SEC Media Days Blog, Day 2

Reports from the annual SEC Football Media Days are featured.

Hoover, Ala.--The SEC's director of officials, Rogers Redding, opened day two of the event on Thursday with an explanation of a new rule that will change how teams handle kickoff returns.

The new rule will assess a 15-yard penalty on a team that has more than two players lined up side by side on a return to form a blocking wedge for the return man. The penalty will come from the spot of the infraction or from where the ball is downed, whichever spot is the most damaging to the return team.

Redding said the rule is based on a change made by the National Football League last year. Redding said the rule was put in to cut the number of concussions.

Redding also invited attendees to stop by a booth here at the Wynfrey Hotel for a demonstration on the league's new high definition instant replay equipment.

Many college teams will have to change their kickoff return schemes due to the new rule.

"We're not going to flyspeck this thing," Redding said. "If three guys happen to wind up on the same line together quickly, moving on to do other things, that's not a problem. The problem comes when players drop back to form this little wall because the concussions take place when the kicking team players are coming down trying to bust up that wedge.

"The NFL put this rule in for 2009," he said. "Their experience was a good one with it. They only had the foul occur about five times all year. Coaches are coaching away from it. We're telling coaches, Get that third man out of there. You run the risk of having this called if that third man is in there."

Bobby Petrino

8:35 a.m.--Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said that quarterback Ryan Mallett, who has been in rehab much of the year, should be 100 percent physically when practice opens in two weeks.

8:42 a.m.--Petrino said one of the goals is to improve the running and in particular the power running game. Defensively, he said his team must learn how to eliminate the big play. He said the Razorbacks started working on that in spring football and will continue to emphasize that phase of the game.

A quarterback coach at heart, Petrino said knowledge is one of the biggest things he looks for in a quarterback. Obviously talent and the ability to throw the ball is big, but the understanding of the position of quarterback is something that he always takes into account when he's recruiting the position.

8:45 a.m.--Petrino said while they're not looking to be a grind-it-out football team, he believes one of the keys for his team will be the ability to run the football and especially in the third and fourth quarters. He said safeties have become the guys that are making all the tackles on defense and running at them when they're tired is a way to make some big plays.

Petrino said he likes having high expectations at Arkansas. He said he wants his team to be driven by that. He said it's a good thing and the one thing they can't do is shy away from it. He said you have to embrace it and be motivated by it.

8:53 a.m.--Petrino said his coaching staff at Arkansas has spent a lot of time working with the players on the dangers of Facebook and social media in general. He said they've had to bring some guys in to get them to take things down and had a player that talked about his injury on his Facebook page. He said they'll just continue to monitor those outlets to make sure they're not doing anything wrong.

After Nick Saban blamed the agents and the NFL for the agent problem in college football, Petrino said it's wishful thinking to believe someone else is going to handle those problems. He said they've got to handle their own problems and not wait on someone else to do it for them. That means educating players on what they can and can't do.

9:00 a.m.--Much like Auburn, Petrino said the Razorbacks are looking for a punt returner to catch the ball and make some plays after the catch. He said they spent more time pressuring kicks last year because of that but they need to improve in that area to help field position in 2010.

Ryan Mallett

9:16 a.m.--Arkansas QB Mallett joked that he has done so much swimming rehab he is considering trying out for the Olympics. He said that his decision to not go pro was based on the fact that he grew up an Arkansas fan and felt like he owed it to the Razorbacks to play more than just one year.

Mallett said he took out an insurance policy to protect himself financially in case he is injured this season and can't play pro football.

9:19 a.m.--Mallett said that this year's Arkansas team has good chemistry, better than any team he has played for previously.

9:23 a.m.--After considering the NFL last season Mallett decided to come back for his junior year. He said he's an Arkansas Razorback at heart and that means he's planning on playing his final two years at Arkansas.

He said he's a fiery competitor and gets excited and sometimes that causes him to miss some easy throws. One of the things he's working on is becoming more relaxed in the pocket to increase his accuracy. Despite his impressive statistics in 2009 he said, "After watching the whole season, I was somewhat disappointed in my season. I missed a lot of easy throws that are really uncharacteristic. If I just take what I do in practice to the game, we might be a 100 percent every game. I missed some throws that were really easy. I missed a couple checks. I didn't miss too many checks, but I missed enough. It really didn't set well with me."

9:30 a.m.--An SEC official told sportswriters at the event that NCAA officials are investigating the University of Georgia and that neither Mark Richt nor UGA players can comment on the situation. Here is more on the that subject:

UGA Investigation

9:33 a.m.--Here is a report from Scout's Dean Legge with comments from Richt:

Mark Richt

9:58 a.m.--Richt said that new QB Aaron Murray has picked up the offense exceptionally well. He says that even though Murray is young the Bulldogs should be in "good shape" offensively because Murray is surrounded by talented, veteran players.

Aaron Murray

Defensively, Richt said the Bulldogs must overcome the loss of key interior defensive linemenm but he is encouraged with the switch to a 3-4 alignment. He noted there is a lot of excitement from the players and fans about the change. Richt said one of the keys is getting the right players in the right positions.

"We think we have got everybody in the right place," he said. "Now it is a matter of getting everybody to play fast and play with confidence." Outside linebacker is an area of concern because of depth questions.

10:05 a.m.--Richt said he has seen a "lot of bonding" and strong leadership building with the 2010 Georgia team.

