By Parrrish Alford and Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – With roughly 1,100 credentialed media members asking SEC-oriented questions players from Texas A&M and Missouri responded Tuesday by simultaneously defending their past and embracing their future.
While coaches and players expressed excitement for joining the league, they expressed excitement for the challenge as well.
“The other teams should expect a good game out of Missouri, a good game with us. I don’t think they should go into our games expecting a win automatically. They should definitely come ready to play, like every other Saturday in the SEC,” Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter said. “When we first found out we were joining the SEC, our entire team was very excited. This league has some of the best players in the country. We want to be able to gauge ourselves against those guys, compare ourselves to those guys, be on the field with them at the same time.”
Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe says he’s attended six weddings this off-season, and he’s heard the SEC question at each one as well as other destinations among his travels.
“I know the SEC has won the last six national championships, but not all 12 teams have won the last six national championships. Just one,” he said.
Much has been made of Missouri’s spread offense and adjustments the Tigers may have to make against SEC defenses.
Moe says it goes both ways.
“They’re going to see a different offense that they really don’t see till bowl games or their non-conference games, and they’re non-conference games generally probably aren’t up to the caliber that us and Texas A&M are.”
Moe says he doesn’t feel its necessary for he and his teammates to defend their resume.
“I don’t need to defend the Big 12. I’m not in the Big 12 anymore. They’re pretty good though. We were good in that league.”
Sky’s the limit for Vandy
In his first season as head coach at Vanderbilt, James Franklin got an SEC Media Days reception that probably didn’t surprise a number of SEC observers.
“I walked through Radio Row and wasn’t stopped one time.”
After leading the Commodores into a rare bowl appearance things have changed, he says.
“Things have changed for Vanderbilt football. There’s a buzz that there hasn’t been in a long time,” Franklin said. “It wasn’t just the games we won that changed people’s perception of us. It was how we played week in and week out.”
By-products of the buzz include enhancements to the SEC’s smallest stadium and other facilities.
The enthusiasm, the physical improvement and the Vanderbilt education are reasons Franklin believes the Commodores can built on a 6-7, 2-6 SEC season.
“The sky’s the limit. If you truly respect a world class education, very few schools can compete with us. I know what Vanderbilt can do for your son for the next 40-50 years. You have the opportunity to chase both of your dreams at the highest level. If you’re truly among the best and brightest, where else would you go?”
Spurrier likes his QB
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has had well-documented rocky relationships with his quarterbacks. That might be changing.
After four-plus years of dealing with free spirit Stephen Garcia, Spurrier now has a QB in Connor Shaw who he said is focused on football and getting better.
“He’s been around football his whole life, pretty much dedicated to that,” Spurrier said at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. “He doesn’t have a lot of outside interests other than be the best quarterback he can to help our team win games and be successful.”
Shaw, a 6-foot-1 junior, played in 10 games last year, throwing for 1,448 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 525 yards and eight scores. Garcia was dismissed from the team in October after playing in five games.
“I’ve never quite had (a QB) that’s been maybe a little bit better runner than he is passer,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully he’ll be a little better passer this year, but he’s still going to keep running the ball, because that’s what he does very well.”
Call it ‘Project SEC’
There has been much talk of the SEC eventually forming its own network, a la the Big Ten Network. Commissioner Mike Slive hinted at that subject on Tuesday without getting into specifics.
“There has been a whole lot of speculation about Project X,” Slive said. “Is it still a secret? I don’t think so. But we now call it ‘Project SEC.’
“Our objective long term is to work with our television partner to provide fans with greater access to favored teams, more opportunities to watch rivals, and more insight into who we are: a conference of 14 great universities.
“I’d love to say more. I know you want me to say more. I won’t say more. I will, though, before I get too much older and before you get too much older.”
The SEC currently has lucrative TV contracts with ESPN and CBS. There is an entity called the SEC Network, but that is a vehicle for farming out games to various cable networks.