Photo courtesy of Georgia athletics
That time of the year has finally arrived. Coaches and players from all 14 SEC teams gather in one place to talk about one thing — football.
To fans, SEC media days are nothing more than a sign that the football season is right around the corner. For coaches, it is an opportunity to speak about their team and university to the entire country.
After two days in Hoover, Ala., here are some notes from the coaches that have spoke so far:
Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen
Dan Mullen is entering his fourth year as the head coach for Florida. While he wasn’t hesitant to talk about all the talent Florida lost this past offseason, he also seemed optimistic about the talent his team has. Here are the most notable things Mullen said to kick off media days:
- Talked about the experience in the quarterback room, specifically Emory Jones. “He has played a lot of football”, Mullen said.
- Mentioned that Florida lost a lot at wide receiver, but is also confident in the group he has coming back. Mullen said that Florida “rotated those guys a lot” in 2020.
- Noted that Florida will look differently offensively, but will play to the strength of his players.
- Defensively, Mullen raved about the leadership. Mentioned Ventrell Miller, Zach Carter, Kaiir Elam, and Tre Dean as guys who have emerged as leaders.
- Along with Elam and Dean, Mullen is excited about the younger guys in the secondary.
- Talked about the recent success Florida has had, using three straight New Year’s Six bowl appearances as an example. However, he stated that he wants to “take it a step forward”. More specifically, the College Football Playoff.
- Mullen raved about the new football complex being built at Florida. Said it will be “the best in America”.
- Is excited about the new NIL laws, but says there will be a “learning curve”.
- Mullen mentioned doing away with crossover rivalry games. That way, match-ups like Florida vs. Alabama could happen more often in the regular season.
- On Georgia being the favorite in the SEC East: “Didn’t they say that last year?”
LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron
Moving on, Ed Orgeron enters into his fifth SEC media days. From the quarterback battle to off-field issues, there was a lot to cover here for “Coach O”.
- Orgeron confirmed that Jake Peetz and DJ Mangus are both coming in to run Joe Brady’s offense. Brady was on staff for LSU during the 2019 national championship season.
- Views both Myles Brennan and Max Johnson as “championship quarterbacks”.
- Praised new offensive line coach Brad Davis from Arkansas. “A tremendous recruiter…. up and coming OL coach”.
- “I’m for it…” when asked about NIL. Also mentioned multiple times that LSU has brought in a outside firm to give advice to players.
- Believes Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin is one of the best offensive minds in football. Stated that Kiffin didn’t reach out to him before taking the Ole Miss job prior to the 2020 season.
- On the defense in 2020, “Too many explosive plays, too many missed assignments”.
- Thoughts on LSU’s new defense in 2021 under Daronte Jones, “Keep the ball in front of us and make plays.”
- On lingering sexual misconduct allegations at LSU: “I’m not going to comment on an ongoing investigation; thanks for asking though.”
- Thoughts on new South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer: “I’m excited for him…. I think he’s going to do a tremendous job.”
- On Arik Gilbert transferring out of LSU: “We wish Arik the best; he’s an outstanding young man.”
- Coach O’s biggest lesson from 2020? “Do it the way I want. If it’s not the way I want, fix it.”
South Carolina Head Coach Shane Beamer
To conclude day 1, new South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer took the stage. Beamer kicked things off with a rather long introduction, and appeared very confident in his delivery.
- Excited about being back in the SEC as a head coach; he is entering his 13th year in the conference.
- Tight end Nick Muse and defensive lineman Kingsley Enabre were the most outstanding players on both sides of the ball during spring practice.
- “Things couldn’t have gone better for us in June”, in regards to 2022 recruiting.
- Is proud to follow in his father’s footsteps as a coach, but wants to “make his own name”.
- On running back Kevin Harris: “Very tough, very physical. Hard for one person to bring him down.”
- On what defines year one success: “Be the very best team we can be at the end of the season.”
