South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier joined his SEC East coaching counterparts on a teleconference Wednesday, and each one sounded a similar message – hope … with questions.
“We salvaged a very mediocre season last year by winning three of our last four and somehow or another winning another bowl game,” Spurrier said. “We are not sitting around here in the dumps, but we also realize we have to play a lot better on offense, defense and special teams.”
The Gamecocks likely won’t be picked to win the SEC East, but there’s no one in the division who feels like they have all the answers. Georgia, the expected preseason favorite, is breaking in a first-year offensive coordinator in NFL veteran Brian Schottenheimer and will have a first-year starting quarterback.
“I was in almost every offensive planning meeting. I was in most every quarterback meeting in the spring, and I can assure you Coach Schottenheimer is a great teacher. I am real comfortable with what he is bringing to the table,” Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said. “Obviously, we have to start playing some ball to see how things are going to go, but I worry mostly about how we go about our business and I think we’re on the right track.”
Missouri, which has won the division the past two years, brings back quarterback Maty Mauk and six other starters on offense.
“Winning 23 games in this league the last two years has helped the prestige of our program,” Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel said. “We are not going to make any huge changes because what we do works, but we’re always trying to get better.”
Tennessee, 7-6 a year ago, could be picked highly in the preseason after winning four of its final five games last year, including a 45-28 win over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
“We do have a lot of positive momentum and I think our players have fed off that,” said Vols head coach Butch Jones, who is 12-13 in two years at the school. “That’s what you want, you want the expectations because this is a very proud football program, but we also understand we have a long ways to go.”
Florida will enter the Jim McElwain era this fall. McElwain inherited a team full of issues, especially on offense, from the fired Will Muschamp.
“We had I think a pizza delivery guy, a bartender and one heck of an engineering student that came out and helped us (on the offensive line) get through spring practice,” McElwain said.
The Gators return only four starters on offense.
“Obviously not here to get a participation ribbon,” McElwain said. “Every week, that’s our responsibility is to try to put our players in the best possible position to go out and make plays and be successful. We’ve got some really good players here. It’s just we’re thin at some areas, and that’s pretty obvious and yet that’s the hand we were dealt.”