Another SEC Media Days is behind us. The 1,200 press credentials. The Alabama fans swarming Nick Saban. The delayed appearances by coaches. All are in the history books until this time next year.
To wrap up the three-day event with a nice big bow, we at MrSEC.com thought we’d share 10 observations and opinions with you this morning. Just a few honest takeaways from SEC Media Days. Right or wrong.
In no particular order, here goes…
* If I were a coach heading into the 2013 season I’d feel more comfortable with AJ McCarron or Aaron Murray running my offense than I would Johnny Manziel.
How can I say that about the electric Heisman-winner? Easy. He’s the guy I trust least to make it from August to January without some sort of off-the-field distraction popping up. Not saying he’s not the most naturally gifted of the three quarterbacks. Not saying he wasn’t the most exciting player last year. But McCarron and Murray appear to be solid leaders who are focused on football. Given a choice, I’d take — arguably — the most talented quarterback third.
* McCarron was the big winner with the media in Birmingham, but the TV character Eddie Haskell kept coming to mind.
Hands down, Alabama’s quarterback “won the day” at SEC Media Days on Thursday. He said exactly what most of us in the media said Manziel should have said the previous day. Instead of falling back on his age as an excuse for poor decision-making — as Manziel did — McCarron stated that being 22 was no excuse to “act a fool.” He spoke of his impoverished background. He wouldn’t snitch on Manziel, but he did make it clear that he’s a totally different type of guy. He pushed every button the media wanted pushed.
But I still kept having visions of Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver” come to mind. Is a guy with this tattoo and this girlfriend really the wide-eyed innocent he purported himself to be? Perhaps. When photographed with Miss Alabama Katherine Webb he does give off a “How did I pull this off?” vibe. Still, McCarron tweeted a not so subtle shot at Manziel on Wednesday night. He was hanging out with A&M’s QB last Friday and this spring the two announced they wanted to vacation together in Key West or Cancun.
I don’t think he’s the 180 degree, polar opposite of Manziel.
* Manziel makes Kevin Sumlin look weak.
To me, the actions of Manziel give the appearance that he’s his own boss. Asked if he’d told Manziel to lay off Twitter, Sumlin grinned and said that maybe their “discussions” had produced a response from Manziel. It was clear to most everyone who saw it that Sumlin felt he had put the kibosh on Manziel’s habit of tweeting. When asked about his disappearance from Twitter, Manziel simply said “maybe he didn’t have anything interesting to say.” There’s a pretty good gap between those reactions.
McCarron said all the right things yesterday. He consistently mentioned Nick Saban as his mentor. He was like a perfectly-trained robot fresh off Saban’s assembly line. By comparison, one gets the feeling that Sumlin hasn’t — or can’t — completely reel in Manziel.
The Aggie quarterback even commented that he didn’t think his conversation with Sumlin regarding the Manning Passing Academy would leak. Was that a suggestion that his coach leaked the talk… or that someone else spoke to the press about it? And speaking of the Manning Camp, Sumlin stated that he learned of Manziel’s departure from the event by representatives of the camp, not from his own quarterback.
Sumlin’s clearly a tremendous coach and recruiter. But everytime Manziel says or does something silly, it reflects back on A&M’s head coach.
* Steve Spurrier has always loved to needle folks and his latest target is SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
For the second year in a row, Carolina’s head coach showed up at Media Days with his own “state of the union” speech. For the second year in a row he made it clear — in a friendly way — that he and the league’s commissioner don’t see eye to eye on some of the biggest topics facing the league today.
The commissioner speaks of the NCAA finding a way to give athletes larger scholarships. Spurrier reveals that every coach in the league voted to just pay the players themselves, if allowed. Slive said there’s a review of the league’s scheduling process already underway. Spurrier states quite loudly that the current set-up isn’t fair.
Whatever the commish seems to say these days, Spurrier either rebuts it or he exaggerates it. At 68, Spurrier is obviously still the league’s biggest rebel. You get the feeling he’s pretty much the same guy now that he must have been as a teenager in the 50s and 60s. Perhaps he should try to buy Gene Chizik’s leather jacket.
