HOOVER, Ala. — The first day of 2017 SEC Media Days came to a conclusion Monday evening. Three teams down, 11 to go.
A few winners and losers emerged among Arkansas, LSU and Tennessee at the Wynfrey Hotel, the long-term home of the annual preseason convention:
Winner: Derrius Guice
No one seemed to be having more fun than the LSU running back, who not only dressed the part but also spoke his mind. It was refreshing for reporters who otherwise heard one cliché answer after another.
Guice didn’t back down from his comment that Alabama was “scared” of LSU, and gave a poignant answer on why he runs angry:
“I guess it’s from what I’ve been through my whole life,” said Guice, who hails from Baton Rouge, La. “My family is still in it. I guess the reason why I run that way is to get my family away from it, and not in that situation any more. I’m very fortunate to be here, fortunate to be alive from where I come from. I guess I just run for better — better days.”
— Gabe Bock (@GabeBock) July 10, 2017
Meanwhile, teammates Christian LaCouture and D.J. Chark were brave enough to attempt impersonations of their head coach, Ed Orgeron.
Chark’s wasn’t very good, but it primarily consisted of two words: “Go deep!” Speaking of Orgeron …
Loser: Ed Orgeron
Everyone in the Wynfrey ballroom knew they were in trouble when his opening comments included “I would like to tell you a little story about growing up in Louisiana …” and then went on for 15 minutes while seemingly including every name imaginable.
Orgeron came across as filibustering, a term usually associated with Congress. But in this case it means a coach using up as much of his designated time as possible in order to take fewer questions from reporters.
Even when he did answer questions, Orgeron didn’t say much. For instance:
Your opener against BYU kicks off at 8:30.
Orgeron: “Yes, sir.”
It’s not unusual for a college game to last 3 1/2 hours or more?
Orgeron: “Yes, sir.”
BYU doesn’t play on Sunday. Have you considered what happens if the clock strikes midnight?
Orgeron: “I think that that will be held up to the referees. I will let them make that decision.”
Has it come up, though?
Orgeron: “It has been discussed within the realm of our assistant coaches. Yes, it has, but that’s out of our hands.”
Thankfully, ESPN was on hand to show that live.
Winner: The SEC
Kudos to Commissioner Greg Sankey for dedicating a significant part of his introductory speech to address race issues and announce that the SEC will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first African-American athlete to participate in a varsity contest, Kentucky’s Nate Northington.
“Our journey is certainly not complete,” he said. “There’s hurt. There still remains friction, but to those who helped us change and to those who will help us change in the future, thank you for the strength and the grace you’ve shown.”
There were four African-American football players on the 1967 Wildcats. The SEC has invited the families of Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg to the league championship game “to join us in remembering, honoring and celebrating what they helped change 50 years ago.”
Loser: The SEC
When asked if the SEC had a position on the California law banning state-sponsored travel to conference states Alabama and Kentucky, which were recently added to a list that already included Mississippi and Tennessee, Sankey only said it hasn’t been discussed.
The law, AB 1887, went into effect Jan. 1. The issue with Alabama was the passage of a law allowing adoption agencies in the state to follow faith-based policies.
The commissioner had the same response when asked if the SEC would ever consider not playing any events in California.
Winner: Tennessee’s Kendal Vickers, Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow
Both displayed why reporters of both teams enjoy covering the linemen. A good example was what Vickers said about Butch Jones possibly being on the hot seat:
“It’s a little disrespectful,” the defensive lineman said. “When I got here, we were 5-7 and I was redshirted. Things were bad … He’s changed this program so much, and he’s done everything he’s possibly been able to do to change the culture at Tennessee. So, yeah I think it’s a little bit disrespectful, but we don’t worry about that in the locker room.”
— Patrick Woo (@P_Woo) July 10, 2017
As for Ragnow, when asked about a report that coaches may be considering using him on defense in addition to center, the offensive lineman responded: “I’m all about it, that’d be cool.”
He also said: “Yeah, this is the first time I have been in front of this many people with cameras. It’s been cool, we got to fly on a private plane which was pretty cool and to just see all of these people who are interested in what I have to say is pretty cool.”
Loser: Butch Jones
The announcement about team captains came across as trying to manufacture something out of nothing in terms of news, which to the rest of the league is quickly becoming the modus operandi for the “champions of life” coach.
“We’re very proud of the fact that it’s very, very difficult to win in the Southeastern Conference, and we’re one of only three programs that have won nine games two years in a row,” Jones said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have three straight bowl victories, first time in 20 years in our great program’s history and tradition, but there’s so much more out there.”
Obviously, that includes winning the division, which Tennessee was expected to do last season. Instead, the Volunteers haven’t made it to Atlanta in a decade (2007).
Winner: Bret Bielema
Being at media days just two days after becoming a father, the Arkansas would probably have been given a pass if he had rambled on due to lack of sleep.
Instead, he didn’t disappoint. When reminded of calling the win over Texas A&M “borderline erotic” a couple of years ago, Bielema responded: “I know you guys are all looking for quotes. I don’t think I can go much further than that one. That was in a small-group session and that was before I had a child, so I’ll just leave it at there.”
Bielema mentioning Chipotle Mexican Grill on live television must have felt like the best thing to happen in more than a year for the restaurant … until he subsequently provided the sound bite that got everyone’s attention instead:
“My wife wanted a double veggie bowl from Chipotle — trying to get an endorsement right there — I was walking down, and I recognized the FaceTime, pulled it out and I see Greg Sankey’s name. I said: This is pretty cool, the commissioner is FaceTiming me. That’s pretty neat. He said, ‘Why were you calling me?’ I said, ‘I apologize, I must have butt-dialed you.’ That was a unique experience.”
The guess here is an endorsement won’t be in the works.