Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

Manziel's status in air after reports of pay for autographs

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Johnny Football is practicing with Texas A&M. Whether he starts the opener is another question.

Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday he would not speculate when asked if Johnny Manziel will start Aug. 31 against Rice following an ESPN report that the NCAA is investigating whether the Heisman Trophy winner was paid for signing hundreds of autographs in January.

"There's a lot of people involved in that decision," Sumlin said without being specific.

If Manziel was paid for his autograph on memorabilia, it could violate NCAA amateurism rules and put his eligibility in question a year after his jaw-dropping performance made him the first freshman to win the Heisman. Speaking to the media as the team began preseason practice, Sumlin said he learned of the ESPN report Sunday.

For now, Manziel will lead the Aggies. But his coach is clearly thinking of backups, too.

"He'll get as many reps as he was going to get (Sunday)," Sumlin said of Manziel, before adding: "We've got to develop a backup quarterback no matter what."

The report is the latest of Manziel's off-field questions. He made headlines for posting on Twitter that he "can't wait to leave College Station," despite having three years of eligibility left, allegedly overslept at a football camp run by the Manning family and was supposedly kicked out of a University of Texas fraternity party — all in the past couple of months.

Media members were only allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice and Manziel did not speak.

UF: Gators on mend

GAINESVILLE — Several Florida starters who have missed preseason camp might return soon. Coach Will Muschamp said RG Jon Halapio (shoulder) is scheduled to meet with doctors Friday, and LG Max Garcia (back) might be cleared when he meets with team physicians. QB Jeff Driskel (appendectomy) will be reevaluated this week. He is attending practices but can't participate. Also, RB Matt Jones, out indefinitely after a viral infection, is continuing to recover. Muschamp said he has lost 8-10 pounds.

"Matt Jones is in the building and moving around a little bit," Muschamp said.

Also, SEC director of officials Steve Shaw was on campus to meet with coaches and players about the new targeting rules. "There have been some rule changes and they need to understand what the rules are …" Muschamp said. "The NCAA has put out a video that I showed them (Sunday) night. As much teaching tape you can use, from a video standpoint the better. You've got to be able to see it as opposed to explain it."

Iowa: Wide receiver Cameron Wilson and lineman Drew Clark left the program.

LSU: Hours after a judge decided not to send Jeremy Hill to jail for a probation violation, the Tigers' leading rusher was allowed to return to practice.

TCU: Coach Gary Patterson said linebacker Joel Hasley, expected to be a starter, has left the team.

Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report, which was compiled from Times wires.

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Published: 04/22/18