Kevin Sumlin: We’re Here To Help Johnny

It’s been a revolving door at quarterback at Texas A&M in recent years, but Kevin Sumlin has finally found his guy – at least for this season. Yes, Trevor Knight, who was MVP of Oklahoma’s 45-31 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama in January 2014, will quarterback the Aggies this season.

Sumlin couldn’t be happier.

“What’s been great for him is he’s had the highest highs and the lowest lows,” Sumlin said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “He’s played in big games, been MVPs of big games, and then ultimately lost his job to Baker Mayfield. I know he looks at himself differently now at 23 years old than maybe he did a couple years ago. And some of the things that really created the loss of his job, I think, he’s been able to focus on and we’ve been able to talk openly about. With that, he’s got a new lease on life. He’s got a forum and a stage that can give him a second chance. Like I told him, he fills a void for us as at a position of need, and we fill a void for him in giving him an opportunity on a big stage, which he’ll have starting Saturday with a nationally televised game against a 16th-ranked opponent in front of a packed house. It’s a great deal for both of us.”

The Aggies host UCLA this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Knight, who accounted for 2,600+ yards and 19 touchdowns (14 pass, five rush) in 2014, played sparingly in 2015. He transferred to Texas A&M in January.

“Anybody who saw him play, he was successful early,” Sumlin said of Knight’s Oklahoma tenure. “Some of that gunslinger mentality, when it was going good, was going really, really good. Some of that mentality really got him into trouble with some ball-security issues and things like that. So I think, as you know, you look at life probably a little bit different – a lot different – when you’re 23 than when you’re 18 or 19, particularly when something like what happened to him happened. And instead of pointing the finger . . . I think he’s the type of person that, if you get to know him, he’s going to look within and want to know what’s what the truth is and be more of a guy that can go through his reads, that can more disciplined with the football, that knows when to take off and run and not throw the ball up in coverage. The good news is that a guy that can look at himself – probably a little bit older guy that can look at himself – and say ‘Hey, I got to get this fixed,’ for us, has been a joy to coach.”

Knight will try to lead the Aggies to double-digit wins – a level they haven’t reached since 2012. Sumlin went 11-2 in his first season at College Station but has since gone 9-4, 8-5 and 8-5. A&M has been ranked in the top 10 in each of Sumlin’s four seasons, including three seasons ranked in the top six. Nevertheless, Sumlin, 52, may be coaching for his job this year.

Not that that feels strange or anything.

“For me, it never changes,” Sumlin said, unfazed. “I’ve always had the same opinion of myself no matter what. What other people think, it really doesn’t bother me. We approach this thing the same way and always have been. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope them to. But we’ve been able to look at what we do. What we do well, we want to stay ahead of the curve. What we’re not doing well, we have to assess that and make changes – and we made some tough changes in the offseason and did some things a little bit differently. The growth in this league has been not easy, but if somebody said going into year five we would have won (36) games, people would have taken that right away going into the SEC. So we’ve set a standard. We like that. We don’t shy away from that. We want to be looked at as a team that’s supposed to win every game, and we don’t take that lightly. It takes a lot of work to do that. With that bar being raised high, that’s what you want. You want to be at a place that wants to be at that level. You want to coach at that level. You want to recruit players and coaches to be at that level – and that passion is here at Texas A&M. You like being a part of that.”

Sumlin was also asked about Johnny Manziel.

“I’ve been in contact with him and keeping those lines of communication open,” Sumlin said. “He’s always an Aggie, and we’re always here for him. We want the best for him. It has nothing to do with football. It’s about his life, and he knows that from me. He knows that from us here. We’re here for him and we’re here to help him.”

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