HOOVER, Ala. — Welcome to 2016 SEC Media Days!
If you’re not one of the lobby creatures waiting for autographs, or one of the several hundred credentialed media, you’ll need a window inside the proceedings. That’s what we’ll try to accomplish here.
On today’s schedule: SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, Florida coach Jim McElwain and Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason.
The obligatory shot that I'm only taking to insert into my story (yes, super meta). pic.twitter.com/mD8gzNToIN
— Christopher Smith (@csmithSEC) July 11, 2016
5:08 P.M.: Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason says some people thought he was crazy as a struggling second-year head coach for adding defensive coordinator to his responsibilities. But the defense played very well last year, and the team made marginal improvements.
3:48 P.M.: A reporter tried to bait McElwain with a question about the “state championship rings” Florida State made following last year’s win over the Gators.
“They won it, so why wouldn’t they? I don’t really get that jacked up in that stuff.”
He then added: “I don’t know whether our administration has it in our budget to do that.” Ouch!
3:39 P.M.: Jim McElwain on the strong-legged Eddie Piniero, who never has played organized football and has been billed as the savior of the Gators kicking game: “I was excited to see that he was able to buckle his chinstrap. That was awesome.”
3:26 P.M.: Apparently, Jim McElwain refuses to wear socks. Didn’t know that before. Guess I’m behind the times.
— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) July 11, 2016
2:53 P.M.: Florida coach Jim McElwain says there’s no timeline on a decision on the indefinite suspensions of Antonio Callaway and Treon Harris.
For what it’s worth, both players are listed in the team’s media guide released Sunday. And Callaway apparently just made an appearance on the Jalen Tabor Periscope:
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) July 11, 2016
2:15 P.M.: Intrigue at the quarterback position has followed Auburn since last year’s disaster at the position. But the team’s defense, which didn’t exactly thrive in one year with Will Muschamp at coordinator, may be even more important to the 2016 outcome.
Consider Gus Malzahn bullish. “Carl Lawson is 100 percent healthy,” but we’re struggling to find other good reasons to expect a major turnaround.
Malzahn believes defense may be best since he's coached at Auburn. In 10 years only 1 college staff he's been on had top 50 defense.
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) July 11, 2016
2:09 P.M.: We’ve injected truth serum into all 14 SEC head coaches! (OK, not really. Don’t panic.) Our Kyle Tucker has listed the questions we’d ask every coach if we knew they’d give us honest responses.
1:25 P.M.: Gus Malzahn has endured some heckling from an Alabama fan. No word on whether he’s related to Harvey Updyke.
1:11 P.M.: Our own Chip Towers of DawgNation.com asked Sankey if the SEC has an image problem.
“The fact that there are headlines around the Southeastern Conference is not new. The fact that we come to SEC Media Days and there are stronger headlines is not new.
“The body of work far outweighs (the current) problems. But we need to be attentive to those problems.”
1:o2 P.M.: Is Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen fretting about how he’ll answer questions related to Jeffrey Simmons? The Bulldogs are scheduled to be here tomorrow, but it appears Mullen is getting in some lake time:
Enjoying some final waves this summer. pic.twitter.com/GyVCe787fn
— Dan Mullen™ (@CoachDanMullen) July 11, 2016
12:59 P.M.: Our Auburn beat writer Brandon Marcello explains Auburn’s decision not to suspend the four arrested players (see below):
“Gus Malzahn is focused on being more of a coach and his plan is simple: take full control of the offense. Auburn faltered in its fast-pace offense last season and he wants to get back to it, which means everything is sped up, including the search for a new starting quarterback. This is a Gus Malzahn with more urgency, similar to the coach we saw when he walked into The Wynfrey Hotel for his first SEC Media Days in 2013.”
12:51 P.M.: Greg Sankey acknowledged the recent NCAA violations in the league and how “we can’t have any more of those.”
Prior to the national title game in January, he bragged that no SEC school currently was under NCAA probation for the first time in years. That’s no longer the case. The most prominent investigation involves Ole Miss athletics in multiple sports, including members of coach Hugh Freeze’s staff.
12:48 P.M.: The first big news out of Hoover: Auburn will not suspend DE Byron Cowart, CB Carlton Davis, WR Ryan Davis and DB Jeremiah Dinson.
They were arrested April 30 on charges of possession of marijuana in the second degree, a misdemeanor.
“There has been a decision made,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn announced at SEC Media Days. “Those four men made a mistake, we punished them and they won’t miss any time. THat’s behind us. Four fine young men, they made a mistake and I’m confident they won’t make any more.”
12:45 P.M.: The lobby creatures are out in full force today, especially the Auburn fans. Is this the final SEC Media Days appearance for Gus Malzahn?
— Auburn Football (@FootballAU) July 11, 2016
12:45 P.M.: SEC commissioner Greg Sankey’s opening remarks have begun. Sankey starts by calling former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt “a pillar of the Southeastern Conference.”
12:30 P.M.: It wouldn’t be an SEC Media Days without Steve Spurrier, who resigned from South Carolina mid-season last year. He’s been a part of 22 of these events, but alas, he isn’t here this year as he no longer is an SEC head coach. Still, he’s found a way to be a part of things:
— Coach Steve Spurrier (@SC_HBC) July 11, 2016
Proud to announce the release of my new book, HEAD BALL COACH, by Blue Rider Press on Aug 30. Pre-order it now: https://t.co/xTJGmBFKDs
— Coach Steve Spurrier (@SC_HBC) July 11, 2016
11:30 A.M.: We’ve already unleashed a stream of content from Hoover, Ala., including:
- An exclusive national poll predicting the SEC order of finish for 2016. Why wait for the official SEC media poll on Thursday? We’ve already gathered the media’s projections for the 2016 season.
- Bingo! As in, the game. You don’t have to be a senior adult to enjoy playing (although it’s acceptable if you are). We’ve created a special SEC Media Days version of the classic.
- Are you a graphic aficionado? Here’s a look at all 14 SEC media guide covers from Hoover. There’s drama as well: Georgia emailed this morning to let us all know that the team actually released three covers, including at least one that features Nick Chubb. The one on the official media guide given to us by the SEC features Sony Michel.
- The SEC coaches are 14 Angry Men. OK, so not really. This is a fictional conversation purported to have taken place prior to media days. But this event tends to get so darned serious, we forget we’re talking about a game. (Yes, we’re proud of ourselves.)