We heard from the 14 SEC football coaches and 42 players this past week in Hoover. SEC commissioner Mike Slive spoke to us as well, doing as he typically does -- bragging about all the championships and presenting yet again another “If I were king for a day” plan that he’s surprised the NCAA doesn’t love. We heard from SEC officials coordinator Steve Shaw, who tried his best to explain “targeting” to us.
Did we learn much we didn’t know before? No, we didn’t find out who such-and-such team’s starting quarterback will be or what so-and-so team will do for a punt returner.
But we did learn some things, even though most of it didn’t have much to do with between-the-lines football.
Here are seven things we learned during SEC Media Days:
1. Growing pains
SEC Media Days has grown so large that it’s difficult for reporters to do what the event was designed to do in the first place — let us touch base with coaches and players in a comfortable, low-pressure atmosphere.
With a record 1,239 reporters coming to the event, coaches and players have little room to think or breathe. They’re on-guard the whole time and rarely say much of anything with any depth.
However, the three days have turned into an event by themselves. Some of the meetings are televised live. Radio shows broadcast live from “radio row,” which is downstairs from the main interview rooms.
It’s a great advertisement for SEC football.
That’s partly why the league is willing to credential just about anyone who applies. The more, the merrier — unless you miss the old comfortable, low-pressure atmosphere.
2. AJ and Johnny Football
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel famously have developed a friendship, which began through social media.
Apparently in respect to his friend, McCarron declined all opportunities to comment about Manziel’s summer issues, especially regarding him leaving the Manning Passing Academy early.
“I can’t answer about Johnny Manziel,” McCarron said during his session with print reporters in the main interview room. “My name is AJ. Everything that has to do with him, he’s his own man. I’m not going to speak on another man’s business. That’s how I was raised. If it don’t have nothing to do with you, don’t speak on it.”
He continued by saying that he tries to handle himself in the right way and represent himself and his school as best he can.
However, that apparently didn’t help. McCarron has posted on Twitter that he’s upset some folks are taking his comments as criticism of Manziel.
“People have lost their mind if they think I dissed JM in any way. I said I wouldn’t comment on another mans life. I told them I was AJ. Then I told them how I act and how I live my life. Never said anything on JM and how he should live his life. Y’all can’t believe all u hear.”
I was there for McCarron’s interview and didn’t hear anything that could be interpreted as insulting to Manziel.
Shaw explained targeting, and it essentially expands the definition of who can’t be hit and when. The biggest target of the new rule is hitting defenseless players above the shoulders.
With more and more emphasis on trying to reduce the number of concussions in football, it makes sense to institute rules improving head safety, then enforcing them strictly.
What do you want to bet, however, that somebody is going to get ejected from the first weekend’s games, claiming he didn’t know they were that serious about the new rule.
4. Saban’s friends
Alabama coach Nick Saban has one of the best deadpan deliveries in college football. This is how he described coming off vacation and attending media days: “I had a great vacation, then I get the opportunity to come here and see 1,200 of my very closest friends all at the same time.”
Should we remind him of this when he gets upset with reporters because we’ve overlooked Alabama’s big, big game with Nobody Tech?
Another smarty in the media room made this observation about Saban’s comment: The event drew 1,239, so who are the 39 he didn’t include?
5. Ignoring Auburn
New Auburn coach Gus Malzahn drew more face time for his defense of no-huddle, fast-paced offenses rather than his defense of his own team.
With the Tigers coming off a 3-9 season, nobody seemed to make Auburn a talking point at media days. Nobody seemed much interested in how things are going at Auburn, which embarked on a national championship season only three short years ago.
It’s fun to think about what happened with a couple of new coaches in Auburn’s history. Terry Bowden went 11-0 in his first season in 1993, while Gene Chizik was 14-0 in his second season in 2010. Both took over problematic programs.
But this is a different case. Certainly, Malzahn won’t win more than five or six games. I mean, surely he won’t compete for a championship. Will he?
C’mon, there’s no way it can happen. Could it? The first two times were flukes. Right? Right?
6. No love here
Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen doesn’t like Ole Miss, and it’s hard to understand why he needs to make it so obvious publicly.
Why say “the other school” when referring to Ole Miss? Why pick at something like that? What good does it do? If you’re going to take a shot at Ole Miss, make it something substantial, rather than refusing to say the school name.
And when you lose to them — which MSU did at the end of last season — it looks especially pitiful.
7. Thank you, Jadeveon
We appreciate South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who spoke about not wanting to make waves online, then promptly made waves online.
I know, this is a contradiction from the point above about Mullen and Ole Miss, but in this particular case, you’ve got to admire a guy who insults opposing players when he’s going to have to go on the field and face them.
It’s like calling a pitcher rude names and then stepping in the batter’s box — it may be stupid, but it also shows a certain amount of either courage or foolishness. Either way, it’s fun.
Clowney said when he faced Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and a third SEC quarterback who he didn’t name, he saw fear. He said they were “scared.” Murray and Boyd told reporters later they weren’t scared. Murray added that he respects Clowney but doesn’t fear him.
By the way, South Carolina plays at Georgia on Sept. 7 and against Clemson at home Nov. 30. Those games should be a little more interesting.