Here are the hot topics from Wednesday at SEC Media Days:
1. Red elephant in the room
Alabama’s championship dynasty permeated through the entire day with Nick Saban and three Crimson Tide players on hand.
New Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead mentioned UA in his opening remarks and players were asked about last year’s close game against Alabama. Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt, who played and coached at Alabama, was asked about multiple questions about Saban and even some about Crimson Tide players.
“I could write a book,” Pruitt said on the influence Saban has had on him.
The defending national champions had the week’s largest and loudest group of fans to greet them when they walked the carpet into the lobby at the College Football Hall of Fame for media days interviews.
2. Central Florida
The self-proclaimed national champions aren’t in the SEC, but the Knights are still getting attention coming off their undefeated 2017 season. College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock was asked about UCF’s title claim, and Saban was asked about whether he feels for a program like Central Florida running the table and not being able to get in the playoff.
“I have tremendous amount of compassion for UCF and what they accomplished this (past) year in going undefeated,” Saban said. “… I’m not responsible for the system that determines who gets in the playoffs.”
3. New coordinators
Each of the four teams at SEC Media Days on Wednesday has new coordinators on both offense and defense. Pruitt at Tennessee and Moorhead at Mississippi State are new to their schools as head coaches and have brought in their own staffs. Alabama has a new offensive coordinator in Mike Locksley and a new defensive coordinator in Tosh Lupoi. Missouri promoted Ryan Walters to defensive coordinator last December and hired Derek Dooley as offensive coordinator a month later.
“Forget about what happened last year. There’s no looking back at that.”
– Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban
“It would be like taking the stage and performing after the Beatles.”
– Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead on being happy to not follow Nick Saban at SEC Media Days
“You think Coach Saban’s going to give me advice?”
– Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt on whether his former boss has been helpful in his transition
“It’s the best staff harmony that we’ve had since I’ve been the head coach.”
– Missouri coach Barry Odom, who changed both coordinators after last season
Wednesday’s dumbest questions
Gather more than 1,000 media people in front of football coaches and players for four days, and there are going to be some questionable queries. Wednesday at SEC Media Days brought a lot of silly exchanges. Here are some samples:
Turning the tables
Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has developed a reputation for asking a lot of questions, which led to this exchange with Missouri coach Barry Odom:
Q: I had kind of a multiple question …
A: (interrupting) Hang on, Bob, real quick. You have got a longer tenure than a lot of coaches that are here. Me included. I’m glad to see you’re back for another year.
Q: I wish I made as much money as you guys. I mean that respectfully.
Alabama running back Damien Harris had a funny exchange about being asked about UA’s quarterback competition:
Q: Do you get that question quite a bit?
A: Do you ask that question a lot?
Q: I’m just saying how often do you get asked about the quarterback thing.
A: But I’m saying how many times have you asked somebody about the quarterback situation?
Q: I haven’t.
A: You’ve never asked? Never? Not one time? Not one time? Because I’m pretty sure you’ve asked me about the quarterback situation. I know for a fact you’ve asked that question before.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock got asked a nonsense question and responded accordingly.
Q: Picture this: It’s a Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl and you take a five-step drop from center. Who would you rather see coming down in terms of pass rush: one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
A: I’d rather see one horse-sized duck, because I bet he doesn’t move very well. I could probably get around him.
Head coach: Joe Moorhead
2017 record: 9-4 (4-4 SEC)
Returning starters: 18 (9 offense, 8 defense, 1 special teams)
Hardest question Moorhead faced: “Is there any sense of urgency to have a really good season this year with such a talented returning quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald and then a lot of talent around him?’
Moorhead’s reply: “Certainly from a contextual standpoint, you have the elevated expectation levels relative to who is coming back and you look at it and what you’ve done in the past, you walk into the building and the Egg Bowl trophy is not there, we’ve never won an SEC championship, we’ve never competed for a national championship. … So part of our task as a staff is to elevate the program, which has a very solid foundation, from good to great.”
You need to know: Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is on his third SEC school in his career, and he’s Mississippi State’s fifth coordinator in as many seasons. He previously coached at Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
Best player quote: “It was me, Jeffery Simmons and Farrod Green. We met him at the airport when he first flew into Starkville. We went to shake his hand and then he asked us (our ring size) … then we looked down at our hands and our ring fingers.” — Senior defensive linemen Gerri Green on meeting his new head coach
Head coach: Jeremy Pruitt
2017 record: 4-8 (0-8 SEC)
Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 7 defense)
Hardest question Pruitt faced: “You talk a lot about Tennessee bringing it back to the ‘90s. The last 10 years with the struggles of Tennessee football and the coaching leading up to your hire, how do you assess the state of the program you’re walking into?”
Pruitt’s reply: “The only thing I can assess is the last six months. I wasn’t at Tennessee the last 10 years. I’ve been there six months. … We’re all running in the same direction, and we’re running as fast as we can.”
You need to know: Tennessee’s first game is against West Virginia, which averaged 32.5 points in 2017. The Volunteers averaged 17.8 points.
Best player quote: “Pretty much throughout the whole spring everybody got the same amount of reps. … I believe that that is going to help us instill more depth within our team, within our defense and within our offense.” – Senior defensive end Kyle Phillips on the changes in day-to-day coaching
Head coach: Nick Saban
2017 record: 13-1 (7-1 SEC)
Returning starters: 12 (7 offense, 3 defense, 2 special teams)
Hardest question Saban faced: “I think it’s 47 days until the opener, kind of late in the offseason. Do you expect Jalen (Hurts) to be on the roster on opening day or with the team?”
Saban’s reply: “Well I have no idea. I expect him to be there. I think it’s our job to give both players a very fair opportunity to have a chance to win the team at their position. … We’ll create a role for one or both of those guys on our team and they’ll all have to make a decision based on what that outcome is as to what their future is at Alabama.”
You need to know: Alabama is returning four of five starting offensive linemen and both tight ends. Bradley Bozeman, the one starter lost, was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round.
Best player quote: “If I had a dollar for every time I heard it, I would be a rich man, maybe retired.” – Senior offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher on questions about the quarterback situation
Head coach: Barry Odom
2017 record: 7-6 (4-4 SEC)
Returning starters: 17 (9 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams)
Hardest question Odom faced: “I remember after the Auburn game last year you were very emotional what you wanted out of the Mizzou program and what you wanted to build there. I know that you guys lost the next two, but then you won six straight. What changed for your program and for your team to get the program to finish strong like they did?”
Odom’s reply: “I wouldn’t recommend anybody starts 1-5. That’s not a lot of fun or healthy for anybody. … At the time, they needed to see that. I needed to stand up for them a little bit publicly because I knew we were getting close.”
You need to know: Quarterback Drew Lock set both SEC and Missouri records for single-season touchdown passes with 44 last season. He decided to stay for his senior season to gain a “greater understanding of NFL ball.”
Best player quote: “Probably one of the greatest quarterbacks you’ll ever see play this game. … I love watching him play and especially since we came in as freshman and seeing what he can do now.” – Senior defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. on Lock
– Compiled by Carlyle Rickenmann