David Cloninger

10 things we learned at SEC Media Days

SEC Media Days has concluded. Ten things that were discussed that will probably be re-discussed over the next five months:

1. EASY, DOBBIN

The conference’s new rules on violating the sideline – automatic 15-yard penalty if a coach steps onto the grass outside of the white paint – has made the need for a “get back” staffer more prevalent. South Carolina coach Will “Boom” Muschamp says he has no problem abiding by it but Nick Saban said he hopes it doesn’t affect a game’s result.

2. REMEMBER US?

Alabama was voted by media to win the SEC championship (yawn), but the SEC East is wondering when it will get a turn. An East team hasn’t won the SEC Championship Game since 2008 and when an East team gets to Atlanta this year (Georgia was picked to), it will carry the hopes of the entire division.

3. FLORIDA FINALLY HAS A QB … KINDA

It’s ridiculous that a program with three Heisman-winning quarterbacks hasn’t been able to find a steady one since the last (Tim Tebow, 2007) but Jim McElwain may break that streak. He at least has two candidates – Feleipe Franks, who had a terrific offseason, and Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire.

4. GREAT PLAY! HOLD THIS FLAG

The conference is taking away another potential for a terrific play. Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham hurdled the line to block an Auburn field goal last year, a freakishly athletic move. Under new rules, nobody can jump the line or it’s a penalty.

5. CAGING THE BEAST

Ed Orgeron’s “Cajun Caveman” persona has been a popular topic for years. As the full-time coach at LSU after serving as interim last year, Orgeron said he’s calmed down a lot, learning from his mistakes as Ole Miss head coach and what goes on today. That’s not what cameras want to see.

6. THE SEC IS REALLY, REALLY PROUD OF MERCEDES BENZ STADIUM

The conference’s new home for the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta was presented to media with every specification detailed and gloried. The roof optics, designed to open and close in an oscillating octagon, introduced each coach in the main media room, closing and opening on each coach’s face and their school’s logo on the big screen.

7. HUGH FREEZE DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT

The NCAA probe into Ole Miss’ program had the coach denying all questions about it and then former coach Houston Nutt filed a lawsuit against Freeze and others during Media Days. It was going to be a rough season anyway (the Rebels have pulled themselves from the postseason) but the worst may still be on the horizon.

8. MUSICAL (WARM) CHAIRS

Ole Miss is standing by Freeze (for now) but Texas A&M athletics director Scott Woodward made it clear that Kevin Sumlin better win this year. Tennessee’s Butch Jones? He’s probably safe, but he needs to re-gain his notoriously fickle fan base – and do it without referencing Championships of Life.

9. ABOUT TO FLY HIGH?

A lot of media are impressed with the offense that South Carolina returns this year, saying they’ll make some noise in the East. They didn’t talk so much about the defense … but the Gamecocks’ player reps said they’re prepared to win any shootout they get into.

10. ALABAMA FANS ARE STILL CRAZY

It remains spoken of in incredulous tones, although it’s been a constant. Crimson Tide fans pack the hotel lobby for a chance at Saban’s autograph, and dress to imitate Bear Bryant or wear championship ring replicas. It’s great for a video clip on TV, but can we stop thinking it’s a story?

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