Winners and Losers from 2014 SEC Media Days
HOOVER, Ala. — The circus has packed up and left town, but the four-day extravaganza known as SEC Media Days was a fun ride along the way.
With an absence of star power on the player side, it was up to the coaches to entertain the nearly 1,300 credentialed members of the media on hand at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in suburban Birmingham.
Who were some of the winners and losers of this year's SEC media days? Our picks are in this slideshow.
Winner: LSU Head Coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les Miles is a winner in this event before the wheels of LSU's plane ever touch down in Alabama. This is an event that welcomes crazy, and Miles is the reigning SEC king of crazy.
He didn't disappoint on Wednesday, although it took a little longer than anticipated to get the Mad Hatter going.
His day started off in the main ballroom, with a 10-minute filibuster in which he rattled off every player on his team, virtually every coach and probably the majority of his off-the-field staff. Then things got weird, super weird.
Questions started flying, and in the process, Miles took a shot at Austin, Texas, where he recently vacationed with his family.
"I took a vacation, I went to Austin, took my three children with me, so we had six, two parents and four children on that campus," Miles said. "It was miserable. I hated it. But it was great fun. I mean, it was not a beach, it was not sand, but it was my family, and that was the best."
Miles later explained that it was the absence of an ocean that bothered him about the land of the Longhorns.
"It was just not vacation," Miles said. "I loved it. My daughter's doing wonderfully there. I enjoy the experience she's having, okay? But it was not a beach. There was no hotel that I walked out and jumped into the surf."
Miles then made his way to the radio/Internet room, which is the epicenter of weird at the Wynfrey, and started off his 10-minute session talking about FIFA and the World Cup, guns, his daughter's softball no-hitter and Derek Jeter's All-Star Game performance, the latter two of which were in the middle of a question about hot-shot running back Leonard Fournette.
Never change, Les.
Winner: South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier
While Les Miles may have taken the torch from South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier as the "King of Media Days," the Head Ball Coach isn't so bad himself.
Spurrier didn't want to talk a whole lot about his own team, claiming that this was just "talkin' season," but that didn't stop him from taking a few jabs at other coaches, teams and Mother Nature.
The joke on Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who agreed to a six-year $30 million deal late last year, was the highlight of Spurrier's spin around the Wynfrey on Tuesday.
"Kevin Sumlin has an excellent record as a coach. He's a good negotiator, we know that also, so he's got a good deal," Spurrier said as the crowd in the main ballroom laughed. "He's ready to go. But he's got a good team. We have tremendous respect for Texas A&M."
In his prime when he was the head coach at Florida, Spurrier was more interested in taking shots at his rivals to knock them down a peg. Now he's just having fun, and fun was had on Tuesday.
Loser: Auburn QB Nick Marshall
The man who should have been here to raise the curtain is one of the players everybody came to see.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, who was voted as the SEC's first-team All-SEC quarterback by the media, was a late scratch from the event after being cited earlier this month for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
It's his loss, because now Marshall—a senior who has NFL hopes and potentially a position change at the next level—will have to answer the questions surrounding his absence for the next nine months.
Disappointing start to Nick Marshall's sr season at Auburn. Already looking at position switch in @NFL. This won't help chances of success.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) July 15, 2014
Marshall had the chance to shine under the bright lights of the Wynfrey. Instead, he's going to have the spotlight on him through the NFL draft for all of the wrong reasons. It was the right move for Auburn not to bring him, but bad news for Marshall.
Winner: Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is no dummy. He knows he's the face of the so-called 10-second rule, which was proposed this offseason in an effort to slow down hurry-up offenses and, according to Bielema, promote player safety.
When asked about it earlier in the day, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel called the idea that pace of play contributes to escalating injuries fiction.
Bielema came armed with responses on Wednesday afternoon.
"If he's into fiction, I'm into reality," Bielema said.
But that's not all. Bielema wrapped up his session in the radio/Internet room with a bang. When asked about 4-star 6'1", 334-pound defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson, an expected contributor this season along the Hogs' defensive line, Bielema complimented him as only Bielema can:
"He's got an incredible, incredible ass," Bielema said. "Really big, in size. He's going to be an immovable object who we are excited about. He's got hot feet."
That was the "mic-drop moment," as Bielema exited the room with the quote of the four-day event.
Winner: Georgia WR Chris Conley
If there's a better or more thoughtful player to quote in the SEC than Georgia's wide receiver Chris Conley, he didn't come to media days.
