HOOVER, Ala. — When you were watching the World Cup over the past month, did it feel like SEC football Saturdays?
Dan Mullen thought so.
Florida fans may fondly remember Mullen as the offensive coordinator who helped lead the Gators to two national championships. The Mississippi State coach — whose mother is a British citizen who grew up in North Wales — is also a huge soccer fan. And during the World Cup madness, he couldn't help but notice something similar to what he's used to in the fall.
"The World Cup is so exciting, you see the passion the fans have, the whole country is on top of it," Mullen said. "I do think SEC football could be compared to European soccer. The passion our fans have is equal.
"I'm sure I'll have a lot of European nations very upset, teams throughout the world upset. But that is one of the things that makes this league so much fun. … The passion that our fan bases have for football is similar to watching the passion these European soccer teams and followings have, which is a pretty neat deal."
JOHNNY WHO? He is gone, but former Texas A&M QB and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is not forgotten. Well, at least by the media. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin didn't take kindly to being asked several questions about Manziel, the 22nd overall draft pick by the Browns in May, including one about his most recent off-the-field party antics. Sumlin's reply: "Is this the SEC media days? That's a great question about the Cleveland Browns.'' Sumlin said though they won't have another Manziel, the Aggies will be just fine: "I think we've laid the groundwork in recruiting to still be successful."
A TOUGH DECISION: Tennessee LB A.J. Johnson hasn't had a great deal of success since his arrival. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Johnson is third in unassisted tackles at UT (with 164), but the Vols are 15-21 during his first three seasons, which factored into his decision to return for his senior year. "It was a tough decision, one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make," Johnson said. "I was this close to going to the draft, but I feel like I had more I needed to do. I came here for Tennessee to be a winner and win, and I've got one more season to do that. I want to leave a winner. And I graduate in December. If you're going to go to school, you might as well get your degree at the same time. It's going to be great getting that done." Tennessee returns 11 starters but must replace the entire starting offensive and defensive lines.
LET'S TALK LEBRON: Sumlin made the unusual decision to bring his punter, Drew Kaser, to media days. Let's face it, there are only so many questions you can ask a punter. So because Kaser is a Strongsville, Ohio, native, talk turned to LeBron James. "I'm a huge LeBron fan. I grew up with him, and he went to my rival high school," Kaser said. "When he left, I was a little bitter, as all Cavs fans were, but at the same time, I was rooting for him no matter where he went. I was rooting for him but against the Heat." And yes, he's also a Browns fan and does plan to get a Manziel jersey to honor his former teammate.