- Mentioned that his father Frank Beamer was linked to the Alabama job multiple times. Said his father gave thought to coaching in the SEC multiple times.
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart
After somewhat of a down year in 2020, Coach Smart took the stage to talk about his 2021 football team. As usual, Smart had some high praise for his team’s leaders.
- Praised the leadership and administration at Georgia: “They make it easy to be the head coach.”
- Praised defensive lineman Jordan Davis: “He has been a big part of our defense… A lot better person than a player.”
- On new football facility: “It’s incredible.”
- Praised players for their work off the field. Formed a group called “Dawgs for Pups”.
- On NIL: “Our young men are getting an opportunity that has not been afforded to anyone before them.”
- On expectations: “I’m too busy working to worry about expectations.”
- In regards to the importance of spring practice: “I can’t even put that into words… you can’t even put a measurement on that.”
- Thoughts on Mike Bobo to Auburn? “Makes the SEC a better conference.”
- On Shane Beamer as a coach: “Takes a lot of pride in the performance.”
Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel
For the first time, Josh Heupel will take the stage for media days as the coach of Tennessee. Entering his fourth season as a head coach, here are the biggest things Heupel said.
- Heupel on coaching in the SEC: “I’ve always admired this league….. it’s been a lot of fun to be back in here.”
- On coaching Tennessee: “It’s a great honor to be the caretaker of Tennessee football.”
- “Double edged sword”, in regards to losing and bringing in talent through the transfer portal.
- Statement on getting Tennessee back to a national title contender: “When you’re consistent and accountable, you have the opportunity to move things forward….”
- Importance of the Alabama rivalry: “You come to Tennessee to play in games like that….. but it’s not about just one game this fall.”
- Heupel on quarterback battle: “There’s not a spot that is secure at any position. You have to earn and prove that we can trust you.”
Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops
Over the past few years, Mark Stoops has raised the expectations at Kentucky. Headed into 2021, here is everything he had to say:
- Foundation of Kentucky: “Build, select, development.”
- Mark Stoops on the transfer portal and NIL: “We don’t have all the answers.”
- On what Ole Miss linebacker transfer Jacquez Jones brings to Kentucky: “He’s an experienced player.”
- Stoops on vaccinations: “We’re just going to continue to educate our players.”
- Stoops on expanding conference play to nine games: “I wonder if anyone watched last year.”
- On LSU tackle transfer Dare Rosenthal: “Has SEC experience, played at one of our premier programs in the league.”
- Stoops on the quarterback battle: “We have a lot to look at. It’s nice to have options. I feel good about those three and others in our program.”
- Stoops on taking Kentucky to national prominence: “People laughed at me. We aren’t there yet, but we’re on the way.”
Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin
Entering his second year, Coach Kiffin and the Rebels are ready to take another step forward.
- Excited about the momentum he has built at Ole Miss. “We can feel it with our fans; we can feel it with our players.”
- Talked about the challenges Ole Miss faced last year, especially on defense.
- Says that quarterback Matt Corral “Played as good as anyone” at times last season.
- On helping Corral become more consistent: “Having a spring finally with him… is going to be good for him.”
- Kiffin’s pick for preseason All-SEC quarterback? Corral.
- On last year’s Alabama game: “It was close; we played really well on one side of the ball.”
- Kiffin on Twitter: “It gives people a platform to say and do whatever they want.”
- On analytics: “My book is not the same as your book.”
- On losing starter linebacker Jacquez Jones: “We wish him the best of luck…. everyone has their reasons.”
- “That number just blew me away, you didn’t prepare me for that. That’s crazy,” Kiffin said after learning that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has earned almost $1 million in NIL deals.
- On his approach to playing Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney in a 1-on-1 basketball game: “I’m trying to lose some weight so I have a chance against him.”
- On Jerrion Ealy recovering from shoulder surgery: “Ealy is fine; he’s been working hard for us.”