Notepad from Hoover: Day 2 of SEC media days

semerson@macon.comJuly 17, 2013 

Live from Hoover, this will include noteworthy quotes, things heard in the hallway, and personal impressions and opinions.

3:45 p.m.

Another new head coach, Gus Malzahn at Auburn, just took his turn at the mic. Malzahn's time wasn't long but it was productive, as he spoke fast enough to answer a bunch of questions. (About half of which, and I'm not exaggerating, were from the same Arkansas reporter.)

Malzahn took a veiled shot at Nick Saban, and other defensive-oriented coaches who claim up-tempo offenses (like Malzahn's) are unsafe.

"When I first heard that I thought that was a joke," Malzahn said.

He then asked if defenses should be prohibited from blitzing on first down. And he finished by saying what the powers-that-be should be looking at is defensive players who fake injuries in order to slow down the up-tempo offenses.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, another coach who has criticized the up-tempo offenses, goes next. So that will be interesting.

Malzahn was also asked about a couple Georgia connections on his team.

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner came over to Auburn, his alma mater, after 13 years at Georgia.

"Rodney Garner is one of the better defensive line coaches in all of college football," Malzahn said. "I think the last two Auburn coaches tried to hire him, so we're very pleased to have him on our staff.

Then there was Nick Marshall, the former Georgia cornerback who has a chance to be Malzahn's starting quarterback this year.

"When he was in high school a lot of people thought he was an unbelievably talented quarterback," Malzahn said, adding that while he was at Arkansas State, prior to his hiring at Auburn, he was recruiting Marshall. "He'll have a chance. He's unbelievably talented. He's got a big-time arm."

2:50 p.m.

New Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was impressive, if a bit cliche'-ridden.

He started by talking about building a foundation "brick by brick."

"That's not just a slogan. We really meant that," Jones said.

(So are Jones and his players literally constructing a building on campus? He didn't say.)

Tennessee player Jacques Smith later stated twice that Jones has been telling the team that they play at "the most winningest program in college football history." That's not, to use a technical term, true.

1:40 p.m.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen thinks the quarterback position in the SEC deserves more credit, because of the stiff defenses they have to face.

"When you have guys like Clowney sitting over there coming off that edge, you're thinking, I might want to get rid of this ball pretty quick," Mullen said. "The great thing in the SEC, there's not one, there's one of those just about on every team you play. I think that does add a lot of pressure to those positions."

Mullen then went on to praise Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray, the latter of whom Mullen recruited when he was an assistant coach at Florida, and Murray was at Tampa's Plant High School.

"I've known Aaron since he was a freshman in high school. The talent that he has, the ability that he has, all of those quarterbacks (in the SEC), there's so much talent," Mullen said.

So apparently Murray should not be scared of Mullen.

12:20 p.m.

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops acted like a first-year coach often does at these things, being deferential and loathe to say anything controversial. And someone tried to get him to do that right away, asking him about his brother Bob's comments this spring that the SEC was overrated.

"That's got to be my first question?" Mark Stoops said, smiling. "Yeah, I certainly understand Bob defending his conference. I just left the ACC. You know, I think everybody's going to defend what they're doing in their conference. With that being said, I don't think any of us need to defend what's going on here in the SEC. The success we've had in the SEC speaks for itself."

The only thing interesting about the rest of Stoops' session was what he didn't say.

A reporter asked him what teams in the SEC East stand out to him. And Stoops left out a certain team.

"In our side of the division, certainly you have to look at Florida and South Carolina, expect to be very good," Stoops said.

No mention of Georgia. To be fair, one didn't get the impression Stoops was thinking very hard about his answer, or was expecting to be asked.

There was also an unexpected question about an old friend: Isaiah Crowell. Yes, that guy. Kentucky plays Crowell and Alabama State later in the season, and a writer from an Alabama paper asked what Stoops knew about Alabama State. Stoops demurred, saying it was "way down in the schedule for me."

12:10 p.m.

I just finished filling out my preseason all-SEC ballot. I won't go through the entire first-team, but one advisory for when the teams are released Thursday morning: None of Georgia's special teamers were on the ballot. That's why Marshall Morgan, Collin Barber or whoever will return kicks will get any honorable mentions or anything.

I did pick a rematch of last year's SEC championship game. Yeah, I know, boring. I was tempted to pick Texas A&M to win the West. I might have picked South Carolina in the East, but went with Georgia because of the game being in Athens.

