Media Days recap

SEC Media Days over the years has taken on a life of its own.

Created 21 years ago after the old Skywriters tour became overloaded on the plane due to TV equipment & coverage, the event has morphed into one of the major events hosted by the conference office. Charles Bloom, the superb SEC Media Relations Director who formerly plyed his sports information trade at Ole Miss, stated emphatically that SEC Media Days was considered as big an event as the SEC championship games or the SEC hoops tourneys. The conference even took the unprecedented step of bringing in a court reporting service (ASAP Sports) to quickly transcribe the print media Q & A with the coaches and players.

The 2005 SEC Media Days had the highest attendance in history with 643 media members registered breaking last year's mark of 550. There was speculation among SEC staff members that the event may pull in 700 media members. On the first day, which featured the return of Steve Spurrier & Phil Fulmer and rookie head coaches Ed Orgeron and Urban Meyer, a record 554 media members registered which also shattered a SEC Media Days record.

Here's a glance on how SEC Media Days shaped up and impressions of the coaches and players as they moved through the media gauntlet unlike any other in college football:

DAY ONE:

Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss: Coach O stunned some media folks by the manner in which he rolled through the day. Heck, he even impressed acid tongued Birmingham radio talk show host Paul Finebaum, who took Coach O off the bottom of his SEC coaches ratings in the wake of the appearance of the new Rebel boss at Media Days. In much the same way as Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Coach O made sure that he went down "Radio Row" where the talk shows set up in the Winfrey Hotel lobby. He stayed as long as he could on the air with talk show hosts across the South. Nice move and that will get him lots of bonus points in the years to come. You could tell that Coach O was comfortable with the media and handled it well. While he may have been overshadowed to a degree by Spurrier, Fulmer and Meyer, there is no denying that he made quite the good impression on the media masses.

Philip Fulmer, Tennessee: Fulmer pulled the old "Fulmerbuster" as he headed off questions on the NCAA/Cottrell/Williams/Culpepper litigation that happened recently in Tuscaloosa. Interestingly enough, it was only recently revealed that Fulmer did not appear last year at SEC Media Days (costing Tennessee a $10,000 dollar fine) on advice of counsel because of a jurisdictional question in the Kenny Smith case. Smart lawyering, since the case was dismissed in Alabama and is now on file in Knoxville. As for his team, you can tell that the Vols mentor is under a shade of pressure to get back to the SEC title game since there has been no crown in Big Orange country since the 1998 national title team. He has the talent to do it and the media voted his team to win it all. Fulmer's opening comments went nearly three and a half single space pages before the print media could open up on him and the same thing happened in the radio room. Phil's best line was when he was asked his reaction to the return of his old nemesis, Steve Spurrier: "When I first heard he was coming back I said, oh, crap, something like that."

Urban Meyer, Florida: The slicked down media savvy new head coach of the Florida Gators took everything in stride, but longtime Media Days observers could tell he was a shade overwhelmed. The passion and interest of SEC football surprises him. As he told the print media: "All the Gator clubs and speaking issues didn't look so bad back in the month of May. I will have to look that over because I am a person that enjoys being around my family and my players." Well, welcome to the SEC, coach. Gator safety Jarvis Herring was asked about the Meyer offense and described it as a "Chinese Fire Drill." When told of Herring's comments in the radio room, Meyer jokingly said he would have to talk to Jarvis about those comments. Make no mistake, this is a dangerous Florida team with talent on both sides of the ball. Meyer knows it and that's one of the reasons he is now in Gainesville instead of the peaks in Utah.

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: OK, when is the last time you saw the word "humble" used in connection with Coach Steve Spurrier? How about 2005 when media members to a person described Steve's demeanor as humbled after his NFL experience with the Washington Redskins and owner Dan Snyder. For the first time since his days at Duke, Steve is going to have to reconstruct a college program and deal with recent NCAA woes. He was clearly disappointed with the work ethics of his new Gamecocks and began yanking scholarships to the protests of a handfule of South Carolina high school coaches. All of that aside, Coach Spurrier was clearly the media darling of the week and said "It was a lot more fun hanging around the SEC than it was the other league I was in a couple of years." Spurrier really bulked up the defensive staff with three former Southern Miss veterans: Tyrone Nix, John Thompson, and Dave Wommack. Steve also likes the new instant replay system the SEC will use since it takes the coaches out of the loop. Overall, Steve did appear to be humbled by his days in the pros and seemed to be genuinely glad to be back in the SEC.

DAY TWO: Anticlimatic after the hubbub of Day One.

Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State: For a change, Coach Croom talked football and not historical significance of his being in the SEC as he made the media rounds. At every stop, Croom proclaimed that nearly all of his incoming freshmen would be playing and the only position that might be up for redshirting would be the quarterback slot. The head Bulldog also stated that his job was tougher than he thought. He enters the fall drills with 75 scholarship players and some last minute off the field problems that just recently made headlines.

Mark Richt, Georgia: You can really tell the veteran coaches and how they handle Media Days by the manner in which Coach Richt handles things. After five years at UGA, Mark knows how to answer the tough questions. After losing star QB David Greene and superb DL David Pollack, he will have to rebound a bit, but he will have another loaded veteran team. Despite losing a large number of recruits with only 13 true freshmen arriving in August, he remained optimistic about his team's depth: "As we sign some of these young men, we knew that they were going to end up going to a certain route. We were pretty certain that they were, so it didn't bother me as much as some people might think." Dawg DT Gerald Anderson won best dressed player of the day as he wore all of his championship rings he has received over his years in football, quite a show on some large fingers.

Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt: Johnson arrived armed in a sling thanks to falling off a bicycle and breaking his collarbone, but he was in a good mood about his QB, Jay Cutler, who the coaches voted to 1st team All SEC preseason. The media didn't go along with the coaches, who placed Florida's C. J. Leak on the first team, but it is clear that Coach Johnson has more to work with than in any other seasons he has been head coach of the Commodores. After coming so close last year in so many games, Bobby was fairly philosophical about things, saying you still play them one at a time. Coach Johnson has also had to deal with the senseless death of talented RB Kwane Doster, an event that has had a tragic effect on his squad. When asked about his selection as coaches preseason All SEC QB, Jay Cutler said, "I'll bet it won't be that way when I leave here." He was right, but this can be one dangerous ballclub trying to get over that hump.

Tommy Tuberville, Auburn: The media star of Day Two was Tommy Tuberville, who made his second round on Radio Row before hitting the schedules usual rounds at Media Days. This was a confident relaxed coach with 15 straight wins and an SEC title under his belt. He was anxious to talk about his new QB, Brandon Cox, and the unfair system that kept his undefeated Auburn team from playing for the national title. In fact, the Tiger coach stated that this year's team is actually better than last year's team. Time will tell, of course. When asked a question about being able to stand up and say if you go unbeaten, you will play for a national title, Tommy said: "That's hard to swallow, really is.....Why in the world can't we have a playoff system?" Debate for another day, coach, there's a new season on the horizon.

DAY THREE: When the Alabama coach arrives at SEC Media Days, things are always popping, nothing different this year.

Mike Shula, Alabama: Following Phil Fulmer's lead, ironically enough, the young Bama coach droned on and on about the depth chart to start his sessons. When he finally got to questions, the first one he fielded was about instant replay and QB Brodie Croyle. As for being on the hot seat, Shula answered: " When I took this job my name was on the hot seat from Day 1." Well, just wait, coach. If you don't win 9 or 10 as the local Bama media folks claim you will do, that hot seat will no longer be hot, it will be scorching hot. The most interesting Bama news besides how they are expected to win and win big surrounded Brodie Croyle who had to respond to interet reports that he had died in the offseason. It will be life or death for the Tide season, however, as long as Brodie stays healthy.

Rich Brooks, Kentucky: Another year for the Cats. Another year on the hot seat mainly because UK suffers from such a high profile championship basketball program. Coach Brooks does feel some pressure to produce, however, and talked about bringing in a new QB and finishing off games. With NCAA probation over, the Cats will be able to sign 25 this recruiting season, so Brooks will suffer from one less handicap. Expectations are low for the program, although they can sport one of the best dressed DLs in America as Muhammad Abdullah showed up in a baby blue UK suit with silver pinstripes, fancy white dress shirt, and cream colored alligator shows picked out for him by a teammate. Look out, GQ, the Cats are coming. The print media gave Rich a lot of rope before asking the hangman question about job security. Brooks responded by saying it amazed him how long it took for someone to ask the question. He may be even more amazed by his Kentucky football team if they manage some victories.

Les Miles, LSU: The new head Tiger coach came in as "Saban Lite" and quite the contrast to his predecessor. When asked about what areas need improving at LSU, he responded: "One of them is on offense, one of them is on defense, and one is special teams." Hope he didn't use that line on the LSU fan tour he just completed. Fans at Les' speaking engagements kept upping the ante from 9 to 10 to 11 to 12 wins. Sure you wanted this job, coach? Nick Saban's shadow loomed just beyond Miles' fancy LSU colored tie as the SEC even had Saban's name in the LSU slot on early schedules. Ooops. Coach Miles had his best moments when asked about Saban's recent rough encounter with a Miami Dolphin player: "Boys will be boys, and boys cry." Just don't make your fans, cry, Coach, since they and the media anticipate the SEC West title to return to Baton Rouge.

Houston Nutt, Arkansas: Houston quickly commented that his was his 8th trip to Media Days and that there had been 24 coaching changes since his arrival to lead the Hogs. Uhh, coach, make that 25 and no 9th appearance if you don't find a capable replacement for QB Matt   Jones. Coach Nutt has a three way battle for the field general of the Razorbacks. He has running backs and receivers, but not a lot more depth. Nutt expanded on his desire to be the first coaching staff at Arkansas to appear in 7 straight bowls and falling short: "It is a terrible feeling." It could get worse if the defense doesn't take quickly to a new defensive coordinator. The Hogs schedule is a killer early with back-to-back games at L.A. to take on USC and at Tuscaloosa to play Alabama.

SEC MEDIA DAY TIDBITS: No Rebels were named first team All SEC, however, DL McKinley Boykin, LB Patrick Willis, and OL Tre Stallings were all named second team All SEC by the 87 SEC Media Day members who took the time to vote before the deadline.....The Rebels received one vote to win the SEC and finished 5th in the West in the media poll behind LSU, Auburn, Alabama, and Arkansas. Miss. State was picked last in the West. In the East, Tennessee was picked first followed by Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky.....The new instant replay system features three monitors with one technician, and two replay officials, one of whom will have the finger on the button to buzz the officials. Field goals, plays involving called penalties, and other infraction calls will not be reviewed and every play will be examined and possibly reviewed although you may not know it's happening. Coaches have no say-so in asking for a replay. All SEC games, televised or not, will have the system. In non televised games with SEC teams, the conference will provide their own production crew to use the system. DV Sport of Pittsburgh, PA, is the company in charge of the tech system.

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