UPDATE: Mullen likes Miss. State program for Year 2

UPDATE 3:07 p.m.: Mullen likes MSU’s program for Year 2

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen thinks his team has taken a big step forward going into their second season.

The Bulldogs coach says finishing the year with a win over Mississippi helped his players believe they can win any game they play, not just be competitive.

Mullen led Mississippi State to five wins in his debut season. He says the team is “way further ahead” after being together for a year. He says quarterback Chris Relf returns as a completely different player, praising his approach and demeanor in the offseason.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Russell is also expected to vie for the job at quarterback, and Mullen said he might play two quarterbacks again.

He also might try to get more tailbacks involved after the departure of workhorse Anthony Dixon.

UPDATE; 1:50 p.m.: Saban wants focus on this season, not last

JOHN ZENOR,AP Sports Writer

HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban wants to make sure everyone has their calendar right.

Saban said at SEC media days on Wednesday that he wants the focus to be on 2010, not last season’s national championship run.

He says the Crimson Tide is not into defending titles or focusing on a second straight national championship.

Alabama is replacing 10 defensive starters from the championship game against Texas, but has most of its star offensive players returning.

That includes Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Saban says this could be the most important of his four fall camps at Alabama.

He also says that even if all the ingredients were returning it wouldn’t mean the team would have the same chemistry.

Alabama opens practice on Aug. 5.

UPDATE 1:49 p.m.:Slive: NCAA agent rules might be part of problem

JOHN ZENOR,AP Sports Writer

HOOVER, Ala. — Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive wants the NCAA to switch its focus on agent dealings from enforcement to assisting players. Alabama coach Nick Saban wants to take aim at the agents.

Slive opened the league media days with three schools — Florida, Alabama and South Carolina — facing investigations stemming from possible improper contact with agents.

The SEC commissioner says the current rules “may be as much part of the problem as they are the solution.”

Saban says he wants the NFL Players Association to get involved and suspend agents whose dealings help cost players eligibility.

Saban confirmed that Alabama is looking into a trip defensive end Marcell Dareus took to an agent’s party at Miami’s South Beach.

It’s SEC Media Day time! Parrish Alford and Brad Locke are on hand to cover it. Follow all the news here.

Click here for Inside Mississippi State blog with Brad Locke.

Click here for Inside Ole Miss blog with Parrish Alford.

Click here for video all day of the SEC Meetings.

Here are some burning questions to look for answers from at SEC Media Days.

Eastern Division
– Florida: How much, if at all, will the departure of QB Tim Tebow affect Florida? His replacement, John Brantley, is by all accounts a fine quarterback. But Tebow’s leadership will be missed more than his production.
– Georgia: Can the defense recapture its bite under new coordinator Todd Grantham? Willie Martinez was fired after his units got progressively worse over the years, and Grantham brings with him an attacking 3-4 scheme.
– Kentucky: Can Joker Phillips keep it going? The new coach inherits a team that’s reached four consecutive bowl games. After assisting predecessor Rich Brooks for seven years, it’s up to Phillips to sustain the momentum.
n South Carolina: Will Steve Spurrier finally have a breakthrough season in Columbia? He’s learned the hard way that winning just comes easier in Gainesville, but this team is talented and experienced enough to challenge Florida.
– Tennessee: Can Derek Dooley keep the Vols on course? Vince’s boy, UT’s new head coach, had enough pressure trying to help folks forget Lane Kiffin. Now off-field issues are threatening to derail the season before it starts, and Dooley must maintain team unity above all else.
– Vanderbilt: Is Vanderbilt a perennial doormat again? After winning a bowl game in 2008, the Commodores went 2-10 last year (0-8 SEC), and then coach Bobby Johnson abruptly resigned last week. And fans ask, “When’s basketball start?”
Western Division
– Alabama: Will the defending national champions post a third-consecutive undefeated regular season? It will be tough. The Tide’s last six opponents have a bye before facing Alabama, a fact Nick Saban has frequently publicized. Alabama does draw Florida, which is also rebuilding on defense as well as at quarterback, at home and has its own open date going into a big trip to Baton Rouge on Nov. 6.
– Arkansas: Are the Razorbacks this year’s Ole Miss? After a summer of hype the Rebels proved to be quite average in 2009. Arkansas hasn’t had quite as much hype and has a better chance of meeting expectations since talented QB Ryan Mallett has all of his weapons back on offense.
– Auburn: Can Cam Newton deliver right away? A first-year junior college transfer at quarterback is always a gamble, but Newton is mobile and has talented receivers around him in a spread offense that plays to his strengths.
– LSU: How hot is the seat for Les Miles? Critics point to inconsistency on offense as to why LSU is 8-8 in its last 16 SEC games. The Tigers lose five starters on offense, six on defense and face a challenging non-conference schedule with North Carolina and West Virginia.
– Ole Miss: How do you replace Dexter McCluster? You don’t. McCluster was the first player in SEC history to gain more than 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season. That type of production doesn’t come around every year. The Rebels will have to get it from a number of sources most of them vastly inexperienced.
– Mississippi State: Will there be a No. 1 quarterback for the Bulldogs? Possibly. Redshirt freshman Tyler Russell fits the offense better but lacks the experience. Russell and Chris Relf were co-No. 1’s at the end of spring, but Relf may have to make big things happen to stay in the picture as Russell matures under center.

SEC Media Days lineup

– Alabama: Coach Nick Saban, LB Dont’a Hightower, RB Mark Ingram, QB Greg McElroy
– Mississippi State: Coach Dan Mullen, DB Charles Mitchell, QB Chris Relf, OL Quentin Saulsberry
– Florida: Coach Urban Meyer, DB Ahmad Black, C Mike Pouncey, DE Justin Trattou
– Kentucky: Coach Joker Phillips, ATH Randall Cobb, DE DeQuin Evans, RB Derrick Locke

– Arkansas: Coach Bobby Petrino, DE Jake Bequette, QB Ryan Mallett, TE D.J. Williams
– Georgia: Coach Mark Richt, P Drew Butler, FB Shaun Chapas, WR A.J. Green
– South Carolina: Coach Steve Spurrier, FB Patrick DiMarco, DE Cliff Matthews, LB Shaq Wilson
– Vanderbilt: Interim coach Robbie Caldwell, LB Chris Marve, RB Warren Norman, LB John Stokes

– Auburn: Coach Gene Chizik,
LB Josh Bynes, DB Aairon Savage,
OL Lee Ziemba
– Tennessee: Coach Derek Doo-
ley, LB Nick Reveiz, TE Luke
Stocker, DE Chris Walker
– LSU: Coach Les Miles, QB Jordan Jefferson, DB Patrick Peterson, LB Kelvin Sheppard
– Ole Miss: Coach Houston Nutt, DE Kentrell Lockett, DT Jerrell Powe, OL Bradley Sowell

Read all about the SEC Media Days in the NEMS Daily Journal and at NEMS360.com this week.

Staff and wire reports

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