Coach Mark Richt

10:07 a.m.--Richt said a plus for UGA is a mature offensive line. He said he believes the running game is in good shape and that should help new quarterback Murray. He noted the Bulldogs should be able to keep defenses "honest" with a good mix of running and passing.

10:11 a.m.--Video from Kentucky stars Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb:

UK's Locke

UK's Cobb

A.J. Green

10:17 a.m.--Richt had high praise for wide receiver A.J. Green. He said a key to UGA's offense is keeping him healthier than he was last year.

10:18 a.m.--Georgia's coach said he isn't concerned about media reports that he is on the hotseat. He said he understands that is the nature of the business and it doesn't do him any good to worry about it.

Richt said he is "saddened" by the Damon Evans scandal that ended the UGA career of the athletic director. However, the coach said he doesn't believe it has had any effect on the Georgia football team.

A.J. Green

A.J. Green

10:38 a.m.--A.J. Green said he thinks this Georgia team has a chance to be special with a new quarterback (Aaron Murray) who is going to open some eyes.

Green was asked if he had ever been to Miami where there was an agent party for college players and he was also asked how the team was handling the distractions at the moment. "I can't really comment on that" was his response. However, he later said that he had never been to Miami.

Murray has already established himself as a leader despite his young age said Green. He said the young quarterback came in and immediately went to work. That work ethic is something that Green said made even him look up to the freshman quarterback.

11:04 a.m.--The link has a video interview with Ahmad Black:

Ahmad Black

11:05 a.m.--New Vandy interim head coach Robbie Caldwell said his family was stressed when the word got out that Bobby Johnson was retiring as head coach of the Commodores. He said they were crying and concerned what he would do because he was out of a job. Caldwell said they didn't know he was interim head coach until he got home and told them.

"This is the greatest thrill in my life other than my child being born," Caldwell said of his head coaching assignment.

Caldwell said prior to him becoming head coach, one of his assignments was handling discipline for the Commodores so he said players weren't always thrilled to spend time with him yet.

11:10 a.m.--Caldwell said other than South Carolina's Steve Spurrier none of the other head coaches in the SEC know him.

11:15 a.m.--Caldwell showed a good sense of humor at SEC Media Days. He joked that nobody knows who he is and that the previous night he held the door open for people and got a tip.

Talking about his job security, Caldwell said Vandy officials haven't given him any goals or any indication that he won't be the head coach in 2011 so he said he looks at his situation as good one with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Coach Robbie Caldwell drew plenty of laughs on Friday in his first appearance at SEC Media Days. The self-described country boy from South Carolina had sportswriters laughing talking about his previous jobs that included helping domesticated turkeys reproduce.

11:20 a.m.--Caldwell said he won't keep Johnson's no profanity policy at Vandy practices, but added he wants the practices to be run so a player's mom. "It doesn't mean we won't get on you," he said. "We will get on your butt in a heartbeat."

11:22 a.m.--The new Vandy coach said that Dick Sheridan is his coaching mentor. He added it was emotional when they talked about Caldwell getting the head coaching opportunity. "He is like a father to me."

11:44 a.m.--Caldwell, a self-described country boy from Pageland, S.C., got an ovation from the sportswriters in the main room when he wrapped up his time on the podium, something that doesn't normally happen at media days.

12:40 p.m.--South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said that early high school graduate Connor Shaw is going to push returning starter Stephen Garcia for the starting quarterback job. Shaw enrolled in January after playing at Flowery Branch, Ga., High School.

12:45 p.m.--Spurrier said that he is pleased that his players have been out of the news when it comes to arrests. He said that only one player has been arrested in the past two years and those charges were dropped. He noted that is pretty good for this era. He noted that when he played when football players ran afoul of the law that didn't become a news story.

Steve Spurrier said on Thursday that he will call the plays for the Gamecocks this year.

1:01 p.m.--Spurrier said he doesn't know whether or not senior tight end Weslye Saunders will play this season. Saunders has been accused of being involved in the growing agent scandal and and investigation is taking place. Spurrier said Saunders told him he didn't do anything wrong.

1:06 p.m.--Spurrier said that Garcia has matured considerably as a person and player since he arrived at South Carolina.

1:10 p.m.--The South Carolina coach said the question for his team's success is to sign more of the top recruits than the Gamecocks have traditionally been able to play. He said that he isn't under the illusion that USC will out-recruit the glamour teams in the league, but says the Gamecocks need to have 40 to 45 players ready for games who can compete with the top 40 to 45 players on the top SEC teams.

1:40 p.m.--David Murray did this report on Mississippi State QB Chris Relf:

Chris Relf

2:05 p.m.--It's unusual for a punter to be on stage at SEC Media Days, but that was the case today as Drew Butler represented Georgia. "When I found out I was surprised," he said. "It's an honor an d privilege to be here. This (SEC Media Days) is known as the start of the season."

2:09 p.m.--Another UGA player, fullback Shaun Chapas, was asked about his team's troubled offseason with arrests of players, the dismissal of athletic director Damon Evans and an NCAA investigation. "It's kind of a relief in the sense that when you work out the test of the world doesn't exist."

2:12 p.m.--Vandy's three football players at SEC Media Days said they were caught off guard when their head coach, Bobby Johnson, retired and Robbie Caldwell was promoted to interim head coach. Running back Warren Norman said that from what he has seen so far there will be minimal changes in how the program is run under new leadership."

2:45 p.m.--A video interview with Florida offensive lineman Michael Pouncey.

Pouncey


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