By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Certain mile markers for certain people have stood out along Texas A&M’s journey to the SEC.
Kevin Sumlin’s came a long time ago – the first time he represented the Aggies in a meeting with his peers.
“What made it real to me, quicker than a lot of people, was when we had our first head coaches meeting. You walk into a room with 13 other coaches and Mike Slive, then they close that door behind you,” Sumlin said. “That’s when you know it’s real.”
While there are challenges in the SEC there are benefits as well. While it takes top-flight players to compete, it’s also easier to attract them.
“No doubt being in the SEC has increased our footprint, particularly moving east,” Sumlin said.
Sumlin is in his first season with the Aggies after directing high-powered offenses as an Oklahoma assistant and the head coach at Houston. He takes the first step into the new frontier with a yet-to-be-named quarterback and a top running back who is coming off major knee surgery.
Texas A&M had a winning record in 2011 but had to defeat Northwestern in a low-level bowl game to finish 7-6.
Pinkel is entering his 12th season at Missouri. The Tigers were 5-4 in the Big 12 last year and finished .500 or better in that conference every year since 2004.
Missouri returns 13 starters from a team that finished 8-5 after a 17-point win over North Carolina in the Independence Bowl.
The Tigers are established at quarterback with junior James Franklin, 6-foot-2, 225, who passed for 21 touchdowns, rushed for 15 last season.
“I’ll be real disappointed if he doesn’t have a great year in a great league,” Pinkel said.
Defending the big 12
Addressing SEC media for the first time, Pinkel seemed disappointed also in the amount of SEC praise he’s heard as his team dives in.
“You get a lot of, ‘You’re playing in the SEC now,’” he said. “People come up to me and act like we were playing a bunch of high school teams. We played in a pretty good league.”
Pinkel believes his lengthy stay at Missouri – where he’s led the Tigers to three division titles and seven consecutive bowl games – will help with the transition.
Seven current Missouri assistants have been with Pinkel since at least his first season in Columbia.
“Our staff has been as consistent as any in the country,” he said. “That continuity has been important in building our program at Missouri and will be important as we expand our recruiting areas into Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and so forth. It will help carry us through in a positive way.”
Check out football season schedule in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.