Biggest takeaways from SEC Media Days: Day 3
Gary Pinkel believes his development is better than any team’s in college football. Bret Bielema invented a new language. Les Miles likens his freshman running back Leonard Fournette to Michael Jordan.
College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock talked selection committee process. Hancock went over the basics, where two semifinals are chosen from six rotating host bowls. The Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl will start off the rotation in 2015. The Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl will keep the conference ties when it’s not a semifinal game. Obviously, the playoff teams and at-large teams are chosen by the selection committee. Hancock touted common sense.
“The format is very simple,” said Hancock. “It’s symmetrical, it’s beautiful — a four-team bracket. The committee will select the best four teams — no strings attached.
“The playoff wasn’t done for the money, it was done for the fans,” Hancock said. “They wanted more football, and they wanted a bracket.”
SEC’s coordinator of officials Steve Shaw also discussed the new rules for 2014. You can read those here.
Gary Pinkel doesn’t care about the star rankings; he doesn’t care whether you’re a two-, three- or four-star player, because he believes his developmental program is better than every other team’s in college football. Michael Sam was a two-star prospect, and he was the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also doesn’t care that many have Missouri being a non-factor this year. Why? Pinkel feels great about his team and process, but it’s mainly because of quarterback Maty Mauk, who Pinkel said had the it factor.
“I think he’s a very natural leader,” Pinkel said. “I knew that when he was in high school. He was one of those guys that he loves to play football, loves to compete. I think he’s a dual‑threat guy. He can run. He’s got very good speed. Put a lot of pressure on the defense utilizing both of those things.”
Pinkel isn’t the only one who believes in Mauk; he believes in himself, and he believes he can do similar things as Johnny Manziel.
“He could turn anything into a big play,” Mauk said of Manziel. “I feel like I have the ability to do similar things.”
I’m a believer, too. Mauk could become the SEC’s next big-time breakout star. And he and his team have embraced beards and mullets. I like him even more.
Bret Bielema’s team developed a new term over spring practice: Hoganese. Yes, like Chinese or Japanese but only Hoganese. When asked by ESPNU to expound upon the new-found language, Bielema said he couldn’t, at all.
All kidding aside, Bielema said he knows a great fiction movie when he sees it. When asked to respond to Gary Pinkel’s stance of hurry-up, no-huddle offenses and their affect on player safety, of which Pinkel said it’s complete fiction and has no affect on player safety, Bielema said, “As for coach Pinkel, if he loves fiction, I love reality.” Bielema hasn’t softened his stance any on the subject, mainly because of player safety.
Bielema said his team is getting back to his core beliefs, and he isn’t changing his system because of one three-win season, as frustrating as it may have been. He has greater confidence in quarterback Brandon Allen than ever before, and he thinks the secondary will improve drastically. Bielema also said he looks forward to playing college football’s most difficult schedule.
Passing the torch
Get ready for it: I’m ready to pass the torch from Steve Spurrier to Les Miles as the most entertaining mouth of the south…err at SEC Media Days. While Spurrier was somewhat subdued this week with his projections and outlook on the season — that means he feels great about the year and his team, Miles is in a complete opposite situation and has a young team looking to become a contender.
Miles talked about his freshmen impact players, and he likened his new running back Leonard Fournette to one Michael Jordan, who had quiet confidence.
“Leonard Fournette is doing exactly what he should be doing,” Miles said. “He’s getting in the weight room, running, getting in great shape. Pursuing the classroom, got great grades. He’s quiet. He’s not assuming. He’s humble in his approach.
“I think it’s exactly where he needs to be. He expects himself to be something very special. I think if you look at Michael Jordan, he could not have been coached to be Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan accepted the role of expecting him to be better than any.”
To use Fournette and Jordan in the same sentence tells you all you need to know, and coaches don’t openly gush about players, especially ones who haven’t even taken a snap yet.
Despite being saturated with youth, Miles expects several freshmen to make immediate impacts; Fournette is one of them. Brandon Harris and Malachi Dupree are two others.
I recently wrote that Les Miles is the SEC’s most underrated coach, and he and LSU are being overlooked…again. That is true, and the media All-SEC teams and predicted order of finish come out tomorrow morning. We’ll see what the media thinks of LSU’s chances, whether they are a serious contender or will be facing a rebuilding season.