* Saban is the Pope and the other 13 league coaches are the College of Cardinals.
Alabama’s coach has been uber-successful. He’s also usually willing to speak his mind on any subject. Add it up and media members flock to his Media Days session every year. Saban always projects a certain seriousness and perhaps that’s why it seems he’s almost revered by the media. Oh, other coaches are asked big picture questions, too, but no one else’s media session produces the feeling that the Guru has come down from his mountain temple to share his views with the common man.
* Saban nailed it when talking about schedules.
Les Miles and Spurrier were the only whiners regarding scheduling this week. Miles used Auburn as an example of why things need to change. Spurried used Florida. Of course, neither Auburn nor Florida officials have complained on their own about the league’s scheduling policies.
Saban was closer to the mark. First, there’s no such thing as a “fair” schedule unless every SEC team plays every other SEC team. But if the league wants more rotation in its schedules and it also wants to preserve some traditionally big games, the smart move would be to adopt a nine-game schedule. That’s the best of both worlds and it would allow the SEC to say it schedules just like the majority of major conferences.
Ironically, Spurrier admitted during his own session that programs can rise and fall quickly and that no one knows which bad team will be good the next. If that’s the case, why’s he been complaining so much?
* Will Muschamp is through taking the nice guy path with regards to Urban Meyer.
It was open season on the ex-Gator coach on Tuesday when Muschamp — while not naming his predecessor directly — opened both barrels on Ohio State’s coach. First, when asked about how responsible coaches are for their players actions, he said “100%.” After admitting that coaches can’t be with all of their players all of the time, he said that as a coach “you can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend everything’s OK.”
Later he was asked about Ohio State turning Florida in over what OSU thought was a rules violation. Florida’s current coach said he appreciated the rules tips from “Ohio” and that they certainly should know the rules (considering their recent scandals).
Up until this week, Muschamp had always taken the high road when it came to Meyer. Seems those days are now over.
* It’s time for coaches to stop hiding behind the law.
LSU’s Miles has said he won’t make a ruling on running back Jeremy Hill until his legal problems are sorted out. As if the coach can’t yet decide whether a player who’s been arrested twice in recent years — and got caught suckerpunching a kid on video tape — is a good representative for his program and Louisiana State University. Gotta let the legal system decide, dontcha know?
Vanderbilt’s James Franklin refused to answer any questions at all about the dismissal of four Commodore players tied to a rape case. He said the situation is still playing out in the legal system and therefore he couldn’t comment. Yes, because answering whether those players were booted by him or the university administration would impact their court cases. Ridiculous.
Man up, guys. Stop hiding behind the law when the law really has zip to do with how you run your programs and what you say about disciplinary measures.
* The SEC marketing machine is producing more and more softballs.
As the Southeastern Conference grows its Media Days event each year — 1,100 credentials! 1,200 credentials! — the questions asked of coaches and players are becoming a little softer. Compared all week to the Super Bowl’s media day, things are starting to get just as ridiculous. Players were asked about wardrobe this week. Coaches were asked a number of cutey-pie questions… while some tough ones were ignored. That’s what happens when more fans are allowed to take part.
* Bret Bielema showed why coaches shouldn’t react to things they didn’t actually hear.
Each year at Media Days a reporter will ask Coach X about something said by Coach Y during another media session. And each year some Coach X will take the quote from some Coach Y the wrong way. This year Arkansas’ Bielema was Coach X and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was Coach Y.
Malzahn was asked in his session about the idea that hurry-up offenses might lead to more injuries. He said that when he first heard that theory he thought it was a joke. OK.
Later, Bielema — a proponent of that theory — was told that Malzahn said that theory was a joke. Bielema got noticeably hot. “I’m not a comedian,” he said before launching into a lengthy rant about how he’s in the business of protecting lives. Well, maybe he said protecting his players’ health, but his heated reaction did bring Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men” to mind.
The problem is that Bielema seemed to think that Malzahn had specifically said Bielema’s theory was a joke. In reality, he was talking about the notion in general.
The lesson for coaches? If a reporter at SEC Media Days tells you another coach said something, don’t react until you hear or read the quote for yourself.