SEC Media Days: Day Two, News And Notes

Day two of the SEC Media Days will be a busy one with six teams scheduled including the Auburn Tigers.

Hoover, Ala.--Day two of SEC Media Days 2012 features six football programs and SEC Director of Officials Steve Shaw.

Auburn is one of the teams on tap for today along with LSU, Florida, Mississippi State, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

For Auburn seniors Philip Lutzenkirchen and Emory Blake along with junior Corey Lemonier will be the players featured on Wednesday along with Coach Gene Chizik.

*LSU coach Les Miles said with Texas A&M joining the conference that should make it easier for other SEC teams to recruit prospects from the state of Texas, which Miles said features outstanding teams and prospects.

*Miles could have the most talented group of running backs in the SEC this year with Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard competing for a starting job. The LSU head coach said the competition is too close for him to predict who will emerge at the top of the depth chart.

Safety Eric Reid is one of the top defensive players in the league this season. The LSU standout said the defense should once again be one of the best in 2012.

"We have a lot of potential," Reid said. "Hopefully we can get better. That's what we always want to do is improve. We're going to go into camp with that mentality, to go into camp and work hard to get better."

Playing in a loaded secondary along with Tyrann Mathieu, Reid said there is still plenty of work to be done to improve.

"We just try to master our craft every day," Reid said. "We do the same drills. It takes repetition. We've been fortunate to have guys from the NFL to come back and work with us like Corey Webster. He's just passing on that knowledge to us."

*Miles said he has high expectations for his new starting quarterback, Zach Mettenberger. "The key to him is take it a day at a time, not put the cart in front of the horse," the coach stated. "Very talented guy. The things that he has done in leadership, the approach he has taken with the team, has been very obvious."

Miles noted that Mettenberger has the luxury of playing behind a strong front. "I think the veteran offensive line will allow us to play with an aggressiveness both in the running game and in the passing game."

Mettenberger resurfaced in the SEC with LSU after having problems at Georgia and transferring to a junior college. Miles said that the QB has not had problems in Baton Rouge. "I can only tell you how he has been with us and he's been a very dependable, hard-working man.

"I think with the responsibility of the starting job it is obvious to most that surround him that he recognizes the great opportunity the team has and how he can contribute and participate in the season. I think he's working at it really day to day."

*Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said that bringing former Auburn quarterback Pat Washington onto his staff is a big plus because Washington will help develop the wide receivers corps and because of Washington's lengthy experience in the SEC as a coach and player. Washington, who played for Coach Pat Dye in the 1980s, has the title of passing game coordinator for the Wildcats.

Coach Joker Phillips

*Phillips said that he believes the overall UK roster is more talented this year than last year and the coach is expecting help from a full class of 25 newcomers.

*Asked if the perception is that the university is a basketball school is a negative, Phillips said that he uses it as a positive. He said the chance to watch the basketball players during their college football careers is a plus. Phillips noted that hoops coach John Calipari helps with recruiting football players for the Wildcats. "He and I have a great working relationships." Phillips said.

*Asked about the perception that he is on the hot seat after a disappointing 2011 season, Phillips said he doesn't have time to worry about that subject. Phillips said his total focus is on figuring out how to make the Wildcats more successful and produce the best team possible for UK fans, who he said are very supportive of the program.

*Kentucky offensive lineman Matt Smith said that ending his school's 26-game losing streak to Tennessee was particularly satisfying to him because he grew up a fan of the Wildcats. He said that making family members happy and UK fans across the commonwealth happy with the 10-7 victory was a special feeling.

Smith said that the 2012 UK team is going to need early help from the signee class. He noted in the past the Wildcats haven't received much help from true freshmen, but said that needs to change this year.

*Arkansas linebacker Tenarius Wright is one of the the representatives at media days for Arkansas. He said that having John L. Smith come on as head coach made the transition easier for the Razorbacks with all the crazy things going on.

When asked about being a defensive player at Arkansas, Wright said it's all about improvement and trying to take the team to the next level.

"The mindset of the defense is that we've haven't done anything," Wright said. "We haven't made a name for ourselves yet. We haven't dominated a game the way we want to. We haven't had any shutouts the way we want to. It's crunch time.

"We went through the spring and summer letting everyone know that in order to achieve our goal the defense has to stop the run," he added. "If you look at every champion in the past their run defense has been amazing. The main focus is to stop the run."

