Texas A&M and LSU both opened fall camp on Monday, and each team took the field with a player surrounded by controversy. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is at the center of an NCAA investigation related to the alleged sale of autographs, and Jeremy Hill was voted back onto the team by his teammates after avoiding jailtime due to his involvement in a barfight. That's not the only news from camps, though, so read up below.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin thinks that after all the negative attention on the program related to Manziel, just practicing as normal will be good for everyone:
"The best thing for this team and the best thing for everyone in this organization is to get back to practice today."
"Our university is doing its due diligence to find out the facts," he said. "As the facts start to come in, we'll adjust accordingly."
With Texas A&M's first preseason practice underway, star quarterback Johnny Manziel bobbed his helmet to music booming over speakers, slapped his teammates on their shoulders and grinned while lightly tossing a football.
Jeremy Hill was back at practice with his LSU teammates on Monday. Hill's teammates voted to let him back on the team after he avoided jailtime for assaulting someone in a bar fight. Les Miles could still suspend Hill for game time, but he's back with the team.
The Ducks held their local media day on Monday, and the fans are starting to get used to their new head coach, Mark Helfrich:
My initial reactions to Coach Helfrich were positive. He's not going to be any more forthcoming with the media than Coach Kelly was--he'll just be a lot more respectful about it. He seems very relaxed on the podium, and doesn't portray the general sense of annoyance that his predecessor held. One thing Helfrich was very adamant about is that he doesn't have a "stamp," meaning he has no intentions of changing much about the offense just to put a personal spin on it. Though what happens in games will be the ultimate judge, I very much get the impression that his every intention is to be just as aggressive as Kelly was. He also made a crack about Washington being 0-12, which was fantastic.
"This has nothing to do with gamesmanship. This is how we deal with all of our disciplinary actions on our football team,'' Sarkisian said. "I've never once stood in front of you guys to disclose whether a guy is going to start, not start, whether a guy is going to play or not play from a disciplinary standpoint. I've never once told you how many community service hours any of our players have ever done or how many gassers they've ever had to run or what time they've had to wake up and meet me in the morning. This has been no different than any other disciplinary action that we've had in five years.''
Andrew Maxwell is getting the lion's share of the first team snaps at quarterback for the Spartans, but Connor Cook is still trying to unseat the incumbent starter. Maxwell was far from great in 2012, but no matter how rough he looked at times last year, it stands to reason his experience will give him a significant leg up.
Despite recovering from a major injury and facing some stiff competition, Fitz Toussaint is confident he will be the Wolverines' starting running back for the season opener. "I'm going to be the starting running back Aug. 31," he said after the first practice of the fall on Monday. Toussaint broke his leg last November, and is competing for time with a good stable of backs, including top 2013 running back recruit Derrick Green.
The Wildcats hit the practice field for the first time on Monday, and the focus was on the quarterbacks:
After missing the first two days of fall practice with a concussion, Junior QB Jesse Scroggins hit the practice field as a non-contact participant.
"Jesse did alright, he's still learning what's going on" said head coach Rich Rodriguez. "He's got the physical talent, I think his footwork was rushed a little bit just cuz he was excited to be out there."
The final stage of the quarterback battle has begun in Madison, but Badger fans aren't getting ahead of themselves yet:
The quarterbacks were good in pass "skelly" (individual drills), but they "threw the ball very average" in 11-on-11 scrimmages. The run game, as you'd expect, was hard to evaluate without pads. Tanner McEvoy took some extra reps at the end with some younger players, though Andersen wouldn't offer individual evaluations as he was watching alignments of the whole offense, etc.
Most people seem to think Curt Phillips is the favorite to get the job, but Gary Andersen has time to fully evaluate who gives the Badgers the best shot at winning.
On the quarterbacking side of things, C.J. Brown had more zip on his throw but still completed less than half of his passes. Even so, that was significantly better than everyone else - Perry Hills had an alright day, but Ricardo Young, Caleb Rowe and Shane Cockerille looked rusty on the first day out. Most importantly, they all moved well - key after the injuries of last season.
"From a philosophical point of view I really believe in starting camp early with some good physical contact," Shafer said at his news conference Sunday. "Then measuring every day where you're at. Do we need more? Do we need less?"
"Unfortunately you're going to have injuries that's part of the game, and you can't anticipate how many at which position," Shafer said. "You knock on wood, and at the end of the day we play football. As we inch our way closer to Penn State, back off a little bit and get them freshened up, get them ready to play."
Getting underway Tuesday
Several teams are hitting the practice field for the first time on Tuesday, including Louisville, Arizona State, Colorado, and Pitt.