BLAIR KERKHOFF

Manziel at SEC Media Days: He’s not Johnny Hangover

Updated: 2013-08-04T16:49:14Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

— By 8:30 a.m. Johnny Manziel had come clean.

The case of mysterious behavior at the Manning Passing Academy was explained. Manziel, the 20-year-old Texas A&M quarterback, said he missed his alarm and overslept. A dead cellphone, not dead brain cells, was his explanation for leaving the camp a day early last week.

So, no it wasn’t The Hangover IV starring Manziel, and he left Louisiana on good terms with an invitation to return next year. But Manziel said he also felt regret for not completing the task.

“I was upset at myself,” Manziel said. “For me not to fulfill my obligation, there’s no excuse for it. It’s my fault.”

Johnny Football first shared the details from an ESPN studio seat with scores of reporters listening in the background. The spotlight was Tebow-like in scale. Even by SEC Media Day circus standards, the attention bordered on insane.

A few minutes later, Manziel entered a group interview room and hundreds jockeyed for position and heard these bites:

• “The spotlight is 10 times brighter than I thought it was.”

• “My offseason will not affect my season.”

• “At the end of the day, I’m not going for the Miss America pageant, I’m playing football.”

• “I just don’t have anything to say on Twitter.”

About that last thought: Manziel, who had collected some 385,000 Twitter followers, hasn’t hit the “send” button since June 15. He’d been an active participant — too active, some suggest. At one point, he posted that he “can’t wait to leave college station … whenever it may be.”

Coach Kevin Sumlin had seen enough. He said Tuesday that he and his quarterback had a meeting soon after.

“We had some discussion when that last tweet was out,” Sumlin said. “He hasn’t done that recently.”

As for Manziel’s Heisman Trophy-winning encore season, Sumlin wants to see Manziel continue to think more like a quarterback. As the Aggies rolled to 11 victories last season, including an astonishing triumph at Alabama, Manziel worked largely on instinct behind a superb offensive line.

“We still want to get a much better feel for the overall package, and think more like a coach on the field,” Sumlin said.

Less athlete acting like a quarterback and more quarterbacking with athletic skills, Sumlin said.

It’s difficult to fathom the Aggies being much better in their second SEC season. Manziel’s magic helped lift Texas A&M to an 11-2 record, the proud program’s best mark in two decades, better than any Big 12 regular season.

Nobody saw this coming. The quarterback spot was a jump ball this time a year ago, and with the Aggies breaking in a new coaching staff, they looked to be in a more difficult spot than fellow ex-Big 12 member Missouri, which was returning its quarterback and arrived with the momentum of more recent success.

Not to mention, the Tigers had defeated A&M for two straight years in College Station, Texas.

But the Aggies proved to be exceptional where Missouri was troubled — at quarterback and the offensive line.

It’s funny: An A&M program that probably was more SEC-like while it was in the Big 12, with an emphasis on power running backs, won in the SEC by being more of a Big 12 offense. The Aggies led the conference in scoring and total offense. That never happened in the Big 12.

Meanwhile, Missouri, which had put its previous three quarterbacks in the NFL and annually ranked among the league leaders in offensive production, dealt with multiple injuries and struggled mightily at times last year.

The postscript of 2012 focused on how Texas A&M was superbly prepared for the SEC wars, and Missouri was not.

In one sense, this may be true. Aggies defensive back Toney Hurd Jr., without surrendering team secrets, spoke of the program’s altered approach to weight training and nutrition. “There were a lot of things we did differently,” Hurd said. “We trained different, we ate different.”

Vague, sure, but how can you argue with the results, especially after the Aggies went into the belly of the beast, Alabama, at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and won the game in non-fluke fashion.

Mizzou is tweaking its run-up to the season with less trench warfare and more conditioning in hopes of reducing the body damage.

We’ll see. There’s plenty to fix at Mizzou. The Aggies’ biggest fix may have happened Wednesday when Manziel thrust himself in the court of public opinion, and emerged with a final thought that should satisfy A&M fans.

“It’s time to play football,” Manziel said. “I’ll be ready.”

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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