*John L. Smith said he has not been told what it will take to have "interim" taken off his job title. The replacement for fired head coach Bobby Petrino said he would really like to stay on for a long time in Fayetteville, which he called one of the best jobs in the country.

*Asked about recruiting as a interim coach, he said the Razorbacks are focused on keeping the top players in the state of Arkansas from leaving the state.

*Smith said the expectations among the players are extremely high. He said the Razorbacks have just one goal this year. That is to win the BCS national title in Miami. Smith said the Razorbacks have a large and outstanding senior class that will lead the charge in 2012.

*Tyler Wilson said that the Razorbacks are over the trauma caused by the firing of Bobby Petrino. The quarterback said he made the decision to step up and take a bigger leadership role on the team and he challenged his teammates to follow him. Based on what he has seen during the offseason workouts, the Razorbacks are excited about the season.

Wilson said the timing of the Petrino firing could have been worse. With it happening during spring practice, the players were able to rally on the field and he said that the Razorbacks had the best all-around spring practice since he has been a part of the program.

*Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen called Ole Miss "the school up north of us" although mentioning Southern Miss and Jackson State by name when talking about his current schedule and future schedules. Mullen is 0-12 vs. SEC West teams not named Ole Miss. He is 3-0 vs. the Rebels.

*Mullen said that he is expecting a breakout season from quarterback Tyler Russell. He said the former high school All-American will be given a lot of freedom in play calling this season.

*Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks said the Bulldogs were not as physical and didn't play as hard as they needed to play last year. He predicted that will change. "We have guys that are going to go out there and play harder and faster."

Will Muschamp

*Florida's Will Muschamp looks to be excited about his team after playing so many young players last season at Florida. One note of interest is that Ronald Powell has been cleared for weight room activity, which is big. He said coming off an ACL injury is always iffy, but Muschamp said Powell will play for the Gators this season.

*Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard has decided to transfer, according to Muschamp. He said they met and it was in everyone's best interest that he make the move. Leonard was arrested in an incident involving a female.

*Ronald Powell, who is recovering from ACL surgery, is working out in the weight room with his Gator teammates and has been cleared to run straight ahead. Muschamp said the rehab is going well and the expectation is the safety will be cleared to play this season, but he doesn't know when that will happen. Powell, from California, was ranked as the No. 1 defensive prospect in the country by as a high school senior.

*After opening with Bowling Green, the Gators play eight SEC games in the next nine weeks. Muschamp was asked about it, but did not seem concerned about the unusual way the schedule is set up this year.

*Muschamp said the Gators need to do a better job of finishing games in 2012. Last year Florida was outscored 72-22 in the fourth quarter of games last season. Muschamp said the 2011 season was "very frustrating" and the fourth quarters were a big part of that.

*Muschamp was asked about moving the annual Georgia-Florida game from Jacksonville to campus site and he said that he was against the move, noting that Coach Dooley (former UGA head coach Vince Dooley) never complained about it."

*The UF coach said the Gators also had a major problem with turnovers, finishing 113th nationally in turnover margin. Muschamp said it was surprising the Gators managed to win seven times considering that statistic.

*SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw is first up this morning. He said the league has added another crew this year, making nine total officiating groups for the league this year.

*Gator running back Mike Gillislee has set high goals for himself. He said that he plans to rush for at least 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns. Gillislee was asked which program is the team to beat for 2012 in the SEC and he said, "Without a doubt, LSU."

*Florida defensive end Lerentee McCray said the Gators are going to be playing with a chip on their shoulders this season after what he called a disappointing 2011 performance. Jacob Brissett and Jeff Driskell, who are competing for the starting quarterback job, have been throwing the ball well this summer, McCray said, noting that the play at the QB position should be significantly better this year.

*Rule Changes for 2012:

1. Kickoff (new rules) 35-yard line to have more touchbacks and fewer collisions.mThe ball will also go to the 25-yard line on touchbacks.

On onside kicks the receiver will be allowed to catch the ball or make a fair catch on instances where the kicker drives the ball into the ground and gets one high hop. That will essentially take that out of play.

2. Helmets coming off during play:

If a helmet comes off during the play and it's not because of a foul then the player must come out for one play.

3. Kick Catch Interference:

A player has a shoulder width (one yard space) of allowable space to catch the ball before contact is allowed.

4. Leaping Punt Protector:

No longer allowed to jump over the personal protectors (15-yard foul) trying to block a punt.

5. Blocking Below the Waist:

An offensive player can't peel back towards his own goal line and block below the waist.

SEC Day One Notes

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