Best and biggest from SEC Media Days

With SEC Media Days in the books, we give you the 10 figures that left the biggest impact on us, one way or another.

Mike Slive

The event started with opening remarks Tuesday from SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who spoke about many of the conference's hopes for the future.

One of those is increasing the amount of scholarship money given to student-athletes. Another is proposed rules changes for recruiting, for which he recommended allowing text messaging as a means of contact.

But his most significant comment may have been his allusion to the Penn State scandal and his insistence that schools do what is necessary to protect "those who cannot protect themselves."

"No one program, no one person, no matter how popular, no matter how successful, can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution," Slive said.

T.J. Moe

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The most entertaining man over the course of the three days was Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe. Among his many gems:

"They say girls are prettier here, the air's fresher and the toilet paper is thicker."

"It's serious here. I wouldn't be surprised if everybody was strapped with a gun here."

The "here" in all instances refers to the SEC, which Missouri is joining this season. Moe's cracks and big talk Tuesday sent an early message that the Tigers don't intend to be pushed around.

"We may have the most balanced team in college football," Moe said.

Kevin Sumlin

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Speaking of looking comfortable in the big boys' conference, new Texas A&M head coach pressed all the right buttons during his time in front of the media Tuesday.

Sumlin -- who appeared as calm, relaxed and confident as any of the coaches all week -- is in his first year with the Aggies after coming over from Houston. It's also the school's first year in the SEC.

Texas A&M will have to content with the brutal SEC West, which includes Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. But the challenge in front of Sumlin didn't dampen his sense of humor.

"What's my assessment?" he said with a smile to a question about sizing up the SEC. "It's a pretty damn hard league. How is that? That's my assessment."

How is he keeping his cool so well with so much change and pressure?

"It's summertime and we're undefeated at this point," Sumlin said, "so you might catch me later with a different attitude."

Steve Spurrier

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No stranger to SEC Media Days, Spurrier talked his way through his 20th this year.

Spurrier inherited a scandal-plagued program in 2005 and delivered the Gamecocks' first division championship in 2010 and a school-best 11-win season in 2011. Now, he's answering questions about national title aspirations.

"We've sort of assembled I think better players, coaches, everything around us that gives us a chance to be successful," Spurrier said.

They may not be ready for that leap just yet, but the Gamecocks are clearly on the right track with Spurrier at the helm.

Will Muschamp

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Perhaps no coach in the SEC has more pressure on him this season than Muschamp, who enters year two in charge in Gainesville. But he certainly doesn't see it that way.

"The pressure is what you put on yourself, and I put an awful lot on myself whether it's year one or year 10," Muschamp said Wednesday.

Still, the Gators needed a bowl game win over Ohio State to avoid their first losing season since 1979 and their offense was bad enough a year ago to warrant a change at offensive coordinator.

In the win-now SEC, Muschamp insists he's in better shape to make good things happen in 2012.

"I feel like I'm much more prepared just from the day-to-day operation of the things that come across your desk as a head coach," Muschamp said.

John L. Smith

The new Arkansas front man sure knows how to win over a room.

"I have to go up here?" he asked in mock despair upon entering one of the media rooms here at the Wynfrey Hotel on Wednesday.

Once at the podium, he read off a warning sign: "Do not move mic ... Where's Mike?!"

All jokes aside, Smith has a gargantuan task on his hand. The Razorbacks were expected to contend for a national title this season before Bobby Petrino was ousted this offseason. But Smith feels good about his chances.

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"My wife said, 'You've never taken over a football team this good,'" he said.

Knile Davis and Tyler Wilson

Integral to Smith's chances to match the pre-scandal expectations are quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, two of the biggest-name players who showed up for Media Days.

Davis is returning from an ankle injury that cost him the 2011 season before it started, and the Razorbacks are hoping he can return to his excellent 2010 form.

"I'm very confident," Davis said. "I'm cutting full speed. It's been a long process to get back to 100 percent, but I'm back."

Wilson will again contend with one of college football's most daunting schedules for a quarterback, headlined by LSU and Alabama. But those are both home games this season for Arkansas.

"This year, you take a different approach," Wilson said. "You know what to expect."

Les Miles

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Rarely have we seen college football heartbreak quite like what LSU went through last season.

After a 13-0 season that was on pace to rank as one of the sport's best ever, the Tigers' dream went off the rails in the BCS Championship game against Alabama.

"We played everybody but the Green Bay Packers," Miles said Wednesday of the difficult slate.

So does LSU bounce back from that?

"What happened was we played our 14th game and we didn't play as well as we did in our (other) 13," Miles said.

You might have thought he was concealing just how difficult it would be to overcome the disappointment ... and then came Thursday's media poll, announcing them as an overwhelming favorite to once again win the SEC.

Nick Saban

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Always a main event at Media Days, the Alabama head coach had his usual entourage of followers Thursday.

With few questions to answer about his team's credentials, Saban found time to expound on other topics, saying he would prefer a nine-game SEC schedule and suggesting a tax on athletics at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky conviction.

"I just threw out a tax on every ticket at every athletic event and donate all the money to organizations that prevent child abuse would be more of a win-win than worrying about punishing someone."

Saban made it clear he hadn't entirely thought out his comments and even expressed a little regret at bringing it up at all. Nevertheless, the comments were some of the most significant to come out of the Media Days.

Hugh Freeze

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At least one person has big expectations for Hugh Freeze in his first year in Oxford.

In a media poll released Thursday, one voter picked Ole Miss to win the entire SEC despite its abysmal year in 2011. As for Freeze himself?

"I think the reasonable expectation ... is that we compete passionately for our university for 60 minutes," Freeze said Thursday. "Whatever the scoreboard says at the end. We have to live with that."

Not exactly optimistic, but it's tough to ask for much else out of Freeze in year one of taking over one of the SEC's most moribund programs. How he responds to the pressures of the job -- he has just one year of college head-coaching experience -- will be a major storyline for Ole Miss this season and going forward.

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