After an eventful opening to SEC Media Days Monday, some of the conference's biggest names took the podium Tuesday in Hoover, Alabama with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier leading the way.
Spurrier is well known for his entertaining interviews and brutal honesty, and he certainly didn't disappoint in that regard on Day 2. The Gamecocks are somewhat of a question mark this season with superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney now in the NFL, but Spurrier seems quite confident.
Here are some of the highlights from Spurrier's anticipated press conference along with more notable happenings from Tuesday's slate at SEC Media Days.
Day 2 Recap
It didn't take long for Spurrier to entertain the crowd Tuesday as he used his trademark sense of humor to describe SEC Media Days, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com:
Spurrier ready for "talkin' season" #SECMD14— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 15, 2014
Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for Spurrier to steer the conversation in the direction of quarterback Dylan Thompson. The maligned signal-caller had his ups and downs last season and he may very well be the key to South Carolina's success or lack thereof in 2014.
Spurrier stood behind his quarterback and referenced the fact that Thompson led the Gamecocks to a win over Central Florida last year, per Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee:
Spurrier: "He (Dylan Thompson) was the only QB to beat UCF."— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 15, 2014
Spurrier had plenty to say about his own team, but he was also opinionated about the SEC as a whole. Alabama has been the toast of the conference over the past several years and Spurrier believes he knows exactly why that is.
He paid Alabama head coach Nick Saban the ultimate compliment by lauding his recruiting ability, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy:
Spurrier on Saban: “I think they’ve had 5 top recruiting classes in last 6 years. Makes him the greatest recruiter in history of CFB"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 15, 2014
Spurrier and South Carolina did an excellent job recruiting this offseason in their own right, but he wasn't surprised to see that they fell just short of the Crimson Tide, per Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated:
Spurrier: "I read in the paper that http://t.co/DBeXe2vdWD had us No. 2 in recruiting. Of course Alabama was No. 1."— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) July 15, 2014
Also, Spurrier made no mistake in declaring Bama the team to beat in the SEC during the upcoming season, per ESPN's Edward Aschoff:
“They’re gonna be the favorites. They gotta be the favorites” Spurrier on Bama #SECMD14— Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) July 15, 2014
Spurrier's generosity wasn't limited to Saban and Alabama as he also had plenty of good things to say about Auburn. He has been especially impressed with the job that head coach Gus Malzahn has done with the Tigers over the years, according to Josh Kendall of The State:
Spurrier: "Gus Malzahn is one of the best coaches in the country. They don’t win that national championship (2010) unless he is there."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) July 15, 2014
In addition to that, Spurrier discussed championship aspirations for his team. He didn't make any guarantees in terms of winning the SEC or the national title, but he admitted that the Gamecocks will need some help in order to make that happen, per Sallee:
Spurrier: "We need one of those eastern division teams to lose a game. We've gone 6-2 and beaten the eventual champ three straight years."— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 15, 2014
Despite how immense South Carolina's rivalry is with Clemson, Spurrier made it clear that beating the Tigers isn't necessarily his No. 1 priority, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
Spurrier says he'd rather win the SEC title than beat #Clemson— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 15, 2014
That naturally led to some discussion regarding the upcoming College Football Playoff. Spurrier seems excited about the implementation of the playoff, but also believes there is room for expansion moving forward, per Staples:
Spurrier on the playoff: "Maybe someday they'll go to eight. But four is pretty good."— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) July 15, 2014
Perhaps most interestingly, Spurrier explained his philosophy regarding players going pro. While some coaches do everything they can to keep their players in school, Spurrier approaches things differently.
According to Kendall, players always have Spurrier's blessing if they approach him with the intention of entering the NFL draft:
Spurrier: "When a coach tries to talk his player into staying (rather than NFL), it's just not smart."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) July 15, 2014
Spurrier hit on pretty much every topic SEC fans can possibly think of and he did so with plenty of flair and strong opinions.
There are few coaches or people in general involved with college football who put on a more entertaining interview than Spurrier and there is little doubt that those in attendance got plenty of material.
Whether the Gamecocks vie for an SEC title or finish in the middle of the pack during the 2014 season, Spurrier will be an interesting mouthpiece throughout.
Although Spurrier may have been the highest-profile coach to take the podium Tuesday, the media had plenty to ask Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen as well. The Bulldogs have reached a bowl game in four consecutive seasons, but Mullen's expectations go even further beyond that this year.
According to McMurphy, Mullen believes his team can and should vie for an SEC title:
Dan Mullen: “Our expectations is to find a way to get to Atlanta (for SEC title game)"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 15, 2014
Mullen is fully aware of the fact that expectations are starting to get higher for Mississippi State now that the program is viable again, but he and his players have embraced it:
Mullen, Hughes and Prescott stressing how much they want and like higher expectations at State they feel they have all the talent to win SEC— Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) July 15, 2014
Among the Mississippi State players who spoke, quarterback Dak Prescott may have been the most impressive. He is coming off a strong sophomore campaign as a dual-threat quarterback and is a definite candidate to break out even more in 2014.
