July 10, 2017 8:38:34 AM
Hello all, and welcome to your portal into the madness that is Day One of SEC Media Days.
Here's a quick note on how I'm running these live blogs throughout the week: In the morning, I'm going to post a quickie preview for the day -- teams due up, questions they'll likely get, random stuff, etc. -- and that post will be updated, if I had to guess, at least a hundred times throughout each day. So, keep this link on hand throughout the day and be sure to do the same for the other three days, as it'll be set up the same way.
As always, feedback, questions and anything else are always welcomed. Best way to do that is on Twitter (@Brett_Hudson), but you can also do it in the comments on this blog or via email (email@example.com).
Today we've got the commissioner Greg Sankey leading things off before we get Arkansas, LSU and Tennessee.
SEC COMMISSIONER GREG SANKEY
- Sankey jokes that he hopes media enjoyed the 12 days in between the end of the all-SEC College World Series finale, LSU v. Florida, and this, which he called, "the unofficial kickoff," of football season.
- Sankey going through recent SEC accomplishments: six national championships, all 13 softball teams making NCAA Tournament, three men's basketball teams in the Elite Eight, etc.
- Now he's talking about things that happened in 1967. I'm going to hope there's a point to be made here. (Update: There it is, 1967 is the first time an African-American played football for a SEC university, Kentucky. 50-year anniversary coming this fall.) He's continued on to list each member school's examples of such trailblazers in being the first black athlete to represent their schools on the varsity level.
- Sankey says 157 football players wore the SEC Graduate jersey patch in bowl games last year.
- In addressing the 14-week football schedule, he says he does not want to see preseason practice pushed even earlier into the summer. MSU, for instance, starts practice July 25 this year.
- Sankey now addressing time of game, saying the conference is working with media partners and member schools on length of halftime and commercial breaks.
- The SEC Network will launch a one-hour show for this fall called Thinking Out Loud on Monday nights to talk SEC football.
- Sankey is asked about policy on games affected by weather (think LSU-Florida last year). Sankey said a protocol did not exist at the time, but coaches and conference have that protocol now. He, as the commissioner, has significant power in that scenario.
- Sankey's pretty blunt about talk of division realignment: "Has not been an agenda item." Even takes a slight shot at media that try to drum up that topic, saying it's only a topic at large press conferences. The man's right, this only comes up when select media members get bored in the offseason.
- Asked about the conference potentially having a uniform drug policy as opposed to a school-by-school basis, Sankey says conversations have been had in his 15 years but no consensus has been reached. He adds given turnover in personnel in member schools in recent years, his SEC staff is always ready to entertain that conversation if the member schools become receptive to it.
ARKANSAS: Bret Bielema, QB Austin Allen, OL Frank Ragnow, DB Kevin Richardson
- Got a few questions in to Frank Ragnow as he's part of an offensive line that has a lot of experience coming back and could be among the best such units in the conference just a year after being one of the worst in terms of sacks allowed. He (and Austin Allen, later) said the experience of it all is the most important factor. Ragnow said there are going to be technique and communication things to work on in between seasons regardless of the status of the unit, so the playing experience is the operative factor in that unit's improvement.
- One more thing I found interesting: I overheard Missouri and Texas A&M beat writers asking about those losses and Arkansas' general inability to beat Texas A&M. That's kind of been the story of the Bielema tenure at Arkansas, hasn't it: the teams he hasn't beaten? What a different perception we would have if Bielema had a couple of wins over Alabama and/or Texas A&M under his belt.
- Now Bielema comes to the podium. And he starts with a funny story of how he and the commissioner, Greg Sankey, accidentally Facetimed each other not long after Bielema's wife, Jen, gave birth to their daughter Saturday.
- It sounds like both Arkansas and Missouri really want a rivalry between the two of them to be a serious thing. Surely that won't be hard to establish, given those schools are right on top of each other. I'm kind of surprised the situation needs this much help.
- Someone asked a question referencing the famous Borderline Erotic quote. Bielema: "I don't think I can go much farther than that....And that was before I had a child."
