Around The SEC

SEC East still playing catchup with the West

Georgia player Jeb Blazevich Jr. speaks to the media during SEC media day at Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel.
Georgia player Jeb Blazevich Jr. speaks to the media during SEC media day at Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel. USA TODAY Sports

The SEC East will have three first-year head coaches in 2016.

It’s time for those newcomers to join with the veterans and get the division back on par with the SEC West, new Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday at SEC Football Media Days.

“Absolutely. I think balance and parity is a key for any conference,” Smart said. “I think if you ask the commissioner, he would like to have that balance.”

Instead, what SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has is a conference in which the SEC West representative has won the past seven conference championship games. The average margin of victory in those games has been 22 points.

The last time as Eastern Division team won the SEC, the MVP of the championship game was Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

“It’s our job on the East to do something about that,” Smart said. “We’ve got to do a great job on our side to compete, recruit, get the right facilities, put the right programs in place to be successful. I think that’s important to have that (balance). But it has not been that way, and the onus is on the Eastern teams to do that.”

South Carolina (Will Muschamp) and Missouri (Barry Odom) also have new coaches. The Gamecocks are 24-43 all-time against Western Division teams and haven’t beaten one since Nov. 2, 2013, when they beat Mississippi State 34-16.

Don’t Look at Me

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen distanced himself from the decision to admit Jeffery Simmons and only suspend the star defensive lineman for one game, despite a video showing him repeatedly striking a woman who was laying on the ground.

“I wasn’t involved as much. It was a university decision, but I was just thrilled that we’re having Jeffery as part of our family coming in,” Mullen said.

Mullen was asked if he should be held responsible if Simmons exhibits similar violent behavior against a female during his time on Mississippi State’s campus.

“We’re all responsible,” Mullen said. “I’m responsible for all of the actions for every one of my players. I’m responsible as a head coach. We’ll have a lot of different players make mistakes. And when they do make mistake, to be honest with you, I know for a lot of people it’s a story, it’s a blur, it’s a headline. For us, that’s a family member that’s making a mistake; that you’re trying to help them get through a tough time, help educate them, help them not make mistakes in the future and help them better themselves in life.”

When the Bulldogs released their roster this week, it indicated Simmons would wear jersey No. 36. No one has worn that jersey full-time at Mississippi State since running back Nick Bell, who died from cancer . Mullen said Simmons might not wear No. 36 during the season.

on the schedule

Mississippi State is back on South Carolina’s schedule for the first time since 2013. It might seem like good timing for the Bulldogs considering the rebuilding ahead for the Gamecocks, but their players promised not to overlook South Carolina.

“We are never going to underestimate a team,” MSU senior linebacker Rickie Brown said. “Teams can go from winning three to winning 10, so we’re not going to underestimate them. They are a good football team. We know they will bounce back and have a good year.”

Bulldogs defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson was a freshman on the team that lost 34-16 to South Carolina in 2013. The Gamecocks have won seven in a row against Mississippi State.

“That’s the only thing on my mind,” Jefferson said.

Banged-up Backfield

Smart doesn’t know if his top two tailbacks will be ready for Georgia’s season opener Sept. 3 against North Carolina.

“That’s a tough situation,” he said. “Who would have thought at this point in time both guys would be on the sideline rehabbing?”

Nick Chubb averaged 124.5 yards per game last year before tearing his PCL and other knee ligaments in October.

“He’s doing everything with the rest of the team as far as summer workouts,” Smart said. “That may change when we go to pads. He’s not going to go out there and do everything right away as far as tackling and scrimmaging. Ultimately, he’s got to gain confidence in that knee back, and he’s taking the right steps in that direction.”

Michel, who rushed for 1,161 yards last year, suffered a broken arm last week in an ATV accident.

“Kind of a sad injury, very upsetting for him,” Smart said. “He’s probably in the best shape of his life. He worked hard to be in the best shape of his life. I don’t know the expectation for Sony, if he’ll be back (for the season opener) or not. We’ll know a lot more when we get closer to the season. A lot of that injury is how does the muscle repair itself round that plated bone.”

Georgia has said Michel was expected to be out 6-8 weeks recovering from surgery.

South Carolina will play the Bulldogs on Oct. 8 in the sixth game of the season.