We’re halfway through the four-day talkin’ season headliner that is SEC Media Days, and Day 1 of the annual event’s 2017 edition featured a Butch Jones-sized dose of coach speak.
Thankfully, the Wynfrey Hotel played host to a handful of entertaining moments on Tuesday, both good and bad. So SEC Country’s here to recap the highlights, lowlights and every shark-related question in between:
Winner: Dan Mullen
The Mississippi State coach didn’t have to field uncomfortable questions about Jeffery Simmons this year, which meant he could do his quirky Dan Mullen shtick without looking like he was avoiding an awkward subject. And that brought a little levity to a mostly forgettable day in Hoover, Ala.
It started with Mullen sporting some nifty shoes and apparently chatting with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey about U2, but the highlight came when the conference’s resident “cool dad” talked about his ballet skills. His childhood dance experience isn’t exactly news — Mullen has discussed it publicly before — but sharing that info with a room full of reporters and cameramen takes someone who is pretty darn comfortable in his own skin. Props, Dan.
Dan Mullen was his 8-year-old son's caddy yesterday, also discloses that his mom had him try ballet as a kid
— Christopher Walsh (@WritingWalsh) July 11, 2017
Loser: Jim McElwain
Jim McElwain became tied to one of the weirdest offseason stories in recent memory when the photo of a naked man appearing to hump a shark surfaced on Twitter. This man, who was in no way Jim McElwain, just so happened to resemble the third-year Florida coach, which predictably resulted in a deluge of dumb Internet memes.
Well, McElwain fielded a question about the whole ordeal, and everyone quickly realized that he really did not like being the subject of unflattering online jokes.
“I love the humor in it,” McElwain said before turning serious. “And yet, you know what, it not only attacked the university but it attacked my family. When you know it is not you. You know, I bust chops with the best of them, and yet when it got personal…”
You know, it doesn’t really sound like Mac loved “the humor” in it. For a guy who makes more than $4 million a year to beat up the lousy SEC East, he could stand to laugh a little bit more.
Winner: Kyle Tucker
Hat tip to SEC Country’s Kentucky beat writer for asking the hard-hitting question that was actually on everybody’s mind this summer. That Kyle Tucker’s move saved everyone from having to hear another Florida-LSU question only made it better.
PULITZER. NOW. pic.twitter.com/ZSmejb0EtD
— Jim Weber (@JimMWeber) July 11, 2017
Winner: Jacob Eason
Jacob Eason, who didn’t represent Georgia at Media Days this year, is a winner in the most modest sense of the word. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart told reporters that his former 5-star prospect will be the team’s starting quarterback when the season begins, as many suspected he would.
For a player who started 12 games last season, and whose only spring competition was true freshman Jake Fromm, holding onto first-stringer status is the absolute least fans expect from Eason in 2017. However, it’s still a step Eason needed to take. How many more stairs he climbs after this one could be the difference Georgia needs to win the SEC East.
Loser: Matt Elam
It’s hard for a player to really “lose” at SEC Media Days, especially when he doesn’t even make the trip. Kentucky defensive lineman Matt Elam somehow accomplished this when SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy destroyed him on live TV.
“This defensive line, they need to be issued the challenge because this was an embarrassing effort last year, particularly the former 5-star Matt Elam, who’s lazy and as underachieving a player as I’ve seen in this league in some time,” McElroy said.
Maybe a Wildcats coach passed a tip to McElroy hoping it would publicly motivate Elam. Maybe the former Alabama quarterback watched Elam’s tape and hated what he saw. Either way, it’s rare to see an analyst single out a lineman quite like that. That might sting.
Winner: Greg Sankey … and everyone else?
The SEC is reportedly thinking about moving its Media Days extravaganza out of Hoover, where the event has been held since 2001. Cities on the table include Nashville, Atlanta and Dallas.
For fans who have already made the summer trek to Hoover, you already know that the Birmingham suburb isn’t exactly a bustling hot spot. Atlanta and Dallas are decent options, but Nashville would be the real game changer.
Commissioner Sankey: Make it happen.
Loser: Alabama football fans
Our own Christopher Walsh wrote up an interesting excerpt from SEC coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw’s appearance at Media Days — one that has to do with Crimson Tide fans feeling like their team got the short end of the stick when it came to penalty flags.
My first thought: Do they have a point? Alabama’s opponents were flagged just 58 times for 471 yards, the lowest total in college football last season (over 15 games, too).
My second thought: Really? Your team went 14-1 last season and you think you were getting robbed by the refs? Many of Alabama’s wins were blowouts, so forgive the man in zebra stripes if he doesn’t call holding with two minutes left in a 49-10 ball game. Not everyone wants to watch a five-hour contest.