If you enjoy spring football reviews, endless questions about satellite camps, and every overused cliché in the book, the SEC Football Coaches Spring Teleconference is for you. Today, all of the SEC East coaches phoned in to answer questions from media personalities all over the conference.
FLORIDA – Jim McElwain
By far the most chipper coach of the day, Jim McElwain seemed as if he had just got off the golf course, not the recruiting trail. He seems overly optimistic about his quarterback situation.
-Spring Review: “We improved as a unit. There’s still plenty of work to do, but I like the direction that we’re heading.”
-Satellite Camps: “We’re in the process of putting our traveling show together.”
-McElwain said that they will be participating in camps, but did not specify where those camps would be occurring.
-When talking about injured offensive lineman, Martez Ivey:
-“He’s back to doing a lot of things we need to do in the weight room. He had a really good spring from the standpoint of a rehab situation and actually is ahead (of schedule), and yet we have to make sure we don’t push it too soon.”
-When asked about the status of suspended players Treon Harris and Antonio Callaway, McElwain kept it short and sweet: “status quo.”
-His response to questions about how Tennessee was favored to win the East:
-"I'm sure they should be and should beat the heck out of us. We'll just be lucky to show up."
-Jim continues to fan the flames as Florida looks to extend their winning streak over the Vols to 12 games.
-Despite the QB transfer issues, he feels confident with the arm talent that he has to compete in the SEC. It appears to be between a suspended Treon Harris and True Freshman Felipe Franks.
KENTUCKY – Mark Stoops
Stoops conveyed that he was starting to get the hang of this SEC gig. While there has been success on the recruiting trail, it has not exactly translated to the field. After a 5-1 start to the 2015 season, the Wildcats failed to make a bowl game, dropping their final six contests.
-Spring Review: “I am very pleased with the offseason. In Year 4, it is more consistent and productive than it’s been.”
-Satellite Camps: “We will take part in the camps. We will do several in Florida, a few in Ohio, and one in Georgia.”
-Have you taken a different approach to your geographic recruiting footprint?
-“Our footprint will not change. The guys that we have recently hired were intentional.”
-“We need to continue to improve in the state on Kentucky, but also need to establish a consistent presence in Ohio.”
-Have you and your staff done anything different in selling of the Kentucky program?
-“No, we will mostly let our work over the course of the season show it.”
-Speak to the perception vs. reality of JUCO QB transfers as it relates to Stephen Johnson II. (Johnson is not eligible to play in 2016, but looks to develop into a future starter for the Wildcats)
-“Any player we recruit, we recruit them for an opportunity to be a starter. Stephen (Johnson II) was very impressive, he will have a role, but Stephen knew exactly where he stood coming into this program.”
MISSOURI – Barry Odom
Barry Odom is one of three first year head coaches just in the SEC East. He has brought on Josh Heupel and DeMontie Cross as his two coordinators. After a 25% dip in enrollment at Missouri for the upcoming freshman class, Odom tries to right the ship and continue to make Columbia, Missouri an appealing destination to play college football.
-Spring Review: “Really improved in our kicking game and in developing depth. We have to get on the same page with terminology as we work with a first year coaching staff.” “I wish we had 15 more practices, but we’re moving along.”
-Satellite Camps: “It is more important to stay on our campus and get prospects set up here, but we will operate within the new rules. We will do one camp in St. Louis and one in Kansas City. It will be a busy summer. We’ll be all over the southeast, even into Texas 4-5 times.”
-With the Rams leaving St. Louis, is there an opportunity for the state to rally around the Missouri football team?
“Without question. It’s important to us. St. Louis is tremendously important for recruiting and vital to this state. It’s important to develop new relationships within that city and I want Missouri to be that team the entire state follows. St. Louis and the University of Missouri need to work together.”
-What went into bringing in Josh Heupel as Offensive Coordinator?
“He and I have known each other for years. We played against each other when I was here at Missouri and he was at Oklahoma. Great players do not always develop into great coaches, but that is not the case with Josh. I am excited as to what he can offer our football team.”
-When discussing new Defensive Coordinator DeMontie Cross:
-“I love his intensity. He will be calling our defensive plays this upcoming season. I have the utmost confidence in him.”
-On being 1 of 6 former SEC coordinators who is a current coach in the league:
-“We will have to be on point in every situation. You will get the best of them every week. They are working just as hard as we are. We are doing anything we can to get an edge.”
SOUTH CAROLINA – Will Muschamp
Will Muschamp inherits a South Carolina team that is left with plenty of questions at many of their skill positions. After a forgettable 3-9 campaign last season that featured the last half lap of the Head Ball Coach, Coach Boom is left to pick up the pieces.
-Spring Review: “Our team has bought into this new coaching staff, terminology, and vision, so that is the best thing moving forward.”
-Satellite Camps: “Getting them on our campus is much more important than getting us out there. With that being said, we will use all of the resources to our advantage within the rules. Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas are the areas that we need to pinpoint this summer. The game has changed a little bit and we’ll have to adjust to it.”
