SEC MEDIA DAYS: Day One News and Notes

BIRMINGHAM – When Steve Spurrier took the South Carolina job in 2005, everyone in Columbia expected championships to follow immediately. Everybody but Spurrier.

"At the beginning, everybody's expectations were ‘Yeah, since we got Coach Spurrier, we're going to win the SEC, we're going to win the national championship,'" senior Gamecock running back Cory Boyd said, "but he tried to set realistic goals for us. You just can't say somebody has come in and you're going to win a championship. It takes time. It's a process. You have to take certain steps."

In his first two years, Spurrier told his team he only expected it have a winning record and win a bowl game. Winning the SEC was not a realistic goal, the coach said.

"When he came in there, he was real with us, he was up front with us," Boyd said. "Certain guys didn't approve of it, but now that they think about it, they realize. Now we're in that third step."

This year, Spurrier has made the SEC Championship a preseason goal, and that has plenty of significance with his players.

"We've raised our goals," Spurrier said. "We feel like we've really increased our talent level. We feel like we've added some players who are at a pretty close level with Tennessee and Georgia and Florida. We need to come to the ballpark feeling like we're just as good as Florida, Georgia, Tennessee. "What will happen, who knows, but our approach is we can compete with these other teams."

DEFINITION OF A LEADER: Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves is trying to set a good example for talented but oft-disciplined teammate Tray Blackmon, he said.

How?

"I'm not going out to get hammered so much," said Groves, a married senior. "You can go out to the club, but you don't have to get drunk."

Groves wasn't done with the one-liners, though. Asked about Alabama coach Nick Saban saying his team works 365 days a year to beat one team, Groves said, "If you work 365 days to beat us and then you go 1-11, what's the $4 million for?"

On the field, Groves is three sacks away from tying the school's career record of 26.

JOB SECURITY: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks opened his media session with a drawn-out, "I'm back," and reminded reporters that he has spent the last two years mostly answering questions about his job security. Brooks received a $250,000 raise this year after winning eight games, including a victory over Georgia.

"Without a doubt, this is the best football team I've had going into a season at Kentucky," Brooks said.

BIG TIME AT LAST: Bert Williams kept telling Jasper Brinkley that all his hard work in the anonymity of Georgia Military College would pay dividends.

"It is a tough road, but I enjoyed every moment of it," Brinkley said. "It was a learning experience for me. I'm pretty sure it made me a lot mentally tougher than some other guys."

Brinkley, one of two players on the cover of South Carolina's magazine, is the second-leading tackler returning to SEC defenses. He finished 2006 with 107 tackles and five sacks.

OUCH: Spurrier, as usual, filled reporters' notebooks on Wednesday. His most quotable moment of the day came when he took a swipe at two of last year's opponents in one sentence.

"We thought we did something big beating Clemson, then Kentucky beat them also," Spurrier said. "Anyway, Clemson was a pretty good team. At one point, they were a dang good team. I don't know exactly what all happened to them, but they didn't finish very well."


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