What we learned at SEC media days

By now, we should know that Johnny Football is going to be Johnny Football.

Both on and off the field.

It's just part of the deal with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who's been the quintessential lightning rod this offseason and starred in his own 24-7 reality show with viewers watching his every move ... and tweet.

These past six months have seen Manziel make almost as many headlines off the field as he made defenders miss tackles last fall en route to becoming the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy.

The best news for Manziel (and probably the best news for everybody in Aggieland) is that preseason practice is just around the corner. Manziel needs football, and he admitted earlier this week that he's eager to be back around his teammates and his coaches on a day-in, day-out basis.

The whole Manning Passing Academy episode was embarrassing regardless of whether you believe Manziel was sent home because of excessive partying or that it was mutually agreed upon that he should skip out early because he overslept one morning and missed meetings.

Either way, Manziel apologized to Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin about any negative attention that he might have brought to the Aggies' program.

What Manziel's not apologizing about is being himself. Of course, no apology will be needed if he goes out and plays the way he did a year ago and the Aggies have another big season.

If he doesn't play as well and the Aggies take a step back, he'll have a hard time living down these past six months.

He'll go from Johnny Football to Johnny Scapegoat.

That might not be completely fair, but who says playing quarterback in the SEC is fair, particularly when you're the reigning Heisman Trophy winner?

Plus, Manziel has brought most of this circus on himself.

He was candid earlier this week when I asked him what he might have done differently if he had a do-over.

"I don't really know what people expect out of me," Manziel said. "Maybe I shouldn't have posted as much [on Twitter] or been as extravagant, but I was just trying to have fun. In my position, there were a lot of doors open for me and there was a chance to meet a lot of people, and there were a lot of people excited to meet me. I was just living my life.

"You work so hard during the season. You get to have a little fun during the summer and during the spring, and I did that. I don't think I overdid it. I made some mistakes, obviously, and I've acknowledged those and learned from them.

"At the end of the day, I'm going to have fun and live my life to the fullest. That's what I'm all about."

It's that same mentality that makes him one of the most exciting players in college football.

One way or the other, I can promise you it won't be dull. It never is with Johnny Football.

Les Miles is the crusader for fair scheduling

You really want to get LSU coach Les Miles' blood boiling?

Bring up the SEC schedule.

Whew. We got a serious dose of his disgust this week over what he says is an integrity issue with some teams in the West (Auburn and LSU, namely) having to play Florida and Georgia in the same season a lot more than Alabama. LSU has played Florida annually as its permanent cross-divisional foe ever since the split in 1992.

Since 2000, LSU has played Florida and Georgia -- two of the East's best programs -- a total of 17 times. Auburn has played those two teams 19 times, while Alabama has played them only eight times.

"The greatest conference in college football is not picking the champion in a fair and straightforward manner," said Miles, who launched into a tirade reminiscent of the show he put on last season after the Ole Miss game.

Miles conceded that he's tired of being the only one to wave the banner, although he has some support from South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

The Head Ball Coach also feels that Alabama has received preferential treatment with regard to the schedule.

And even though everyone might not agree with Miles, you've got to love his passion.

At one point, he barked that LSU should have gone to federal court and "marched a federal judge in here."

"It's short of larceny. It's surely not bigamy, but there is some lack of integrity that somebody can go in and bang on," Miles bellowed in vintage fashion.

"The problem is that somebody has to bite down."

Florida hasn't joined the cause because athletic director Jeremy Foley likes playing LSU every year. What's more, Auburn and Georgia both want to continue playing every year even though they're in different divisions.

"I keep waiting for somebody to really bite on and be a pain in somebody's a-- for some length of time," Miles said.

You can bet Miles won't quit biting anytime soon.

I wonder if any federal judges are LSU fans.

Jadeveon Clowney nearly went to Alabama

For all those SEC fans tired of seeing Alabama winning all the time and fearful that the Tide are only widening the gap on everybody else, here's a sobering thought.

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina's version of the "Super Freak," nearly went to Alabama.

"I was leaning toward Alabama at one point," Clowney said. "I went down there [on his recruiting visit] and had one of the greatest times I've ever had. Being on that campus was nice. I know those guys down there are having a lot of fun right now."

Clowney bumped into some of the Alabama players last year while attending an awards show and expressed remorse over missing out on the bling.

Nonetheless, Clowney insists he has no regrets and, as a home-state product of South Carolina, takes immense pride in being part of the Gamecocks' rise to the SEC's upper crust over the past two years.

"That's what I said to myself before I made my decision," Clowney said. "I wanted to be part of something new. Everybody knows Alabama is a winning program. I wanted to go help us become a winning program."

Tiny has big plans at Tennessee

Speaking of winning programs, Tennessee will get back to that level a lot quicker if it can continue to bring in more players like Antonio Richardson.

They call him "Tiny," and he's one of three offensive tackles in the SEC (along with Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews) who has first round written all over him.

Richardson, a junior, is a force at his left tackle position, but he also possesses the kind of edge that the Tennessee program has been sorely missing.

Even in the face of three straight losing seasons, Richardson sees the Vols making the kind of climb under first-year coach Butch Jones that Alabama did under Nick Saban.

"Before they turned it around, they were terrible … I mean, dead terrible," Richardson said of the Tide. "So why can't we be the next team that blows up?"

Spurrier doesn't buy recruiting rankings

If you really want to get Spurrier going, get him talking about recruiting rankings.

He's not a big fan of where teams finish in February, although he doubts that anybody is going to out-recruit Alabama.

"The way Nick Saban has that recruiting operation set up, I don't know how anybody is going to out-recruit them," Spurrier said. "Florida, I guess, was ranked up there pretty close when Urban [Meyer] was there."

And what did that do for the Gators?

"After the 2009 season, they were ranked No. 1, and a year later, that No. 1 group led Urban into early retirement," Spurrier quipped.

Who's primed for a breakout year?

With the start of preseason practice a little more than a week away for several teams in the SEC, it's a good time to roll out a few names of those players poised to have breakout seasons.

It's always a little bit of a crapshoot, but based on conversations with several coaches around the league, right there at the top of my list are LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander, Vanderbilt defensive end Caleb Azubike, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, Auburn cornerback Chris Davis, Alabama outside linebacker Denzel Devall, Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and South Carolina offensive tackle Brandon Shell.