Texas A&M punter Drew Kaser soaks in spotlight at SEC Media Days
HOOVER, Ala. -- Of all the things heard at SEC Media Days, silence isn't usually one of them. Media members routinely swarm players and coaches, and it's often hard to get a word in between rapid-fire questions. A player at a podium might as well be a piece of meat to a pack of wild dogs.
That wasn't the case surrounding Texas A&M punter Drew Kaser. In the corner of a Hyatt Regency ballroom on Tuesday, there were moments when Kaser waited patiently for someone to make the next joke about a punter being at SEC Media Days. Kaser was a first-team All-America and a Ray Guy Award finalist in 2013, but that's not what people cared about in Hoover. Instead, reporters wanted to know how it felt to sit in the seats that Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron filled last year.
"The lack of Heisman hype is -- I'm a little bit bitter about that," Kaser said, laughing. "No, it's such a huge honor to even be considered among the top punters in college football."
Kaser took most of the friendly queries in stride on Tuesday. He admitted to being surprised when coach Kevin Sumlin texted him after workouts one day and asked him to come to Hoover alongside defensive back Deshazor Everett and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. Kaser made the trip expecting to be somewhat of a novelty in between bigger-name interviews. Only one year ago, these Aggies were the story of SEC Media Days thanks to Manziel. The tables have turned this July, and some fans took the notion of Kaser representing A&M better than others.
"I try to stay away from that," he said. "I've had quite a few people at [mention] me on Twitter. It was hard to ignore those ones."
Untrained observers might have mistaken Kaser for a regular SEC star at certain moments. He touched on film study (yes, punters participate), Texas A&M's opener at South Carolina and the tall task of replacing departed stars such as Manziel, wide receiver Mike Evans and offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Kaser, a Strongsville, Ohio, native, even opined on Cleveland's recent headline-grabbing sports moves, including the Browns' drafting of Manziel. Has he bought a Manziel jersey? "Not yet," Kaser said. "I assume I'll get it as soon as I can."
Still, Kaser's presence in Hoover also represented the unknown identity of this Texas A&M team. During his press conference on Tuesday, Sumlin fielded nearly as many questions about Manziel as he did about his current roster. Manziel was a lightning rod for attention, but he's hardly high on Sumlin's current list of priorities as the Aggies enter this fall.
The good news is Texas A&M brings back talent in certain areas, like at wide receiver with senior Malcome Kennedy and redshirt freshman Ricky Seals-Jones. Sumlin also touted the depth of his defense, especially his four returning starters on the defensive line. But losing program-defining guys like Manziel and Evans has left the Aggies in a bit of a flux as they search for leadership. That's why Kaser said he's one of several players hoping to develop leadership as fall camp inches closer.
"For a team leader, you have to prove yourself," Kaser said. "There aren't many team leaders out there that are proven. Being the unknown guy and having success in the  season kind of led my leadership to grow as the season went on. Now having one season under my belt, I think I can become the leader I want to be."
All the positive attention on Tuesday was unusual for Kaser. After all, he doesn't usually see the field unless the offense does something wrong. That's why Kaser opted to enjoy his time in Hoover under the lights, since it's not likely he'll get this much airtime again.
"I always joked about having some quarterback experience," Kaser said, "but [Sumlin] wasn’t buying taking out Johnny and putting me back there."