Friday, July 25, 2008

SEC Media Days: Friday Recap

From Auburn's new-look offense to Steve Spurrier's refreshing honesty to one ridiculous dream, 10 things we learned from Day 3 of the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

1. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville likes that the media picked the Tigers to win the SEC West.

"I was really excited till I got up this morning," Tuberville joked. "You guys picked us to win the West. Y'all are never right."

"Actually we'll use this," he added. "It's probably good for us...I'm not big on predictions. But we need something to get us going...We need to have a sense of urgency, a lot more than we did last year. And so I think this will be a point that we can use with our team, our coaches."

2) Like Vanderbilt, Auburn enters fall practice without a starting quarterback.

Tuberville said that Kodi Burns would be the starter if the season started today, but junior college transfer Chris Todd remains in contention. The competition should be fierce and after 10-12 days, Tuberville said he should name a starter.

"I'm a true believer that your quarterback is the leader of your football team in terms of your locker room, your sideline, not just for your offense, but for your defense and your kicking game," he said. "We will have a true starter."

The fact that Tuberville talked repeatedly about the importance of having the quarterback be able to run the football in their offense suggest that Burns is a better fit than Todd. In fact, Tuberville said "this offense is built for a guy like (Burns)."

3) You're not going to recognize the Auburn offense.

"Everybody says, 'Well, some teams run this.' Not like we run it," Tuberville said. "It's no huddle, fast paced, fast tempo, involve your quarterback in running the football, spread the field, use a lot of wide receivers. You know, really it's a change for us."

Consider this fact: Last year Auburn averaged 56 plays per game in the regular season. With new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, the Tigers ran 93 in their bowl game.

No surprise that the players (and recruits) are loving the new system.

"This offense puts a smile on their face," Tuberville said. "They have fun running it. It's always something different, and I think it gives you the opportunity to use more than one player. You can spread it around, use the talent you have on your team."

"Plus, it's helped us recruiting," he added. "I've never had 20 commitments in my life, even when I was at the University of Miami. This year we have 20 commitments, and a lot of it's due to the offense we've gone to and the ability to recruit a lot more skilled players."

4) Kentucky coach Rich Brooks predicted he'll have the "best defensive team that I've had at Kentucky."

While the Wildcats lost a number of talented players on offense, Brooks isn't worried.

"We now have what I would call quality, All-SEC type defensive players," he said. "We've got guys that belong in this league on defense. And we haven't had that at every position in the last five years."

5) Brooks is confident that the Wildcats have closed the talent gap in the SEC East.

Consider that when Brook arrived, he had one player who ran under a 4.5 40. Last year he had 17, including fliers Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith.

"I want to tell you the difference isn't what it used to be," he said. "We have more speed. We have more talent. We have players that are capable of playing at Florida and Georgia and Tennessee."

"I think that we've closed the gap on the talent level, which is the biggest significant difference in Kentucky football now versus four or five years ago."

The same could be said about the Commodores, although they've yet to get over the hump like the Wildcats.

6) There's another QB controversy in Lexington between Mark Hartline and Curtis Pulley.

It's not going to be easy replacing Andre' Woodson. Brooks said neither guy "has shown the efficiency in the passing game that Andre' did," adding that both need work in their vertical game.

Pulley runs a 4.47 40, while Hartline is also an above-average runner, which makes it even harder to separate the two of them. Unlike at Auburn, don't be surprised to see them share the QB duties.

"I feel good about both of them," Brooks said, "and it's conceivable that both of them could see action, more so than, say, what has happened at Kentucky over the last two years, where Andre's taken virtually every snap."

7) You could tell that new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino didn't come to Hoover to talk about the past.

Petrino was short in his answers to questions relating to his ordeal with the Atlanta Falcons, although he did admit that losing Michael Vick played a big role in how everything turned out.