Conley was peppered with questions about his recently released Star Wars tribute film, former teammate Josh Murray's role on The Bachelorette and, oh yeah, some football things too.
Among some of the questions he faced were his impressions of the secondary and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
"That group, being able to work with coach Pruitt, you can already tell a difference in the way they approach practice every day," Conley said. "They're going to do it the way coach Pruitt taught it, or they're not going to be on the field. He has put his foot down."
That's great news for Georgia, because with the running game led by Todd Gurley, a talented and deep wide receiving corps and steps senior quarterback Hutson Mason has taken this spring, all the defense needs to be is opportunistic for the Bulldogs to be successful.
Winner: Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban and the Australian Fan
I was prepared to label Alabama head coach Nick Saban and the Australian fan as losers, after Saban strolled through the entrance of the Wynfrey to his fans and left the man with the sign above hanging.
"I married an Alabama grad," he said, "and she's a little embarrassed by me."
All is well that ends well though.
After he made the media rounds and sat down with The Paul Finebaum Show on ESPN radio, Saban took the time to sign autographs and shake hands with the fans who remained in the lobby of the Wynfrey.
Saban met the Australian fan pic.twitter.com/Hn8FCUvDqP— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 17, 2014
Better late than never.
Winner: Florida Gators
Peppered with questions about head coach Will Muschamp's hot seat, quarterback Jeff Driskel's ability and the overall importance of adjusting to the new offense under head coach Kurt Roper, the Florida contingent handled tough questions well.
In fact, Muschamp did what he could to cut to the chase before questions were even asked.
"There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business," he said in his opening statement. "That's part of it. The way you combat that is having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do. I got a lot of confidence in this team and staff. This is probably the most complete team we've had since I've been at the University of Florida in all three phases."
Driskel recognized a big reason why he has been criticized throughout his career and isn't shying away from the fact that he needs to be better.
"I think my turnovers have been talked about a lot," he said. "It's just knowing when to take chances and when not to. My turnovers have really been highlighted because they've been in the red zone. I just have to know when to take the points, know when to live another day, and I think I've been educated on that."
Loser: Kentucky Wildcats
Head coach Mark Stoops and the Wildcats contingent made the rounds during the final session of the afternoon in the shadow of the 800-pound gorilla in the room—the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Everybody was trying to get a piece of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, wide receivers Christion Jones and Amari Cooper, and safety Landon Collins.
The room when Kentucky's contingent was present? Empty. Quiet. No energy.
That's great for the people who stuck around, because we got great soundbites from the Kentucky players, particularly well-dressed defensive end Za'Darius Smith.
"We went into Men's Warehouse, and as soon as I walked in, I looked up at the top row and said, 'that's the outfit I want,'" defensive end Za'Darius Smith said. "It's actually a white linen, Calvin Klein (as he shows the lining). Yes sir."
Winner: Alabama WR Christion Jones
Alabama's wide receivers did their best to answer questions surrounding the biggest mystery in college football—just who is quarterback Jacob Coker.
The transfer from Florida State arrived on campus this summer and has been working with the receivers during "involuntary" workouts. What kind of player is Coker?
"First of all, he has a cannon," wide receiver Christion Jones said. "He has a different release, his timing, his release, he has a lot of small things that are different about him. That doesn't mean he has to change, it just means we have to adjust.
"In my opinion, there are no similarities [between former starter AJ McCarron and Coker]," Jones added. "He's his own player. He drops back different. He looks different. His arm release is different. They really aren't comparable. It's totally different."
Finally, some insight on Coker other than the facts that he's big, can run a little bit and supposedly was solid in closed-door practices in Tallahassee.
Thank you, Christion Jones.
Loser: Texas A&M's QBs
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin came to Hoover with a plan, and that plan was to avoid talking about any quarterbacks past, present or future.
He took to the stage in the main ballroom Tuesday afternoon and made a point that he didn't come here to give any insight into the ongoing quarterback battle between sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen.
"I didn't come here today to tell you who the quarterback was going to be, so we can eliminate those questions," Sumlin said. "That will play itself out. I think we're looking at a couple weeks before we play South Carolina that we'll name a starter."
Well, that's no fun.
It will be interesting to see how this battle shakes out, because Sumlin has been successful with dual-threat and pro-style quarterbacks throughout his head coaching career, and ultimately the direction of the offense hinges on whom he picks.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.