ESPN: Manziel suspended for first half against Rice
Photo Credit: MGN Online/Dallas News
From: ESPN.com news services
Johnny Football will start the season on the bench.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel of No. 7 Texas A&M has been suspended for the first half of Saturday's season opener against the Rice Owls, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy on Wednesday afternoon.
An agreement has been reached between the NCAA and Texas A&M that a source told ESPN's McMurphy closes the book on Manziel's recent issues.
The NCAA has acknowledged Manziel did not receive money for signing autographs, the source said.
The NCAA had been investigating whether Manziel was paid for autographs, a potential violation of amateurism rules that could threaten his eligibility.
Texas A&M staff and players had been instructed early this week by school officials not to talk about Manziel.
However, after not discussing the matter Tuesday, coach Kevin Sumlin broke his silence about how Manziel has dealt with off-field distractions during the SEC teleconference Wednesday.
"Johnny's handled it very well," Sumlin said. "Everything around football, he's been extremely sharp and focused."
Sumlin said Tuesday that the coaches have plans for any number of situations that could happen with their players and team, and that they plan for the possible absence of players every week.
NCAA investigators spent a large chunk of Sunday with Manziel, questioning him about allegations from memorabilia dealers that he accepted payments for autographs, a source familiar with the
While Sumlin wouldn't discuss Manziel's availability for Week 1, he had no problem talking about whether football has helped the quarterback deal with everything going on off the field.
"I know he likes to play football," Sumlin said. "I think the structure that he has had since Aug. 4 has been nothing but helpful."
In Manziel's absence, the Aggies will use either junior Matt Joeckel or freshman Kenny Hill Joeckel is more of a pocket passer and Hill is a dual-threat quarterback. Joeckel has thrown just 11 passes in his college career. Hill, who starred at Texas high school powerhouse Southlake Carroll (near Dallas), threw for 2,291 yards and 20 TDs and ran for 905 yards and 22 more scores as a senior last season.
Sumlin said the competition between the two is ongoing and that he's been pleased with the progress of both players. He said it helps the team because it's allowed all quarterbacks to get work with the first team.
Sumlin said is confident that Texas A&M's offense will be OK no matter who's running the show because of its offensive line. The group, led by left tackle Jake Matthews, is expected to be a strength despite losing Joeckel's twin brother, Luke Joeckel, who was selected second overall in the NFL draft by Jacksonville. Matthews, son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, will be joined on the line this season by younger brother Mike Matthews at center.
"We've got a really solid offensive line which takes a little bit of the pressure off Matt and Kenny," Sumlin said. "When Johnny's taking snaps, when he's in there, he's really trying to help the perimeter guys. Our offensive line gives us an opportunity to rotate those quarterbacks and have them be successful."
The uncertainty surrounding Manziel had put a damper on the excitement surrounding the Aggies, who finished 11-2 in their first season as a member of the SEC. Without naming Manziel, Sumlin was asked how he balances the needs of a player over those of the team. He likened his team to a family, saying many things are done and said behind closed doors that the public will never know about.
But he did share his philosophy on leading the Aggies.
"There's nothing more important than the team," he said. "We talk to them about what we expect from them on the field, what we expect from them off the field and what we expect from them effort-wise and accountability-wise and being able to trust each other."
Information from ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy, Travis Haney and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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