he did with Boston area radio program The Kirk & Callahan Show this week and let’s just say that McDonough confirms what we already know about which sport is better if you’re picking between the NFL and college football.

“I say that after a lot of reflection and mostly a lot of belief that, ultimately, what is the most important thing in life is to be happy,” McDonough said. “As much as it was a great honor to be the voice of ‘Monday Night Football’ –– and you guys know me well enough, and certainly a lot of my friends and family do –– it wasn’t a tremendous amount of fun the last two years. When I took my ego out of it, when the conversation about a reboot of MNF came up, when I took the ego part of it out, and rationalized it, I really could be fine with  not being the voice of MNF, then it became easy. I love college football. For me, it’s more fun, and that’s a personal taste.”

Amen Sean, amen.

While it is great news that CFB is getting back McDonough, the sport’s gain is tempered by the loss of fellow play-by-play man Joe Tessitore, who will be taking over in the MNF booth calling games. Something says that the esteemed JoeTess will do a great job calling NFL games every Monday night but will, like McDonough, come to miss the excitement, wild endings and colorful presentation that happens at the college level every Saturday.

North Texas finalizing new deals for head coach Seth Littrell, AD Wren Baker

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After a successful turnaround campaign in 2017, North Texas is preparing to sweeten the deal for head coach Seth Littrell.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reports that the school is in the process of finalizing a new contract for both Littrell and athletic director Wren Baker, with regents approving moving forward in the process last month. While final numbers and details have not been released, the expectation is that both will get a raise and likely have increased buyouts after the coach and athletic director were mentioned in connection to bigger jobs this offseason.

Littrell took over a program two years ago that was coming off a 1-11 record and has turned things around to the point where the team has made back-to-back bowl games in his first two seasons in Denton. The Mean Green won the CUSA West division in 2017 and wrapped up the year with nine wins for the first time since 2013 — including just the fourth winning record for UNT in 15 seasons.

The former Oklahoma running back and Mike Leach assistant was the highest paid head coach in Conference USA according to USA Today‘s salary database and he is expected to get a further raise in the new deal that should take Littrell over the $1 million mark for annual salary. Baker arrived in Denton the year after the head coach and has helped raise significant sums to upgrade facilities at North Texas during his short tenure so far.

The Mean Green have already begun spring football practices and will host their annual spring game on March 30th.

Dismissed by West Virginia, Tyree Owens has now been removed from East Carolina’s roster

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To say that Tyree Owens has had an up-and-down — mostly down — collegiate career would be a significant understatement.

Originally a West Virginia signee, Owens was one of three Mountaineer football players stabbed in an off-field accident in September of 2015… only to be one of three WVU football players dismissed from the program very shortly thereafter for violating unspecified team rules.

After one season at a junior college, the defensive lineman transferred to East Carolina. After one season at ECU, Owens is out again as the American Athletic Conference school announced that the redshirt junior “has also been removed from the roster as a result of an indefinite suspension related to the team’s academic policy.”

Last season, Owens started three of the 10 games in which he played, with all of those starts coming at defensive tackle. His 3.5 tackles for loss were fourth on the team, while his three quarterback hits were second on the Pirates.  Two of those tackles for loss came against… WVU, of course.

A three-star member of WVU’s 2014 recruiting class, Owens was rated as the No. 49 strongside defensive end in the country. He took a redshirt as a true freshman for the Mountaineers.

Owens, now at a Mississippi junior college, originally committed to Texas A&M in October of 2016 before decommitting nearly three months later and ultimately signing with ECU in mid-December of that same year.

Clemson DT Christian Wilkins on substitute teaching: I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’

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Those of a certain age may look back on going to grade school and think fondly on those rare days where the regular teacher was out and a substitute filled in. For many around the country, that often meant watching a movie or two for class instead of doing, well… actual work.

If you happen to be a kindergarten student at James M. Brown Elementary School in Walhalla, South Carolina though, having a substitute teacher for class has been taking on a whole different meaning the past few weeks. That’s because 300-pound Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been moonlighting as a sub and trying to corral little kids on a much gentler scale than he corrals quarterbacks on Saturdays in the fall.

“It was fun, but took a lot out of me,” Wilkins told ESPN earlier this week. “I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’ with all those little kids. Talk about energy, but it was a real cool experience.”

Perhaps the most accurate line from Chris Low’s excellent story on Wilkins’ substitute duties came by one young pupil who muttered, ‘That’s one big mister.’ The senior All-American is only getting $80 for a day’s worth of work with the kids but seeing the massive defensive tackle walk into a room is probably as priceless for Wilkins as it is for those at the school.