2010 SEC Media Days Blog: Day One

The 2010 version of SEC Media Days has started. We'll update this blog throughout the day to provide coverage from Hoover with notes of interest to Auburn football fans.

12:30-SEC Commissioner Mike Slive started things off with his annual update on the conference in regard to football. It was another big year for the league with its fourth consecutive national champion.

Slive took a shot at Lane Kiffin without ever mentioning his name. He said he was glad to have Derek Dooley in the league. "Very glad."

Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State and Kentucky are all due up today.

12:50 p.m.--Slive stated that SEC stadiums were 98 percent full for games last season and the league drew a million more fans than any other conference.

Slive says despite some students at league schools getting in trouble due to their "nocturnal activities," the vast majority of the league's athletes are behaving. He used Auburn swimmer Jordan Anderson, a Rhodes Scholar, as an example of what is right with SEC student-athletes.

Mike Slive

12:55--Slive said if the SEC considers expansion again the league will focus more on finding good fits for the league than worry about increasing its market share and geographic profile. He wants to make sure that prospect members fit with "the culture" of the SEC.

12:57--The SEC announced its early season schedule. Auburn's opener vs. Arkansas State will kick off at 6 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium with TV coverage on Fox Sports Net.

Other SEC games include:

Thursday, Sept. 2

Southern Mississippi at South Carolina, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Saturday, Sept. 4

Miami (Ohio) at Florida, 11 a.m., ESPN

ULL at Georgia, 11:20 a.m., SEC Network

Kentucky at Louisville, 2:30 p.m., ABC

Jacksonville State at Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m., CSS

Memphis at Mississippi State, 6 p.m., ESPNU

Arkansas State at Auburn, 6 p.m., FSN

Northwestern at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m., CSS

LSU vs. North Carolina at Atlanta, 7 p.m., ABC

Thursday, Sept. 9

Auburn at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Saturday, Sept. 11

Georgia at South Carolina, 11 a.m., ESPN or ESPN2

South Florida at Florida, 11:20 a.m., SEC Network

Penn State at Alabama, 6 p.m., ESPN

Oregon at Tennessee, 6 p.m. - ESPN2

LSU at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m. - ESPNU

ULM vs. Arkansas at Little Rock, 6 p.m., FSN

Western Kentucky at Kentucky, 6:30 p.m., CSS

Ole Miss at Tulane, 8 p.m. - ESPN Classic

Saturday, Sept.18

Arkansas at Georgia, 11 a.m., ESPN or ESPN2

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss, 11:20 a.m., SEC Network

Alabama at Duke, 2:30 p.m., ABC

Florida at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m., CBS

Clemson at Auburn, 6 p.m., ESPN

Mississippi State at LSU, 6 p.m., ESPNU

Akron at Kentucky, 6 p.m., FSN

1:10 p.m.--Alabama head coach Nick Saban said last season is history and he is interested in what is happening in 2010 instead of 2009.

1:12--Saban said his team has a lot of question marks after losing 11 starters. He said there is a possibility the Tide will go with a freshman punter and a freshman kicker. The coach said he believes there will be more parity in the conference because the divisional champions each had major losses for their 2009 teams. He predicts that ever team in the SEC West the Tide will play this year will be better than last year.

Nick Saban

*On the subject of Marcel Dareus, Saban said the Tide compliance staff is looking into it to find out if there was anything done wrong. He repeated an earlier statement about the players have been told how to behave with agents and the players have a responsibility to follow the rules. He repeated something he said earlier about the need for the National Football League Players Association to suspend the licenses of agents who make illegal contacts with college players.

Marcel Dareus

Saban made a threat about NFL scouts not being welcomed in Tuscaloosa at the Tide football complex if something is not done. He said to assume that agents will do the right thing without guidelines is not going to work. He said agents are "entrapping and taking advantage of young people" at a difficult time in their life. He said there are no consequences for agents for not following the rules.

Saban said the Tide decided not to prosecute the agent who got Andre Smith suspended from the Sugar Bowl because that would have perhaps put the football program in jeopardy from an NCAA standpoint.

1:40 p.m.--In the question and answer session, Saban said that agents who illegally contact and recruit college athletes are no better than a pimp.

1:46 p.m.--Saban said that the Tide has 40 employees whose job is to monitor football players' class attendance.

