HOOVER, Ala. – Texas A&M safety Armani Watts wants to flip the Kevin Sumlin hot-seat talk and call it an opportunity.
“People are going to talk regardless of what you do, win or lose,” Watts said at SEC Media Days. “So there are always going to be naysayers and everything. We just take it as a chip, put it on our shoulder and go out there and work and play for Coach Sumlin, because he’s not on the field. We are. So we’re going to have to win games.”
It was zero surprise, but Sumlin’s job security became part of the chatter Wednesday at the Wynfrey Hotel. In May, Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward placed Sumlin on notice by telling Paul Finebaum the coach “has to win, and he has to win this year, and we have to do better than we’ve done in the past.”
The Aggies finished 8-5 in each of the past three seasons. After winning 11 games in his first season in College Station in 2012 and nine the next year, Sumlin has seen his stock decline with disappointing late-season slumps.
Last year, Texas A&M lost five of its final seven games after starting 6-0. In 2015, the Aggies were 5-0 to start before dropping five of eight. In 2014, it was more of the same.
“We’ve got to control what we can control,” Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk said. “We focus on us and what we’re supposed to handle. Coach Sumlin doesn’t go out there and play on Saturdays. That’s up to us. We’ve got to go out there and win. We’ve got to be better. As players, we’ve got to go out there and win games. That’s all our main focus is right now in the offseason, just finishing games.”
It won’t be easy for the Aggies to finish games this fall. They’ll replace defensive end Myles Garrett, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. There’s also uncertainty at quarterback, with senior Jake Hubenak and freshmen Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel considered possibilities after Trevor Knight’s departure.
“We just do our best not to worry about that,” Texas A&M offensive tackle Koda Martin said of Sumlin’s future. “We don’t think about that. It’s not our concern. Our concern is we have a saying that, ‘It’s about us.’ And so we don’t worry about the voices that are going on outside of the program. … We trust that our coaching staff is doing everything they can to win.”