By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
By all accounts, A.J. McCarron and Johnny Manziel are friends. At the very least, the two SEC superstars are bros.
Plans to take a tropical vacation together or not, the Alabama quarterback is his own person, a fact McCarron made very clear during the Tide's turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday.
“I can't answer on Johnny Manziel's part,” he quickly quipped when asked about Johnny Football's version of events involving an early exit at last weekend's Manning Passing Academy. “My name's AJ, so everything that has to do with him, he's his own man. I know how I handle myself, how I carry myself in front of people and that's what I worry about.”
The tide has recently started to turn away from Manziel, at least as far as public perception is concerned.
The Heisman winner found himself knee-deep in drama twice in the last week alone, beginning with the Manning-camp debacle. Then, on Monday, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from an arrest in 2012.
Each incident came with its fair share of negative headlines for Manziel, a fate McCarron said he does his best to avoid each and every day.
“I never want to bring any bad attention on anybody close to me, especially not my teammates, my coaching staff, my family. That's just the way I am,” he said. “I don't need spotlight. I'm happy in my own skin, the person I am, trying to represent everybody the right way.”
Having the spotlight isn't all bad, though. On Thursday, McCarron donned a special bow tie to honor his cousin, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Hopefully it'll spread some type of awareness throughout the state of Alabama for breast cancer,” he said.
It probably wasn't the smartest idea for one media member in Thursday's crowd to ask Nick Saban the following question — “Do you at least understand where Les Miles is coming from when he talks about equal paths to the championship in regard to scheduling on the East side?”
Think the Alabama coach was snarky with his response? See for yourself.
“I understand where Les Miles is coming from. I coached at LSU. We played Florida every year, too,” he said. “So if anybody understands it, I understand it. You understand? All right (smiling).”
The heart of the matter began earlier in the morning when Miles, LSU's replacement after Saban left in 2004, spoke of his displeasure for the SEC's current 6-1-1 scheduling format, which consists of six division games, one rotating cross-division matchup and one permanent cross-division contest.
As it stands now, the Tigers are slated to play Florida and Georgia this season — which were a combined 14-2 last year — while Alabama's two non-divisional opponents are Tennessee and Kentucky — which were a lowly 1-15 in 2012.
“I'd have to say there's a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference based on tradition and traditional matchups,” he said. “Scheduling should not in any way decide championships repeatedly or throughout.”
Though Saban “understood” where Miles was coming from, he still didn't quite agree with his rival. Saban's solution was the same he proposed during the SEC meetings this past spring — implement a nine-game conference schedule.
Well, there's that … or create a super conference, whichever comes first.
“Nobody wants to hear this, but I was in the NFL for eight years where every team you played was in the NFL,” Saban said. “So if somebody wants to take the leadership and say, “OK, here are the five conferences that are the top conferences, and we're going to play all our games amongst those people,' I'd be fine with that. But until somebody says that, it's going to be impossible to schedule all your games with those teams.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.