- Bielema says one of the biggest issues with last year's team in pass protection and rushing yards per carry was simply not having enough guys good enough to play in the SEC. Blames himself for not recruiting to that point.
- Bielema: "We at Arkansas try to prove ourselves with numbers, by putting on paper what we are." Quote comes in reference to QB Austin Allen and his stature in the league.
- Bielema's talking about the running back that decided to leave football, Rawleigh Williams: "The things I learned from him, I can't put into words."
- Reporter: "Do you think you will have a better run defense this year?" Bielema: "Let me ask you a question: Where did you get that shirt?"
- Bielema talks about switching to the 3-4 defense and says he thinks it's easier to switch to different defenses in response to what formation the offense is in. There's certainly a case to be made there. Not guaranteed to be better than the 4-man front, but I definitely see where he's going with that thought.
LSU: Ed Orgeron, WR D.J. Chark, RB Derrius Guice, DE Christian LaCouture
- Ed O starts off by saying the program's thoughts and prayers are with Congressman Steve Scalise.
- In no shocking development, Orgeron said LSU still has a quarterback battle at the moment but Danny Etling is the leader.
- On running backs, Ed O called Derrius Guice the best running back in the nation and one of the nation's best offensive players.
- In a little bit of news, Ed O says Rashard Lawrence earned a starting spot on the defensive line. I covered him pretty closely in his senior year at Louisiana powerhouse Neville High School and the kid is unreal. MSU's going to have its hands full with him.
- Orgeron talking about what he did after he was fired at Ole Miss. He called mentors, had hard conversations with himself about what to do next (he knew he would be a head coach again). He said he would do two things: he would treat his players like his own sons and he would treat all of his assistant coaches with respect. He said the record he's compiled as a head man (interim at both USC and LSU) speaks for itself.
- Interesting topic brought up by the Lake Charles beat guy: He pointed out that the season opener against BYU starts at 8:30 at night and BYU does not play on Sundays for the obvious religious reasons. He asked Orgeron if that topic has been discussed, and he said it has. He said he would leave it to the referees if the worst case scenario were to come to pass.
- Ed O says he believes the gap between LSU and Alabama is not that far, pointing to the 10-0 loss last year. Statement came after a question from Pat Forde acknowledging one of the reasons there was a coaching change at LSU was because the Tigers could not beat Alabama.
- Got a funny story from D.J. Chark in which he and a teammate went on YouTube to learn how to tie a tie. He said he had to compete in the SEC Media Days dress department with, "Guice in the pink and Christian looking like a President."
- Chark was also asked a lot about the Auburn touchdown that was taken away at the end of the game, giving Auburn the win and starting the series of events that ended with Les Miles' dismissal during the year. He said he originally thought they were reviewing if it was a catch or not, which he was confident it was; he didn't know they were reviewing the clock until after the fact.
- Got some insight from Christian LaCouture on what the young defensive players expected to get more playing time this fall can do to get ready for that. You can read more about that in tomorrow's paper (or when the story gets posted online later tonight.)
TENNESSEE: Butch Jones, DB Emmanuel Moseley, OL Jashon Robertson, DL Kendal Vickers
- Jones was joking with Kendal Vickers on the plane that he remembers him as a 215-pound wide receiver type. Now, Jones believes, he's one of the best defensive tackles in the league.
- Jones just said the team has three games in 13 days to start the season and holy crap it's true. Vols play on Monday of the opening weekend before back-to-back Saturday games.
- Jones says the two quarterbacks battling, Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady, have really different personalities and it creates a different dynamic in the team. He has no timetable for announcing the starter. In responding to a follow-up question, Jones says he is not afraid to play two quarterbacks several games into the season if both players earn the right to play.
- Our boy Butch just dropped his head-scratcher quote of the day. He said he doesn't think last season is a disappointment, he simply thinks the team did not accomplish all of the goals it set out for itself. I'll let that one marinate for a second.
- "I don't like to use the term disappointment because it's hard to win in the SEC."
- Jones is trying to establish the growth of his program by saying when he got there, they were the homecoming game for a lot of people, and now they get each team's best effort.
- Jones says he values Phillip Fulmer's friendship and that he's been a "sounding board" for him.