published Sunday, July 14th, 2013

SEC media days to focus on new season, not past success

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) falls into the end zone for a touchdown against Alabama during the 2012 SEC championship game.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) falls into the end zone for a touchdown against Alabama during the 2012 SEC championship game.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

That was last year.

It's a sentiment that could be uttered multiple times by Southeastern Conference football coaches Tuesday through Thursday as the league conducts its annual media days extravaganza in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. The SEC won a seventh consecutive national championship to cap the 2012 season and provided six of the top 10 teams in the final BCS standings.

Alabama's Nick Saban set the tone minutes after the Crimson Tide's 42-14 rout of Notre Dame for the national championship in January when he said, "We're going to enjoy it for 24 hours or so."

Saban has stressed moving on ever since, and he's got plenty of company. Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin doesn't want to rest after an SEC debut season with an 11-2 record and redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman Trophy, and what about Georgia's Mark Richt?

The Bulldogs were on Alabama's 5-yard line when time ran out last December, preserving the Tide's 32-28 victory in the most thrilling SEC championship game to date.

"The reality is that last year is over and that we have to look forward to this year," Richt said in May when he visited Ringgold. "We certainly know that we came close, and we're excited about the possibility of getting closer next time and getting to the ultimate goal."

Vanderbilt went 9-4 last season, winning nine games for the first time since 1915, so it's no surprise that third-year coach James Franklin said the potential of players feeling entitled "is my biggest concern." There also are four new coaches in the league, and it's unlikely any will be looking in the rear-view mirror.

The SEC's media relations director for football, Chuck Dunlap, said that more than 1,000 media members have been issued credentials for a third straight year. Manziel, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray are among the nine quarterbacks who will attend media days as athlete representatives of their schools, while the more notable defensive representatives include South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney, Florida lineman Dominique Easley and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Leading off Tuesday will be Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss and South Carolina. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier will extend his record appearances at media days to 21 years, representing Florida from 1990 to 2001 and South Carolina since 2005.

Spurrier is renowned for his strong opinions and comic relief at this event.

When a reporter last year asked if South Carolina caught a break in the schedule by having an open date before the Arkansas game, Spurrier responded, "You think I make the schedule? If I made the schedule, Georgia would be playing LSU and we'd be playing Ole Miss."

Two years ago, Spurrier was asked why he kept quarterback Stephen Garcia around.

"I guess we don't want to kick him out for stupidity," he replied.

The SEC's four coach newcomers -- Bret Beliema of Arkansas, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Kentucky's Mark Stoops and Tennessee's Butch Jones -- will take turns at the podium Wednesday. Also appearing on the middle day will be Sumlin and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.

Media days will close with Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Vanderbilt on Thursday, which also is when the league office will reveal the media's projected order of finish and All-SEC team. The coaches picked an all-conference team leading up to media days in recent years, but their 2013 preseason vote will be released next month.

The media has correctly predicted just two conference champions -- LSU in 2007 and Florida in '08 -- in the last 17 years. LSU was the pick at last year's event.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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