HOOVER, Ala. – Hundreds of fans and media have converged on the Hyatt Regency for the 2016 SEC Media Days. In the second day, out of four, two of the presumptive favorites for the SEC East spoke.
Today, Kirby Smart made his first appearance as the head man at Georgia. Coaches and players from Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M also made appearances in front of the media. Here are the winners and losers from the second day:
Winner: Georgia QBs not named Jacob Eason
Many fans had decided it was a foregone conclusion that 5-star QB recruit Jacob Eason would step in and start at quarterback for the Bulldogs this season, but Kirby Smart tried to slow down the hype train in his press conference.
Smart clarified that starting quarterback is not based on most talent, but rather who gives Georgia the best chance to win. This statement would seem to be directly referring to the touted Eason. Smart’s comments reinforced that Georgia will consider a more experienced quarterback, like senior Greyson Lambert — at least early in the season.
There will be an open competition in fall camp, so whether Eason can win the job will be interesting to watch.
Loser: Tennessee’s sweat glands
Tennessee expected to be riding in style to SEC media day, but Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin ruined the day. Even though Tennessee was scheduled to go before Texas A&M, Sumlin took the lone air-conditioned bus from the airport. That left Jones and his team with a bus without air conditioning in the 90-degree Alabama heat.
When asked about the incident, Sumlin responded in jest: “Just setting the tone.” We’ll see whether taking an air conditioned bus becomes unique bulletin board material when the Volunteers travel to Kyle Field on Oct. 8.
Winner: SEC Network
This is just the second year ESPN’s SEC Network has had exclusive viewing rights, and the audience delivered. SEC Media Days produced numerous trending topics over the course of the day, from Butch Jones to Trevor Knight. Thousands of fans were expected to tune into the exclusive coverage from Hoover.
Probably due to the SEC Network wanting exclusive video, the conference banned Periscope, Facebook Live and other live-streaming video services during the press conferences in Hoover this year.
The SEC Network also announced two new feature films set to debut in September. The first will detail Florida’s historic back-to-back championship men’s basketball team, with stars Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer. The second features the story of Texas A&M’s 1983 special teams unit, made up completely of walk-ons.
With all the exposure from the week, SEC Network should continue to be a force.
Loser: Georgia running backs
After losing star RB Nick Chubb last season to a devastating knee injury, the Bulldogs also lost backup Sony Michel to a broken forearm at the beginning of July. Smart said Chubb still has not been cleared for any contact drills, while Michel may be out up to eight weeks. The timeline for either to return is up in the air.
Georgia was a power-running team at heart under Mark Richt, and the same was expected to be true of Smart. Having the two top contributors in questionable shape could devastate the Georgia offense to start the year. With three of the first four games away from home against Power 5 opponents, there will be little time to waste.
If Chubb and Michel are healthy by September, this is a moot point.
Winner: Tennessee football
All eyes were on Butch Jones as the Volunteers entered the day as the prohibitive favorite in the SEC East. Jones was optimistic of his team’s prospects and his players managed to avoid giving their opponents any bulletin board material before the season even starts.
The Volunteers have higher expectations than they’ve had in years, and are expected to be the favorites in the SEC East when the preseason media poll comes out on Thursday. The only downside, which Jones noted? The media has only picked the eventual SEC champion correctly five times.
Loser: Dan Mullen
He was given a no-win situation to start, but Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen tripped and fell over his own Yeezy-clad feet. The Bulldogs welcomed 5-star recruit Jeffery Simmons to campus this summer, despite pending assault charges after a videotaped incident against a woman. Mullen and Mississippi State suspended him for a meaningless game against South Alabama.
Mullen’s program has a “respect women” sign in the locker room, but his words in Hoover did not inspire confidence. Mullen compared Simmons to a family member going through a hard time, and said “we’re all responsible” if Simmons were to have an incident against another student. He stonewalled and tried to push blame for Simmons’ acceptance at Mississippi State onto his academic administration. This is not a storyline that will disappear anytime soon.
Winner: Dan Mullen’s shoe game
While Mullen himself had a disastrous day at the podium, his shoe game was fire. Mullen wore the new Yeezy Boost 750s. Kanye West’s signature shoe from Adidas is one of the most exclusive sneakers on the market.
“They are pretty swagged up right now,” Mullen said. “You got to have fun and wear good shoes and have a good time while you’re doing it.”
Last year, Mullen garnered attention when he wore the Yeezy 350 to media day.
Winner: Trevor Knight
Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight stays winning. Back when he was at Oklahoma, Katy Perry said she had a crush on Knight, but to no avail. Now, Knight seems to have confirmed his involvement with yet another celebrity family.
A few days ago, Knight posted pictures with Sadie Robertson, one of the granddaughters in the hit TV show Duck Dynasty. He told media today that he managed to make the Roberson family die-hard Aggies. There have been rumors of the pair dating for weeks now, and Knight is doing nothing to quench the fire.