SEC Commissioner Mike Slive will be the first to speak at media days on Wednesday. Florida and Mississippi State will be the first teams to take the floor this afternoon followed by LSU and Vanderbilt.
Commissioner Slive said to open his address that the most satisfying part of his six years on the job is that the SEC has tackled the infractions head on while having the most successful run in conference history.
One of the changes Slive discussed was a new SEC Bylaw 14.3 while regulates non-qualified student-athletes. Under the old policy which was effective beginning on Aug. 1, 1996, partially qualified players had to have a minimum GAP of 2.25 (below the minimum of 2.5 for qualifier status as determined by the NCAA) . There was no minimum number of high school core courses required by the league and each school could take a total of four in men's sports and a total of four in women's sports with a maximum of two of those used for football.
Under the new policy that regulates non-qualifiers which will be effective on Aug. 1 of 2008, players must have a minimum GPA of 2.0, which is consistent with the NCAA Qualifying status. They just have at least 12 of the 16 required core courses to enroll at an institution but they would be considered a non-qualifier and would not be eligible for athletic financial aid or practicing or competing in intercollegiate athletics at an SEC institution.
Basically what it comes down to is that a player that doesn't have the required academic numbers coming out of high school will be forced to attend a junior college in order to get eligible by SEC standards. Not sure how this lays out for prep school kids, but I plan to ask the commissioner when I have a chance. Stay tuned to this blog throughout the day from updates by Mark Murphy, Jason Caldwell and Stephen Atkinson.
Some clarifications on instant replay were also passed along. This season field goal attempts are reviewable only if the ball is ruled below or above the crossbar or inside or outside the uprights when it is lower than the top of the uprights.
If there is a fumble in the immediate action following the runner having been ruled down, and if the fumble is recovered before the ball is declared dead, the play may be reviewed.
If the ball carrier is judged to have been out of bounds, and his immediate action takes him into the opponent's end zone before any official signals that the ball is dead, the play may be reviewed.
There is also a change on sideline warnings during a game. The first two are considered delay of game penalties and will cost the team five yards. The third and every subsequent infraction will be 15-yard penalties.
*Since 2000, the SEC's non-conference winning percentage is .737, which tops all major conferences. The Big 12 is next at .720 followed by the Pac 10 at .684, Big East at .675, Big Ten at .672, ACC at .647, Mountain West at .502, Conference USA at .424, WAC at .414, Mid-American at .357 and Sun Belt at .210.
*Commissioner Mike Slive and Gator coach Urban Meyer talked today about the popularity of the SEC. The numbers back that up. The SEC has led college football in average attendance for 27 straight seasons. Last year's average was 75,139 for the league's 12 teams. The Big Ten is No. 2 at 71,158 followed by the Big 12 at 60,419, the Pac 10 at 57,910 and the ACC at 53,733.
*Since 2000, the SEC has had more teams ranked in the final USA Today Coaches poll than any conference with 39. The Big 12 is next with 31 followed by the Big Ten with 30, the ACC with 27, the Pac 10 with 24, the Big East with 19 and the Mountain West with 18.
Most of the questions directed at Florida coach Urban Meyer were about quarterback Tim Tebow. Meyer told a brief story about when the two were in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, Meyer was actually getting pushed in the back by security like he was a fan out to get an autograph.
Meyer said that the one man play-action that Tebow does is something that he ran at Utah with No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Alex Smith, but it originated with Josh Harris at Bowling Green.
Meyer spent two years at Bowling Green in 2001-2002, two at Utah in 2003-2004 before taking the job at Florida. When he arrived at Florida he had a goal of being the fastest team in America and he may have reached that goal. Incoming freshman Jeff Demps tried out for the US Olympic team in the 100m, but was recently beaten in the 40-yard dash by Chris Rainey, who will have a similar role on the Florida team that Percy Harvin has had the last two years.
Meyer said of Demps, "I don't know if he can catch a ball, but he can run like hell."