2:10 p.m.--Alabama running back Mark Ingram said he ignores the advances from agents and agent representatives (runners). He said his focus on his college football team.

2:15 p.m.--Alabama is losing nine starters off the defense from last season, but one player it will get back is linebacker Don'Ta Hightower. Back after injuring his knee against Arkansas last season and missing the rest of the year, he said he's excited about the progress he's made since going through spring practice. "I think for the most part it only motivates us more with guys saying that we're not going to be as good on defense, but we have a great offense," Hightower said.

"That motivates me," he added. "For the most part we're a lot faster and have more athleticism. We don't have as much size but I think we'll do great."

Losing middle linebacker Rolando McClain and several more key players, Hightower said the defense will be a little different this season but he expect them to be just as good.

"It feels good," Hightower said. "I have been running around trying to catch Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. I'm keeping up with them so I'm doing pretty good. I think I'm at 100 percent. It feels just as strong as my right leg if not stronger."

Dan Mullen

2:25 p.m.--Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said that he believes Auburn is one of the most talented teams the Bulldogs will play.

2:27 p.m.--Mullen said that MSU quarterback Chris Relf has had a much more focused offseason than he did last year and he is expecting bigger things out of the QB from Montgomery. The coach said he is telling Relf and the other players that their goal is to win the SEC West and the overall league title.

Mullen said in year two as a head coach he is better prepared for his assignment. "Until you are doing that job, you can't prepare for it," he said.

2:30 p.m.--The temperature at the main media room at the Wynfrey Hotel is low enough to store meat for long periods of time.

2:32 p.m.--Mullen said he and his staff use social to help them recruit. He noted that something he saw a recruit post on Facebook convinced him that they did not want to recruit that prospect.

2:35 p.m.--The Mississippi State head coach said that he is pleased with how excited the fans are coming off a 5-7 season. He knows the Bulldogs are pushing the school record for season ticket sales.

2:37 p.m.--There is no question that Alabama has a big bullseye on its chest after finishing 14-0 in 2009 and winning the national championship. McElroy said while he's not sure it's necessarily having a target on their chest, he said more than anything it's about playing at Alabama and life in the SEC.

"I think we're looking forward to it," McElroy said. "We're just looking forward to playing football again. Traditionally you're going to get a lot of teams' best shots when you come to Alabama. I think that's just the respect people have for the institution. That's just the way the SEC is.

"It doesn't matter if you're playing Vanderbilt or a big school that has had success recently like Florida. It doesn't matter because you're going to get everyone's best shot. In this league you can't win unless you give it your best shot every week. I think the target is overused and is often a cliché."

One of the differences in Alabama is the return of just about every skill player on the offensive side of the ball. Known for its defense in recent seasons, McElroy said the offense is ready to take some steps forward in his opinion.

"I think we're a lot more comfortable in a sense that guys have played and have been in big-game situations," McElroy said. "They have been able to respond to that. I think that does a lot for a team's confidence. Our offensive personality is not going to change. We'll be able to take advantage of more plays down the field."

2:41--Mullen was asked about Nick Saban's remark that the spread offense doesn't prepare players for the NFL and he took major exception to the remark. He said that his track record for producing NFL first round QB draft picks is better than Saban's. The coach said he believes his offensive system could be the best one to prepare players for pro football.

2:47 p.m.--Mullen said it will be a plus for the three new head coaches of SEC teams to have a background in the conference. He said he remembers that it was "a little bit overwhelming" his first year as an assistant coach under Urban Meyer at Florida.

Dylan Favre

2:51 p.m.--Mullen said that incoming freshman quarterback Dylan Favre has "the it factor" that he is looking for in a QB. Mullen said that he got a voice message from Favre after the Bulldogs lost a heartbreaker by failing to excute on the goal line by the Bayou Bengals. Mullen said Favre's message was that if he was the QB in that game he would have scored and the Bulldogs would have won.

2:56--Mullen referred to Ole Miss as the "school up north." He said he does that for the MSU fanbase and noted that they are fired up about the Bulldogs' victory over the Rebels in his first year as a head coach.

2:57--Mullen said there is enough talent within a five-hour drive of Starkville to win a national championship. He said the problem is that teams there are other strong programs in that territory, including Auburn.

