Grading How the Four New Coaches Handled Their First SEC Media Days
If you look past all the commotion from the Johnny Manziel-palooza at Day 2 of SEC Media Day, the lineup aside from the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was quite intriguing.
All four new SEC head coaches—Kentucky's Mark Stoops, Tennessee's Butch Jones, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Arkansas' Bret Bielema made their inaugural appearances in Hoover, Ala.
How did each of them handle the bright spotlight from the circus known as SEC Media Day?
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema: A-
Whether it was commenting on pace of play, razzing a media member who fell asleep in the first row or addressing his criticism of the SEC when he was coach at Wisconsin, Bielema put on a show.
"When you're coaching in another league, you can't really brag on another league," Bielema said. "I was a closet SEC fan [at Wisconsin]."
Do you buy it?
Bielema—like every other coach in America—is loyal to the paycheck first, so it's not a shock that he came out strong when asked about it. If these are the types of quotes we are going to receive from Bielema in future, though, he'll soon join South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and LSU's Les Miles as a can't-miss participant of SEC Media Days.
Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn: B+
Why such a good grade for Auburn's first-year head coach? Here's a good reason courtesy of 1010XL's Chadd Scott.
Of the 10 coaches who've come thru SEC Media Days thus far Hugh Freeze did 1 Radio Row interview, Malzahn 6 all others combined 0. #wareagle— Chadd Scott (@ChaddScott) July 17, 2013
That's not an exaggeration. When head coaches go downstairs to radio row—which is between the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel and the Riverchase Galleria mall—writers, radio producers and even some fans mob them and make it nearly impossible to navigate the hallway.
Malzahn didn't care, and that's a good thing.
As far as the information he provided, it wasn't all that groundbreaking. Although this little nugget responding to outside criticism of up-tempo offenses being dangerous to the game was noteworthy.
"When I first heard that, I thought it was a joke." he said.
The Auburn camp clearly had one message and focused on "a new day." Who will be the quarterback of that "new day?" Malzahn says that is still very much a four-horse race between Kiehl Frazier, Jonathan Wallace, Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson.
Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones: B
Jones is a tightly-wound ball of excitement, and despite the fact that he speaks mostly in cliches, his ability to inspire is powerful enough to make you want to run through a wall.
Jones enthusiastically promoted the Tennessee program. Including how he's building it "brick-by-brick," and his effort to increase the Vols' physical conditioning. He also discussed a developing a renewed attitude and sense of pride on Rocky Top.
Basically, Jones provided a whole lot of sound and fury without many specifics. Or, to put it more simply, "Les Miles light."
But he did manage a little light-hearted humor while in the radio/internet room.
"My given name is "Lyle," he said. "Now you know why people call me 'Butch'."
No word if Jones will issue a statement apologizing to the 'Lyles' of the world.
Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops : C-
For a coach who's trying to sell his program to the masses and establish a new identity for his football team, Stoops didn't capitalize on the big stage during his appearance at SEC Media Days.
Stoops was honest and forthcoming, but with Kentucky having great success in recruiting and the program on the rise, the iron was hot to take advantage of the momentum.
Stoops embraced the expectations, but spoke in coach speak for the majority of the morning.
"Yeah, it's really, to be honest with you, an uncomfortable situation for me because it's not my style really to try to temper those expectations," he said. "I think the educated fan knows where we're at as a program, knows we have a lot of work to do."
Not bad, but Stoops certainly could—and should—have done better.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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