We'll see how the rest of my colleagues feel on Thursday.

10:45 a.m.

Johnny Manziel handled himself very well during a half-hour session with print reporters - and one large ESPN camera that blocked many of us. This is the new Tim Tebow to ESPN, at least as far as college football. Well, except ...

"I'm not Tebow," Manziel said at one point. "I'm different in many ways."

Manziel was composed, well-spoken, and very quick with his answers. He denied being hung over last weekend at the Manning Camp, causing him to leave, saying it was a "mutual decision" with the Manning family. He also said he would love to go back next year, and that Peyton Manning has already invited him back.

"I simply overlsept," Manziel said of last Saturday morning. "There's nothing more to talk, and the rumors about the other things weren't really true. I just overslept and missed a meeting. I absolutely lived up to it. There was no excuse for not having my phone charged or having an alarm set. ... I've just been on a hectic schedule and overslept."

As for the various issues that have piled up, Manziel did not dodge responsibility.

"At the end of the day I hope people realize I'm a 20-year-old kid in college," Manziel said. "I'm trying to enjoy my life. I'm continuing to learn as the days and the weeks go on. I've made my mistakes, obviously, I need to learn from them, not make the same one twice. ... Sometimes it's been a little blown up, but that's just how things are."

Manziel also said all these offseason issues won't affect his play when the season begins.

"I guarantee you all when August comes, it's time to get ready, it's football time, I will be absolutely 100 percent ready to go," Manziel said.

Manziel's two teammates at media days had a fairly lonely existence, with just a few reporters milling about them. Offensive lineman Jake Matthews, an All-American candidate, shrugged off a question about Manziel's offseason, and admitted to getting a bit tired about being asked.

"I wish you guys cared more about me," Matthews said, smiling.

Defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. called Manziel "a great teammate" and a hard worker.

"He's a humble guy," Hurd Jr. said. "When the season starts, he'll be ready to go."

9:45 a.m.

Johnny Manziel is in the other room answering questions on ESPN. He'll be in this room in a second. In the meantime, his head coach Kevin Sumlin is taking his turn at the podium, and after a long opening statement, the first question was about Manziel, and whether he's representing the program well.

"On the field, he is doing an exceptional job," Sumlin said. "Off the field, there's no question he's made some mistakes. ... We've had discussions about that."

Interestingly, Sumlin said that coming to SEC media days would be good for Manziel. Presumably, that means having to own up to his actions and account for them. Sumlin also said how they handle Manziel's action would be "in-house."

"Is he perfect? No. He's done some things that he's not very proud of," Sumlin said. "He's made some poor decisions. He's made some good decisions, unfortunately the poor decisions are the ones that are publicized. It's a learning process."

Later, Sumlin was asked if he told Manziel to stop tweeting. Sumlin didn't confirm that, but did note that the last tweet was on June 15.

"He hasn't been on there ever since then," Sumlin said. "So obviously there was something to that discussion."

9:25 a.m.

Item on Steve Shaw moved to a separate story by itself. Because frankly, in the long run, it's more important than Johnny Manziel oversleeping at the Manning camp.

8:55 a.m.

A quick note on Aaron Murray: A couple people back in Athens say he's aware of the Jadeveon Clowney comments, but don't expect him to respond, or at least to shoot back. Murray and Georgia will speak here on Thursday.

Moving along ...

7:30 a.m.

Welcome to Johnny Manziel Day at the Wynfrey! The apparently fun-loving Heisman Trophy winner is due to speak this morning when Texas A&M takes his turn, and he figures to answer a few hundred questions about leaving the Manning camp, his tweeting habits and other fun stuff. And yes, he's here, he was spotted entering the Wynfrey with Kevin Sumlin and the rest of the Aggie contingent late on Tuesday night.

My sense, and this is just an educated guess based on talk around the hotel, is that Manziel and Texas A&M will exert some damage control, and try to tamp down the growing impression that he's a problem child. I'll be surprised if there are any incendiary quotes coming out of this.

Incendiary being what we heard out of Jadeveon Clowney. His comments on Aaron Murray (and Tajh Boyd) being "scared" of him were out of character, according to my media colleagues in Columbia who cover him. But he said them, so it will be Murray's turn to reply on Thursday. The Georgia quarterback could also respond via Twitter - doubtless he heard the comments soon after they were posted - but as of this morning Murray had held fire.

You can see the rest of today's schedule to the right. Check in here early and often for updates.

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