Chris Relf

3:30 p.m.--Montgomery native Chris Relf figures to be the starter for the Bulldogs this season after finishing up strong to end 2009. That included a big performance over Ole Miss in the final game of the year in a huge win for Mullen's team. Relf said that was a confidence building for the team to go out a winner.

"It meant a lot me," Relf said. "The preparation that week was just me going out there and working hard. It meant a lot to get the Egg Bowl back. From that game on I just wanted to work hard. I wanted it bad.

"It gave us a lot of confidence," Relf said. "We come in every day and try to attack every workout to keep it going."

From Montgomery, Relf didn't receive attention from either Auburn or Alabama coming out of high school and instead committed to Sylvester Croom at the time for MSU. Even though he doesn't harbor any ill will towards the home state schools, he said he's definitely looking forward to playing both this year.

"It didn't bother me because I know I'm a hard worker," Relf said. "Hard work pays off. I remember when I was in the 7th grade and in the summertime when everyone was outside having fun my dad had me in two-a-days working out in the morning and coming back in the evening."

3:42 p.m.--New Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said he has put in a program called Operation Win that requires his players to perform in the classroom, do community service and win on the football field.

Joker Phillips

3:45 p.m.--Phillips said recruiting has never been better for the Wildcats noting that UK has 14 verbal commitments for the 2011 class compared to just two for the 2010 class at this time last year.

4:02 p.m.--Mississippi State defensive back Charles Mitchell predicted his teams strength will be on the defensive line and at wide receiver.

You can listen live to Inside the Auburn Tigers Radio at this link until 6 p.m. CDT. The show is being broadcast live from SEC Media Days:

ITAT Radio

4:45 p.m.--Kentucky star Derrick Locke has little sympathy for players who are getting involved in the agent scandals. Locke said college players at UK have it "pounded into their heads" from the time they arrive on campus that they should stay away from agents or agent runners.

Derrick Locke

Locke said making illegal, early contact with an agent is not going to enhance a prospect's NFL draft position. He also noted if an agent gives them up front money, they are going to want it back so he sees no upside for a player breaking the rules in this situation.

Locke added that the players who do it and get caught are hurting the reputation of the football programs they play for and he would never want to do that to Kentucky football.

5:45 p.m.--Florida coach Urban Meyer had these comments on dealing with agents making contacts with college players. "You got to be clear about it. You can't. For a coach to figure out who a runner is at a nightclub at 2:30 in the morning, I've been asleep for four hours. The coaches can't do that. I've tried to.

"At Florida we have security for one reason, and it's not so much for the fans, it's for people we don't want around our players. So to say how do you keep--I heard a comment about keep the agents off campus. Arguably one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever heard because they are off campus. They're not on our campus. If they are, they're hiding behind bushes.

"In the history of civilization, without getting overdramatic here, if there's a problem, to fix a problem, there's a set of rules and violations, rules and laws. If you violate a rule or a law, you have to pay a serious price for people who break or violate those rules or laws.

"On a student-athlete losing a season of eligibility or games, that's significant. That affects their livelihood, name, reputation, the school's reputation. The other end of that has to be severely punished, as well.

"I understand there's 36 and 38 states in the country that have a significant penalty out there for a predator that's out there waiting to get involved. Obviously, that has to happen. There's no plea bargaining or anything. If somebody violates that law they need to be punished to the extent of the law. Or the NFL, like Coach Saban mentioned, has to get involved and not allow them to be agents.

"It's an epidemic right now. I think it's always been there from what I understand. I've been in coaching 20-plus years. It's always been there. I think we've reached the point of the size of college football, the magnitude of college football, is really overwhelming. I think you really have to keep an eye on it. You have guys like Mike Slive, Commissioner Goodell, high-character people in leadership positions that are going to be involved in this."

UrbaN Meyer

Meyer said that he believes the SEC East race will be an interesting one this year. "Yeah, I see some unproven quarterbacks taking over programs. South Carolina obviously has the advantage of having a guy, a returning starter back, I think it's his third year playing. So I see a lot of parity.

I've seen it the last few years, the last several years. I don't know if there's ever been one much greater than the other as far as talent. It's about staying healthy, getting chemistry going on your team. I think the east is completely wide open."
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