Being the conductor of the Mississippi State offense is something that Prescott enjoys and is excited about expanding upon this year:
Dak: "I love to lead. I love to see guys get better. Every day I go in there to try to get them better so I can get better."— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 15, 2014
Prescott also spoke about the SEC West and the level of competition the teams face (via Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports):
#MissSt QB Dak Prescott on the SEC West: "It's second only to the NFC and AFC."— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) July 15, 2014
Mullen faced a wide array of questions including some about his love for soccer. He even managed to make an interesting connection between the SEC and European soccer in terms of the way that fans react to each:
Mullen: "SEC football could be compared to European soccer because of fan’s passion. I’m sure I’ll have lot of European nations upset w/me"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 15, 2014
The Bulldogs certainly aren't favored to compete for a national title this season, but that didn't stop the media from asking Mullen about the new playoff format. He admitted that there is some mystery surrounding how the selections will be made:
Mullen: “I don’t know how @CFBPlayoff selection process will be made. I don’t think anyone does until they do it"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 15, 2014
It is extremely difficult to predict how Mississippi State might fare in the difficult SEC this season, but Mullen came across as cool and confident. He is fully aware of the challenges his team will face; however, he seems to be up to them.
Mississippi State is a definite wild card in the SEC and there will be plenty of eyes on the Bulldogs to see if they can play spoiler and make some noise.
The 2014 SEC Media Days might have been void of Johnny Manziel, but they certainly didn't lack personalities from Texas A&M.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin has been known for some sensational press conferences, but he was on top of his game throughout the afternoon on Tuesday. Sumlin started the day with questions about—you guessed it—none other than Johnny Football.
With Manziel now a member of the Cleveland Browns, Sumlin had a great quip about the early questioning. Knox Bardeen of Fox Sports and Pat Forde of Yahoo provide remarks and reaction from Sumlin:
Kevin Sumlin after another Johnny Manziel question: "That's a great question … for the Cleveland Browns." #SECMD14— Knox Bardeen (@KnoxonFox) July 15, 2014
Sumlin's non-answer was basically, "That's Cleveland's problem now, not mine."— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) July 15, 2014
For all that Manziel did with the program, he also provided a polarizing figure for college football. Though the former dual-threat quarterback brought attention to the Aggies, Sumlin had to deal with the controversy that surrounded him as well.
Chase Goodbread of NFL.com noted the change in complexion for the Aggies coach:
I swear, TAMU coach Kevin Sumlin looked young before he had Manziel, looked old while he had him, and now looks younger again at #SECMD14— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) July 15, 2014
There was also plenty of poking fun at the situation, per Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report:
"Coach Sumlin, can you draw me a picture of Johnny Manziel drawing a picture of Johnny Manziel?"— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) July 15, 2014
Though he denied the media some answers to their Manziel questions, he's also well aware of what the program's greatest quarterback did for him as a coach.
Manziel brought the second Heisman Trophy to the Aggies, is the lone first-team All-American quarterback and registered a total of 93 touchdowns in two seasons behind center. Sumlin spoke about his impact and how the team might change, per David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:
Sumlin: "There's not going to be another Johnny Manziel. Does that mean we change offensively? Maybe."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) July 15, 2014
While he heard questions about his former signal-caller, Sumlin wasn't ready to reveal his plans for the future. McMurphy shared Sumlin's comments about the quarterback battle:
Sumlin: “Didn’t come here to tell you who would be starting QB, so we can eliminate those questions” Decision couple weeks before opener— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 15, 2014
Over the past several years, Sumlin has changed the face of the program through outstanding recruiting. With the difficulties of bringing in players from Texas and competing against the SEC, Sumlin has thrived and has the No. 2 class according to 247Sports' composite rankings this year.
Of course, that is still behind recruiting juggernaut Alabama at No. 1 on the list. Despite the hurdles he has to overcome at College Station, Sumlin isn't shocked by his performance, via Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated:
Sumlin on out-recruiting Texas in the state: “If I was surprised, I wouldn’t have taken the job."— Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis) July 15, 2014
Sumlin provided some quips at the podium, but some of his players had an interesting day.
Cornerback Deshazor Everett didn't get off to the most memorable start during his meeting with the media. The defensive back was ready to take the stage when a gaffe occurred, per Lance Griffin of The Game Plan Radio Show:
Not a great start. Texas A&M's best defensive player introduced as Deshazor Elliott. (It's Everett). #SECMD14— Lance Griffin (@EagleLance) July 15, 2014
Everett had to serve as the face of one of the worst defenses in the SEC last season. The Aggies ranked 57th in the country in total defense, surrendering 390.23 yards and 32.2 points per game.
