Well, it was over early – unlike a lot of Johnny Manziel’s evenings this off-season. The Heisman-winning quarterback buzzed into the SEC Media Days, faced the media, and buzzed out.

We would go in-depth about his riveting and enchanting interviews, but instead, we’ll pick out the best bits from everybody on the podium in Hoover, AL.

JOHNNY MANZIEL

On getting booted out of the Manning Camp: “I simply overslept. There’s nothing more to talk, and the rumors about the other things weren’t really true….Hearing Eli and Peyton afterward and the key thing was they wanted me to come back next year, that was great because I had such a great time working with the kids I had and doing some things we do at A&M. I’ve just been on a hectic schedule and overslept.

Was he hungover? (With ESPN): “Absolutely not.

On his relationship with his team-mates: “It’s great. Nothing has changed. They understand, the leaders of the team, they’re there for me, texting me and saying your not doing anything we’re not doing. We’re working hard, enjoying life. I love those guys, wouldn’t be here without them, and their opinion, and my family and my coaches’ opinion, that’s all that matters to me.

On the spotlight: (ESPN) “The spotlight is 10 times brighter and 10 times hotter than I thought it was two months ago…I guess I feel like Justin Bieber or something. I never thought it would really be that way.

On the criticism of his hard-partying ways: “It gets to me a little bit. I’m not going to lie…I feel like, to be honest, I haven’t done anything criminal this offseason. I haven’t done anything like that. I’ve made my mistakes. I’m still growing up. I’m still learning from that…..At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to make mistakes and the big thing for me is to learn from them and not make the same one twice.

Peyton Manning on Johnny Manziel: “I enjoyed meeting Johnny….I can remember a 20-year-old Eli (Manning) missing a meeting (at camp) and catching some flak. We always have counselors who leave early. Johnny was great with the campers for the time he was here. He had to leave early. I wish him the best and I want him to come back as a counselor next year.

KEVIN SUMLIN (TEXAS A&M COACH)

On Johnny Manziel’s off-season: “I think off the field, there’s no question that he’s made some mistakes. I think today will be a great experience for him, a great experience for a lot of people because he has made some mistakes….I think he has done some things that he’s not very proud of, has made some poor decisions. He’s made some good decisions. Unfortunately, the poor decisions are the ones that are really publicized. It’s a growing process. It’s a learning process. But to answer your question, can he be better in that area? Certainly. That’s something that we’re working at.

On Johnny Manziel hitting the ‘celebrity’ button after winning the Heisman: “It was a good thing for me and Texas A&M (smiling)….

On Johnny Manziel development as a quarterback: “Much like our fans, when he took off running early in the season, everybody stood there and watched him. As they figured out, Hey, this guy can still throw the football, maybe if we block somebody, he’ll score, those guys got involved in some different things. To answer your question, are we going to change who is fundamentally? No. Are we going to try to develop him as an overall quarterback? Yes. The ability to go through his reads, the ability to see the presentation of the defense quicker comes with experience, comes with knowledge. But certainly there’s no question in his development as a passer, really aided our success later on in the year.

DAN MULLEN (MISSISSIPPI STATE HEAD COACH)

On the opening schedule: “Obviously going to be a challenging opening schedule. It’s great playing an opening kickoff game, playing a team like Oklahoma State, brings a lot more sense of urgency to training camp for our players and for the team as we get ready to go into the season.

On Tyler Russell, his fifth-year QB: “He understands our offense, understands what we’re trying to accomplish, can help as a leader out there on the field.

On Jadeveon Clowney: “When you have guys like Clowney sitting over there coming off that edge, you’re thinking, ‘I might want to get rid of this ball pretty quick’. The great thing in the SEC, there’s not one, there’s one of those just about on every team you play. I think that does add a lot of pressure to those positions.

On Ole Miss’ coming back as a team: “I think it’s certainly sparking the rivalry even more. I think it’s going to make Thanksgiving night an even bigger game. When I got hired, the other school in our state, they’d gone to the Cotton Bowl, won the Cotton Bowl. We came up from a team that wasn’t doing very well and won a couple in a row. Now we’ve been going to the New Year’s Day bowl games the last couple years. They come up, are starting to create some stir. I think certainly when you go around the state of Mississippi, it will make Thanksgiving night this fall a pretty important day throughout the whole state. Not that it hasn’t been before, but I think it is going to draw a lot more attention to it nationally, how important and big that rivalry is for everybody in our state.

MARK STOOPS (KENTUCKY) 

On being at Kentucky for the first time: “There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re excited and moving forward with this program.”

On Bob Stoops’ remarks about the SEC: “Bob was defending his conference. I just left the ACC. You know, I think everybody’s going to defend what they’re doing in their conference. With that being said, I don’t think any of us need to defend what’s going on here in the SEC. The success we’ve had in the SEC speaks for itself. Of course, there’s some other good conferences out there, as well.

On who’s going to be starting quarterback: “We’re not at any decision yet.