Between Demps, Harvin, Rainey, Louis Murphy and Brandon James, the Gators have a ton of speed on offense.
Harvin had surgery on his heel this offseason and is 80-90 percent according to Meyer. Meyer also claims that Harvin is up to 205 pounds and bench pressing 400.
*Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said he is upbeat with how recruiting is going with 19 early verbal commitments. Croom says MSU's better than expected season and bowl victory is paying off on the recruiting trail this year.
*Croom brought true sophomore QB Wesley Carroll to media days instead of a senior. He said he made the decision because he is the leader of the team and is a guy who "knows how to win." The coach notes that Carroll has been orchestrating the summer voluntary passing workouts in Starkville.
*The Bulldogs are obviously proud of their bowl victory. MSU put a photo of the Liberty Bowl Trophy on its media guide cover along with Croom and players Derek Pegues and Jamar Chaney.
*Croom says last year the Bulldogs were able to play a lot of substitutes on both offense and defense and notes that will be a high priority this year.
*Tim Tebow, not surprisingly, drew a big crowd of sportswriters and answered plenty of questions on Wednesday. One of those was about the pressure of returning as the Heisman Trophy winner and what other Heisman winners have told him. He said, "I have gotten to talk to a few. I got to talk to a lot of wise people as far as that goes. I got a lot of great advice.
"I think everybody's situation has been a little bit different as far as coming back. A lot of people ask me about the pressure. Don't buy into it. At the University of Florida, every year there's going to be pressure. No matter what happened the previous year, what trophies you won, it's the University of Florida. The quarterback's always going to have pressure.
"I don't really care too much about it," Tebow added. "I've never really been one to worry about pressure too much. I am just going out there, playing a sport that I love and I'm very passionate about. What I am not worried about is what's going to happen or if I can repeat, anything like that. I love playing so I think when you love playing as much as I do, you are passionate about it, you don't worry about the negative or the naysayers, what people are going to say. You just look at the positive. Hey, I am getting to get a free education, go play football at a university that I love, and a sport that I love. I am truly blessed."
*LSU coach Les Miles says he is strongly in favor of an early signing date for football around the first of December. He says if a poll was done of prospects they would say the same thing. He also says it would reduce the costs for athletic departments.
*Miles says he hasn't seen a major change in how he is viewed by recruits or LSU fans after winning the national championship last season. Miles says recruiting at LSU was already strong prior to winning the title.
*Miles, who took a shot this week at Alabama for losing to Louisiana-Monroe last season at a speech to a booster group, mentioned that the Tide has had trouble with teams from Louisiana. Questioned at media days, he was asked how the Tide would fare playing all 12 football-playing colleges. He evaded the question by trying to compliment the Tide program.
*LSU center Brett Helms says he isn't concerned about the QB situation, even with the possibility of a transfer from Harvard (6-3, 214 junior Andrew Hatch) possibly being the starting quarterback after Ryan Perilloux was kicked off the team.
Six-foot-five-inch, 295-pound LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson was good talking to the media on Wednesday.
Asked about defending the national title, Tyson Jackson responded that the Tigers are over and past last year. "We're not in the mindset of defending anything. We're focused on Appalachian State." Jackson says he's reminded all the time about what the Mountaineers did to Michigan in the season opener last year. He says he gets phone calls and text messages all the time saying, "Watch out for Appalachian State."
Jackson heard about Les Miles' comments made at an LSU booster meeting about Alabama and said he thought they were funny. "That's just Coach Miles being Coach Miles."
One player getting a ton of hype in Baton Rouge is Ricky Jean-Francois, who played in just two games last year because of academics. Jackson was at the movie theatre and was spotted by a group of kids, who thought he was Jean-Francois. One girl wanted Jean-Francois' autograph and started crying when Jackson wouldn't and couldn't give it to her. He had to show his ID to the mother to prove who he was.
When asked about the LSU offensive line, Jackson's response was, "Besides Auburn, I think our offensive line might be the best in the country right now."