The senior spoke about last year's defensive performance, via Matt Smith of SouthernPigskin.com and David Paschall of the Times Free Press:
Texas A&M CB Deshazor Everett: "After last year, you don't hear too much about the Wrecking Crew."— Matt Smith (@MattSmithCFB) July 15, 2014
Texas A&M corner Deshazor Everett when asked if the Aggies will be better this season defensively: "Could we get much worse?" #TFPSEC— David Paschall (@DavidSPaschall) July 15, 2014
Outside of Sumlin and Everett, the Aggies also made waves with another interesting decision to bring Drew Kaser—the team's punter.
The head coach explained his reasoning for bringing Kaser:
"We brought Drew Kaser, a punter. I wanted you guys to see him. I hope you don't see him a bunch." - Kevin Sumlin— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 15, 2014
Sallee also shared an interesting moment for the punter as he took the stage:
Texas A&M P Drew Kaser takes a panoramic pic on the podium. I like him already.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 15, 2014
Though he didn't draw a similar crowd to some of his teammates, Kaser was still a popular figure. The SEC Media Days are typically reserved for Heisman hopefuls and players expected to step up, but the Aggies' punter provided some humor in the situation.
Morrison passed along Kaser's thoughts on the crowd for his presser:
Kaser was dismayed at the small crowd for him: "I thought being a punter was more up there than Johnny. I guess not."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) July 15, 2014
With plenty of talent coming back this season, the Aggies still have firepower to compete in the SEC. Missing both Manziel and star receiver Mike Evans, Sumlin will have to retool to truly make a dent.
But if the defense can show improvements and the offense can put numbers on the board, there is still reason for optimism in College Station. Having Sumlin at the head of the program means it will at least be entertaining.
Second-year head coach Butch Jones comes in with hope that he can turn the program around this season. While the team might not be ready to compete in a stout SEC, they have certainly made improvements.
Before he ever took the podium, Jones noted the improved strength for his team, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
Butch Jones:"This time last yr we had 0 guys who could squat 600 lbs. Now we have 9. Now we have to translate it over to the football field"— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 15, 2014
In order to make a huge turnaround in the 2014 season, Jones will have to rely on several new players to step up.
Following a year where they went 5-7 and finished just one win short of bowl eligibility, the Volunteers have holes at multiple positions to fill. Jones noted the drastic roster changes, per Jerry Hinnen of CBS Sports:
Butch Jones starts by saying he's lost "almost half" of roster, "only team in the country" that has to replace both entire lines. Ouch.— Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen) July 15, 2014
While Jones spent the offseason attempting to regroup, he made an impression on his players. Defensive lineman Curt Maggitt referenced his coach during the SEC Media Days, via Teran Johnson of WUTK:
Maggit on @UTCoachJones: "He's passionate. He works 24/7/365. We haven't seen passion like that in years."— Teran Johnson (@TeranJ_WUTK) July 15, 2014
Apparently the feelings are mutual, as Jones notes what Maggitt means to the team, via Tennessee Football:
JONES: @CurtMaggitt is the leader of our football team. He was a leader last season, but he wasn’t able to participate. He’s a presence.— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) July 15, 2014
Outside of the trenches, Jones also is still searching for who will start behind center. With six potential quarterbacks on the roster, the second-year coach hasn't narrowed down his decision at this point.
Jones provided his comments on the quarterback battle:
Butch Jones: “Excited about overall QB competition b/w all 3 guys. Very encouraged. No timetable on naming a starter"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 15, 2014
Though he's not comfortable with who will start at signal-caller, Jones is more than happy with his receiving corps.
Tennessee didn't have a single wide receiver compile over 500 yards last season, but returns a lot of young talent. Sophomores Marquez North, Josh Smith and Jason Croom along with junior Johnathon Johnson are all looking to break out this season.
Jones commented on where he believes the receiving group is at, per College GameDay:
"Tennessee is the original Wide Receiver U" - Butch Jones— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) July 15, 2014
No pressure for that young cast.
One strength this season will be senior linebacker A.J. Johnson. The star defensive player spurned a chance at the NFL for his final season with the Volunteers and spoke about his offseason at the Media Days:
Jones also noted just how important Johnson's return is for the team:
Butch Jones on AJ Johnson: "He means so much to our football team. Being the middle linebacker, he's the quarterback of our defense."— Volquest Staff (@Volquest_Rivals) July 15, 2014
As for what's to come this season, the bar isn't apparently set extremely high at Tennessee. Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports passed along what offensive lineman Mark Crowder hopes for this season:
This quote from OL Mack Crowder really brings home where once-proud Tennessee program is at: "What we're shooting for is a bowl game."— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) July 15, 2014
Not exactly high hopes, but certainly attainable ones for the Volunteers.
With Jones at the helm, Tennessee appears to be a program that will be on the rise. Though the process likely won't be a quick one, the Vols have a chance to compete in the SEC East in the years to come.
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