On the game against Western Kentucky: “We can’t just show up and beat anybody. We have to play very well.

On fanbase ‘buy-in’ to the new era: “Our season tickets are up. People are excited and anticipating a good year, because we certainly are. We’re not going out there to put all this hard work in to not compete and not try to win games.

GUS MALZAHN (AUBURN)

On the QB situation: “We don’t know who our quarterback is. We have four guys. Going to give them an equal shot. Ideally we figure that out sooner rather than later in fall camp, but we won’t make a decision until we’re a 110% for sure. The positive offensively is the fact that we actually recruited guys specifically for this offense.

On the speedy offense: “We completely believe in pace.

On the Auburn fans: “I feel like we have the best fans in all of college football. If you look at our spring game, we had 83,000-plus fans. Coming off a year like we did last year, that says everything about them.

BUTCH JONES (TENNESSEE)

On the players changing their ways: “At a relatively early stage, about a month and a half into it, our football team lost over 260 pounds of fat and regained that about 230 pounds of muscle mass.

On the rivalries: “Obviously being at Tennessee, we have a lot of rivalry games. I’ve heard that about Florida, obviously. I’ve heard that about Alabama. In order for us to make those rivalry games, we have to get back to being relevant and winning those football games. Obviously those are tremendous football programs with Coach Muschamp and Coach Saban. Obviously they’ve done a tremendous job. I hear that all the time. Our fan base is very prideful, so I’m reminded of that quite a bit.

On Tiny Richardson vs Jadeveon Clowney (and Clowney beating him once during a game): “He’s driven by that, talks about it.

BRETT BIELEMA (ARKANSAS)

On the Big Ten vs The SEC: “Major differences? If you’re talking odysseys in recruiting, the national exposure you have in recruiting. We got a quarterback out of Egg Harbor, New Jersey, that we tried to recruit at the previous institution I was at. He reached out to us once I switched because he wanted to play in the SEC. I said, well, I got a heck of an opportunity for you. He switched, decommitted from other school, became a part of what we did. That was all because of the SEC on our shirt. I said that repeatedly to our coaches in the recruiting process in December and January. Until we win an SEC title, we got to rely on the exposure that our conference has gotten through others. Talk about the SEC, what it means to play in the stadiums we’re going to play in, be part of a conference that’s the best in college football. That’s been the eye-opener for me. It was apparent from day one….I have not been through an SEC schedule. I can tell you I’ve watched, especially our early SEC opponents, a lot of film since spring. One thing that jumps out is the defensive line talent, the speed, the size, the ability that they bring I think is a little bit more up than the previous league I was in. A lot of really good players. See, the problem you guys got me in, the good things I say about the SEC, everybody else gets pissed and vice versa. I’m in a quandary here. It’s just reality. The other thing that has happened as I watch film, on both sides of the football, there are guys that are very gifted in ways that are very unique to them. Might be a wide receiver that can catch something beyond anybody else. Might be a guy that can swim a guard on a pass pro that is better than anybody else in the league. There’s players that have unique abilities that make it very difficult to defend certain players in certain situations. That’s going to be a very, very big task of what we do.

On the hurry-up offense, and the notion that the fact it was dangerous was a joke: “I’m not a comedian. It’s not a joke to me….There are times when an offensive player and a defensive player are on the field for an extended amount of time without a break. You cannot tell me that a player after play five is the same player that he is after play 15. If that exposes him to a risk of injury, then that’s my fault. I can’t do anything about it because the rules do not allow me to substitute a player in whether I’m on offense or defense.

It’s something that I really feel strongly about. It’s not rhetoric. If you want to play hurry-up offense, play it. I’ll play you, I don’t care. But it doesn’t mean that I cannot try to protect my players offensively and defensively. I have just as many offensive players as I have defensive players. That’s the facts.

On faking injuries to slow an offense down: “I tell a player all the time, If you’re injured, go down, stay down. If you can tell me the severity of an injury by how much the guy is crying or wincing, more power to you. I’m not trying to be a doctor.

On whether he would report Wisconsin if he felt there was a recruiting infraction: “What I would commonly do, there was a nice story written about this in my previous institution, is if I had a problem with the way another school was doing things, I would call the head coach and express my concern to them. So what I would do commonly is if I had a problem with a certain university, I would call the head coach, tell them the story I have, give them a chance for them to tell me their side of it, their belief, move forward from there. If I didn’t get the answer that I wanted, I may go to my AD. But there’s a step process we usually follow. I can’t say that happens for everybody, but that’s definitely not one I would take.

On low picks in the pre-season magazines: “The lower the better. I think our kids are carrying a tremendous chip on their shoulder. The same group that’s going to vote us a certain place tomorrow is the same group that a year ago today had us in the top five. We lost some really good players. I do know this: we have a team that’s very hungry, a group of coaches that are very gifted, we have a staff that is very talented and a lot of years to back that up. But I do excel in situations where people think very, very little of us. For those of you that want to, vote us lower. I mean that with all my heart. Then just sit back and watch.

 

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