SEC Media Days Notebook: Pinkel doesn’t hold grudges

IMG_2428HOOVER, Ala. – Missouri coach Gary Pinkel doesn’t hold any grudges for those that didn’t pick his Tigers to win the SEC East title in 2013.

Two years ago, when Pinkel first attended SEC Media Days, questions centered on Missouri’s ability to play in the rugged SEC coming over from the Big 12. Were they really ready to compete?

It sounded like a broken record to Pinkel, and his players.
Missouri had a subpar first season in 2012, but last year the Tigers were 12-2 and champions of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

Wednesday, during Pinkel’s time at SEC Media Days, he said a reporter apologized to him for where he picked the Tigers to finish prior to the 2013 season.

“I don’t really get into what was said or what was predicted. I know to keep this going we have to win. It’s that simple,” Pinkel said. “We’re honored to be in the SEC. I tell people all the time that it’s like being in the NFL. Anybody can beat you.

“I’ve also said that when I became the head coach at Missouri, I just wanted us to be respected in the Big 12 and now that’s the same in the SEC, and then nationally,” Pinkel added. “I think that we have a responsibility to the league. I just want to be respected, and that doesn’t just mean winning football games. Our graduation rate is one of the best in the country and our APR rankings are in the top 10.”

New rules
Steve Shaw, the director of officials in the SEC, went over some changes fans, and those that cover college games, will expect to see different in 2014. Shaw said the targeting rule that started last year has been altered in an editorial way. Targeting fouls will still be evaluated by the replay officials in the press box, but instead of saying no player shall target and initiate contact at the head or below with the crown of the helmet, wording was changed to “No player shall target and make forcible contact.”

“Now if replay overturns a targeting foul, there will no longer be a 15?yard penalty assessed,” Shaw said. “Last year the 15?yard penalty stood no matter what. If the targeting foul was overturned, the player would get to go back in the game. Now if it’s targeting-only, not only does the player go back in the game, but we will not initiate a 15?yard penalty.”
The other big rule change, Shaw said, involves hitting the quarterback low when he is in a passing posture. No defensive players that are unabated to the quarterback cannot hit at the knee or lower if the quarterback is not obviously scrambling and about to pass.

“Again, the quarterback is most vulnerable when he’s in that passing posture. This is a player-safety thing,” Shaw said. “Basically, what our officials are going to look at, when a player is under his own power, he is directing his own hit. If he chooses to go low, that is going to be a foul.”
And a 15-yard penalty for the player who garners the foul.

Still the king
Steve Spurrier is about to begin his 10th season in Columbia as head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, making him the first coach in the SEC to be at two different schools for at least 10 years. That was news to Spurrier, who said he didn’t believe a reporter that thought he would be at USC longer than he was at Florida.

“When I left Florida after 12 years, I thought I was going to coach in the NFL five or six years and retire to the beach and play golf a bunch and travel around, this, that and the other,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “But that was a bad plan. It was. Later you found out, that was not a real good idea.

“After the two years with the team I was with, I said, ‘This isn’t for me.’ The situation I was in was not for me. So the South Carolina opportunity came up and that’s how I ended up at South Carolina. Some people ask, ‘How did you end up there?’ I said, ‘I was available and they were the only ones who offered me a job at the end of 2004.’”

Since Spurrier arrived at South Carolina, he has won 77 games, led the Gamecocks to eight bowl trips, three-straight 11-win seasons and a final AP ranking of No. 4 in 2013.

“I wanted to coach again. I wanted to go out a winner, not a loser,” Spurrier said. “Fortunately, South Carolina was really the best opportunity I could ever ask for. It was a school – you could probably describe their football tradition as mediocre. They had a losing record overall, way under .500 in SEC games. There was nowhere to go but up.”

Spurrier’s overall record heading into his 22nd year in the SEC is 219-79-2.

Moving on
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is one of the most versatile and dynamic quarterbacks in the SEC. Last year, the junior from Franklinton, La., threw for almost 2,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, while adding a team-high 829 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Prescott, who came off the bench to lead the Bulldogs past Ole Miss in last year’s Egg Bowl, felt like he worked hard this summer on his footwork.

“I wanted to get better in the passing game, so I’m making sure that I keep my feet underneath me, that I’m staying balanced on every throw,” Prescott said. “I’m really trying to get better in the passing game.”

Prescott lost his mother during the season last year, and he was able to keep playing because that was what she would have wanted, he said.

“It was the toughest time of my life in my young 20 years, but honestly I have to say that my mom prepared me for that,” Prescott said. “She raised me by herself, and she prepared me for the person that I am today and everything that I do. When she passed, it was a hard time, but I had to remember everything that she told me and what she taught me and be everything she wanted me to be.”

Good move
Mississippi State junior Jay Hughes said he would have loved playing for a state championship at either MSU’s Davis Wade Stadium or Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when he was in high school. Hughes, who started his high school career at Oxford, said the new additions at Davis Wade Stadium were very impressive.

“I think playing there in high school takes it to a whole new level,” Hughes said. “Those two Jumbotrons, I know that if I was in high school, I would be excited to play there. The new stadium, it’s like a castle. We see it everyday when we’re on campus, and it looks just like a castle. They built it so fast. It’s going to be nice; it’s going to be electric there this year.”

john.davis@journalinc.com

Twitter: @oxfordcitizenjd

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Eighteen years in the business. Dedicated to providing the best local content for sports. Oxford, Lafayette, Ole Miss, youth sports, outdoors and the things nobody else wants to cover.