Josh Kendall

Halfway through SEC offseason: It’s the college football solstice

The SEC
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Quick Quiz: What’s Sunday?

Yes, it’s Mother’s Day and you should all call your mom, but that’s not the REALLY important milestone that passes today. No sir, Sunday is the halfway point of the Southeastern Conference football offseason.

When the day dawned, it was 117 days since the last SEC team played a football game (Alabama in the national title game) and only 116 until the first game of the 2016 season involving an SEC team (South Carolina at Vanderbilt on Sept. 1).

That’s the good news. The bad news is this 116-day stretch is the longest of the offseason. There’s no signing day or spring practice to whet the appetite. It’s just a long, slow, football-less slog. Some people call it summer.

For many people, this so-called “summer” means cookouts and swimming pools or just lazy days. For college football teams, it increasingly means more workouts.

Have a listen to the SEC coaches, who spoke this week on a post-spring practice teleconference.

Tennessee’s Butch Jones: “The summer months are the most critical time for your football team moving forward. The summer is critical because that’s really where you continue to build your leadership, your accountability to one another. This is going to be a big summer for us.”

Florida’s Jim McElwain: “This is the most important time. You truly find out what your team is made of with what they do over the summer. When they are out there working, when they’re developing leadership, all the relationship building that goes on during a time of year when it’s easy for them to stray. We’ll find out when we get together at the end of July what this team is about. We’ll find out the leaders. In my opinion, it’s the most important time for your team to build as they’re out there working.”

THE most important time? Really?

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp certainly is a big believer in the summer. Muschamp has stressed to his players and the media the amount of progress he believes his team can make this summer in its Player Run Practices, as they are dubbed.

While the NCAA now allows on-field coaches to spend some meeting time with players throughout the summer, it’s important that the players do in fact run the summer workouts, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.

“You can burn those guys out. There’s a fine line,” Smart said. “If you go out there in the summer and then you’re around them all season it can really be tough.”

Muschamp and Smart, who both played at Georgia, have and will continue to bounce ideas off each other about how to handle things like summer structure. Smart is in his first season as a head coach.

“He’s a very trustworthy friend when it comes to information,” Smart said. “It’s not competitive information. We don’t talk about recruiting as much as we talk about how we’re doing something.”

Smart has noticed no difference in Muschamp’s demeanor or comfort level between now and when Muschamp held his first coaching job at Florida.

“He was very confident in what he was doing before, and he’s confident now,” Smart said. “He’s a really good coach. There is not a whole lot of difference in his voice to me.”

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