"They had a quarterback at that time that I thought could be real special so that played a lot into it, too," he said. "But, you know, it was a difficult season. You always look back and really try to reflect on what I could have done better here, what we could have done better here. Certainly we'll try to do a better job in our communication with our players, you know, really understanding what it takes week in and week out to be consistent."

While I'm far from a Petrino apologist, you have to give him that: with Vick at quarterback, he's probably still in Atlanta and not hated across America.

Petrino also got laughters during this exchange:

A reporter asked, "Where does coming to Media Days and getting these questions and meeting all us great reporters rank in the list of things that you have to do?"

"Oh, right at the top," Petrino replied. "It's my most favorite thing."

"No, this is part of the job. I understand that," he added. "I respect your job and what you all have to do, you know, asking the tough questions. I have no problem with that, none at all."

Glad to see he handled his first trip Hoover well.

8) It's not a party, or SEC Media Days, without Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier is never afraid to speak his mind.

He said he doesn't pay much attention to height and speed during recruitment, noting that the Gamecocks have signed a couple of linebackers who are close to 6-feet tall.

"We sent a memo, No more six foot linebackers, let's go for 6'2" or 6'3", if we can," said Spurrier, inciting laughter. "We all try to get the best we can, but at times, you know, well, he's not quite as tall as we hoped, but we think he's a good player.

"We got to go with who you can. Sort of like going after girls, I guess. Got to get the best you can, right (smiling)? Some of these guys actually have good looking wives, which is unusual."

Just classic. Spurrier cracking jokes on the overweight journalists. It doesn't get much better than that.

And here's another one about Petrino.

"He had about as much fun as I did in the NFL," Spurrier said. "When he first went, I said I’ll give him two years. He almost made one."

How can you not love this guy?

9) According to Spurrier, the SEC East remains a division of the haves and the have-nots.

"I was noticing the other day on our side, there's only been three teams to ever win the division," Spurrier said. "Did y'all know that? So us, Vandy and Kentucky, we're still looking for the first one."

I did not know that, but it's an interesting fact that Spurrier wants to change.

"Sometimes at South Carolina we don't beat Georgia out for too many guys," said the always-candid Spurrier. "We don't beat Florida out for too many guys. That's just the way it is right now."

Spurrier said he knew it was going to be difficult to win at South Carolina.

"It's one of the ultimate challenges," he said. "But what's sort of neat now is that our facilities are pretty close to the other schools, and we need to have one or two big years. We need to win the division somewhere along the way."

"That's the next step we need to take, or else, if that doesn't happen in about five years, then probably somebody else needs to try to do it because we got a lot of good players," Spurrier added. "That's what coaching's all about. If one guy doesn't get it done in seven, eight years, something like that, give that next guy a chance."

In other words, let's get it done, Bobby Johnson.

10) There are some things you just can't make up.'s Chris Low recounts how Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons, Jr. told media members about a wild dream he had Thursday night:
Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford was in the dream. So was former Georgia quarterback Blake Barnes and Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer. Lyons, who was recently engaged to be married, had been having some crazy dreams about his fiancé leaving him.

"Cosmo says it's natural," Lyons explained

So in this latest dream, a suspicious Lyons goes looking for her and finds her at a bar. She tells him that she doesn't want to marry him, and according to Lyons (again in his dream), he starts "shaking and slapping her" to get her focus.

"I turn around and Matt Stafford punches me in the nose," said Lyons, trying to keep a straight face. "Matt Stafford goes, 'You don't hit women.' Then all of a sudden, Blake comes and hits me, and I'm fighting all these quarterbacks."

For perspective, Lyons had been at the Manning Passing Academy with most of these guys. He also joked that he did pretty well in the fight.

"I was twisting arms and using all kinds of Ranger moves," he said.

And by the way, Stafford is already well aware of the dream.

"I was laughing about it and texted him and said, 'I'm dreaming about you,' " Lyons cracked.

Let's just end on that. Enjoy the weekend, everybody.

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