Josh Kendall

Still turning cartwheels over SEC Media Days

South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper should have been voted by media as a first-team SEC receiver, Josh Kendall says.
South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper should have been voted by media as a first-team SEC receiver, Josh Kendall says. gmelendez@thestate.com

SEC Media Days is finished, which used to mean football season was right on top of us. Now that the league has moved the event up a week, we’ve got a little lull before most teams start practice the first week of August.

Here are a few of my leftover thoughts from the four-day conference to help us pass the time.

▪  South Carolina junior Pharoh Cooper not being a first-team All-SEC wide receiver is foolish. He’s the leading returning pass catcher in the league, and he’s on a team that no other proven offensive playmaker. Laquan Treadwell of Ole Miss and Duke Williams of Auburn are great players. Cooper is better, and throwing him a bone as the first-team, all-purpose player doesn’t make up for the snub.

▪  The lack of a Gamecock on any of the three preseason defensive teams is not a snub. That’s common sense.

▪  Arkansas coach Bret Bielema handled Steve Spurrier’s barb much better than Tennessee coach Butch Jones. On Tuesday morning, Spurrier noted that “there are people in Knoxville and Fayetteville are still doing cartwheels” over the same 7-6 record that depressed a lot of Gamecocks fans. It clearly got under Jones’ skin, and he responded without being asked later that day.

Bielema took the podium Wednesday and didn’t respond until he was asked specifically about the comment.

“From Day 1, coach Spurrier has been awesome to my wife and I at every event we went to,” Bielema said. “I think you guys tend to play things up that you want to make headlines. I will say this: I’ll respect my elders at all points. I don’t think (my) body is built, no matter how big the shoes, with rockets or not, I could do any cartwheels.”

▪  While we’re on the subject, Bielema’s team is going to be pretty good. The Razorbacks aren’t going to win the West, but they’re going to win at least two games people don’t expect them to win. Nobody in the conference will play a more physical brand of offensive football, which is going to be hard on defenses built more and more to stop the spread offense.

▪  Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is a smooth guy. He has a great offense, he’s a super recruiter and his program feels like one of the conference’s hottest. However, the Aggies’ win total is heading in the wrong direction. They won 11 games his first year, nine the next and eight last season. The Aggies open SEC play on Sept. 26 against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. It’ll be one of the most interesting games in the league all year.

▪  The SEC has three of the best running backs in the country, but neither Georgia’s Nick Chubb, LSU’s Leonard Fournette nor Alabama’s Derrick Henry will win the Heisman Trophy this year. Only one non-quarterback (Alabama running back Mark Ingram in 2009) has won the award in the past 14 years. Sadly, it’s a quarterback trophy now. Chubb, Fournette and Henry will have to settle for big pro paydays. (Although, the quarterbacks get most of the money, too.)

▪  Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson is going to be good. Gus Malzahn’s offense is the most quarterback-friendly in the SEC, and Johnson has all the right physical and mental tools to make it go and go fast.

▪  Speaking of SEC quarterbacks, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs will be good, too, but there are a lot of coaches in the SEC who aren’t in love with their quarterbacks. The “meh” undertones every time Georgia’s Mark Richt and Alabama’s Nick Saban talked about their quarterback situations were particularly notable.

▪  Saban never looks like he’s having any fun.

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