SEC Media Days; Day 4 News and Notes

Ole Miss Faces Tough Times
July 13, 2017; Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze at SEC Media Days. (photo courtesy Clarion-Ledger)

SEC Media Days wrapped up Thursday and not a moment too soon for some people. There were some hard questions and some challenging topics that needed to be dealt with. And just think, there are discussions about turning this into a five day long event. An hour-and-a-half between coaches at the podium is not enough. There may be a need to extend the event even more, just because they can.

SEC Media Days News and Notes

Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Muschamp enters his second season having spent year one cleaning up the dumpster fire left behind by Steve Spurrier and his abrupt departure in 2015. The Gamecocks finished 6-7 overall and 3-5 in conference, but Muschamp said the lack of player turnover during the coaching change was a sign to him. “Trust is a choice in life and our guys chose to trust us.”

From there, it was the Will Muschamp mixed metaphor and simile convention speech.

On what he learned during his Florida tenure; “It’s a lot of hats you have to wear as a football coach in the SEC and the more at-bats you get, the better you become.”

On trying to improve athletic facilities; “At the end of the day, we don’t believe in bells and whistles, but recruits do and they want to see new and shiny things.”

On having a stable of young quarterbacks; “It’s like drinking from a firehose. We’re moving fast.”

Muschamp also noted that last year he brought mostly defensive players with him to Media Days, “And then we went out and gave up a bunch of yards and a bunch of points, so I didn’t even ask them this time.”

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Malzahn has a tough gig year in and year out, in that no matter what he does, his program is going to be compared to conference, division and in-state rival Alabama, and right now there is not a lot of comparison. Not that Malzahn is doing anything wrong, but over the last few years, it is tough for anyone to compare to the Saban juggernaut.

That’s not to say Malzahn has anything to hang his head over. They went 8-5 last year and finished second in the SEC West, but they lacked the signature win that a program hangs its hat on for momentum going into the next season. He says his reason for optimism this year is the depth chart. “This is the first time in my years here that I can say we have quality depth in all areas.”  He has a real battle at quarterback with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham and the redshirt junior Sean White. The tests of course include the Iron Bowl game against Alabama and a week two road trip to Clemson to play last year’s national champion.

Malzahn said he favors high profile games like the home and home agreement with Clemson and wants more of them. “The Clemson series gives us a good measuring stick of where we are at.” Check back with Malzahn after week two for any updates on whether he still wants those games.

Hugh Freeze, Mississippi State

Freeze had either the easiest job of any coach this week, or the toughest, depending upon your perspective. He knew the most talked about topic was the ongoing NCAA investigation and the pending hammer that the NCAA is likely to drop. On the other hand, because the NCAA deliberations are still in progress, he was prohibited from really discussing any details. Yesterday Ole Miss got slapped with a defamation lawsuit by Freeze’s predecessor, Houston Nutt, but again, because it is ongoing, Freeze was not at liberty to discuss any of it. But we can. The NCAA has accused the program of 21 major violations, including the formidable “lack of institutional control,” that usually comes with major penalties. The school self-imposed penalties, including a bowl ban for the upcoming season, but that is likely not enough to fend off more punishment from the NCAA.

“It seems like every year, but year one, that I have to come here and talk about other things,” Freeze started off saying. He said that while they have not have any transfers as a result of the investigation, it is tough keeping the players focused. “We tell them whatever is occurring out there has zero bearing on their opportunity to get a degree, zero impact on them developing into being the best man they can be.”

Freeze said the administration has been “unwavering” in support of him and said with no bowl game to play for, he is trying to tell the school and his staff alike that this challenging time, “Can be our greatest hour. We can model what it looks like to go through difficult times.”

There was a moment of actual football talk as Freeze said he was counting on quarterback Shea Patterson to be the face of the program. It’s a lot to ask of a sophomore who had a grand total of 132 passing attempts last season. Still, Freeze said he is counting on the signal caller to hold the locker room together through the turbulence.

Freeze did address the bigger picture before he left. “College athletics, particularly football in the south, is so big, it’s hard to manage, particularly with all of the tentacles it has. It’s a tall task because there are so many people involved.”

Next year’s event could be more days, more people, more questions and more tentacles.

Main Photo

SEC Media Days
July 13, 2017; Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze at SEC Media Days. (photo courtesy Clarion-Ledger)

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