-You said earlier this spring that you feel that you have the talent to win the SEC East in 2016. Why did you say that and do you still believe it?
-“If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t say it.”
-“The amount of unknowns is still great, especially in the backfield and quarterback and running back. But that goes for a lot of teams at this time of the season.”
-Where have been the biggest areas of development or points of strength moving forward for the Gamecocks?
“Brian Edwards I think will be a very good player for us. He has really emerged this offseason.”
-“I’ve been very pleased with our offensive line. I feel like we have 8 or 9 guys to rotate there.”
-“We’re still paper thin in many areas, so we can’t afford any injuries”
-“We have questions to answer at the most important position on the field: quarterback.”
-Why did you decide to bring back Kurt Roper as Offensive Coordinator?
-“I saw a fundamental teacher, a great play caller, and a good staff guy.”
-“Schematically, I think we’ll be much more similar to what our players are accustomed to. We will be catering our scheme around our players, not vice versa.”
-“The experience he got with the Browns last year was invaluable. I’m excited.”
-What does your new staff need to do to start developing recruiting relationships?
“Our staff needs to get out, roll our sleeves up, and get to recruiting our state. We have 9 coaches recruiting South Carolina right now. We need to make many more personal relationships close to home.”
-The NCAA ruled that Marcus Lattimore could not be brought onto the staff in a ‘Player-Liaison’ capacity. What would it have meant to have him interacting with the players on a daily basis?
“Would have been great having someone to be able to relate to your players from the perspective of a former student-athlete. He could have provided an ear to listen and help bridge the gap between us and the students.”
TENNESSEE – Butch Jones
Butch Jones is dealing with nothing new come May as the coach of the University of Tennessee, expectations. To prevent his seat from getting too warm to sit on, he looks to put together a complete season together for the first time since he’s been in Knoxville. With the return of Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, and Jalen Hurd, 2016 looks like his best opportunity to do that.
-Spring Review: “We had 24 players out for the Spring Game, but they’ll be back at some point. It allowed us to develop an aspect that has been lacking as of late: depth. We should have at least 9 deep at every position group.”
-Satellite Camps: “We have a plan in place. It is constantly evolving, but there is a plan. You have to think of the current team, not just the future team. We have guys on campus that need our coaches here.”
-Thoughts on the development of Alvin Kamara:
-“He has continued his growth and maturity, not only on the field, but off the field as well. He has developed into a team leader. He was elected by his peers as one of the four team captains. In terms of on field production, he has turned from just a rusher to a complete running back.”
-How serious was his draft consideration? He received a mid round grade before deciding to come back for the 2016 season.
-“He analyzed all of his options, like any kid with as high of a talent level as he has, but decided that being a leader and graduating from the University of Tennessee was more important to him over the next twelve months.
-How have you dealt with the high expectations placed on your team?
-“We have high expectations internally. We used the spring as a chance to transform our game. The expectations of last year have just provided noise to this year’s team. This year’s team has not achieved anything yet. This is going to be a big summer for us.”
-Do you have a policy on your player social media (in response to Jalen Tabor’s tweets)?
-“I always tell them, if your game is loud, you don’t need to talk about it. We try to turn social media into an advantage for them, educating them on how it can benefit from it, but also protect them realizing how it can be misused.”
VANDERBILT – Derek Mason
While only going 4-8 in 2015, Derek Mason has a lot to be excited about. Close losses to Ole Miss, Florida, South Carolina, and Western Kentucky provided potential snapshots to the future of Vanderbilt football. This team is predicated on a strong defense, but consistent play from emerging starter, Kyle Shurmur, may have the Commodores bowling in 2016.
-Spring Review: “We used this spring to grow. We made some progress, but not enough in our own estimation after last season, so there was a lot to work on as the spring began. I think we are vastly ahead of where we were at this time last season.
-Satellite Camps: “Has never been a big issue for me. I understand why and we’ll follow the rules as they develop.” “We live in one of the best cities in the country, we’re trying to get kids onto our campus.”
-“We’re going to make sure our team is ready to go before we deal with any satellite camps.”
-“I think it’s more of a mid-major thing to do, not much of a Power 5 school to do. If you look at the rosters, so many players are in state talent.”
-Expectations for the 2016 season:
-“2015 has nothing to do with 2016. I’m starting to really see a much more physical football team on both sides of the ball.”
-Progress of QB Kyle Shurmur:
-“Tremendous. He handled exactly what we needed him to schematically. He continues to impress moving forward.”
-Where do you see yourself defensively in 2016?
“We hope to add some key pieces. We’re trying to mature, show some different looks.”
-Biggest lessons you learned going from Defensive Coordinator to Head Coach?
-“You have to understand where you are, what your brand is, and where you’re trying to go. We’re not only trying to build our brand, but making sure our team is a much more connected football team.”