5 things I found interesting from Day 1 of SEC Media Days in Nashville
NASHVILLE — And we’re off.
SEC Media Days in 2023 is officially underway, and don’t ya know it. We had plenty of noteworthy developments from Day 1.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced that he’s a grandpa, and then added that his tribute to the late Mike Leach was opting not to wear a necktie. We also had some flexing — anyone who won 4 consecutive national titles would do the same — and some advocating for federal legislation of NIL, or at least a conference-wide policy.
But it wasn’t just Sankey who addressed the masses. We had LSU, A&M and Mizzou all go through the Day 1 carwash in Nashville.
Here’s everything I found interesting from Monday’s festivities:
1. SEC Media Days in Dallas is happening already in 2024
Well, that didn’t take very long.
Greg Sankey made the announcement that the SEC is hosting its 2024 Media Days in downtown Dallas at the Omni Hotel.
For those of you at home who are thinking, “who cares?” consider this a reminder that the SEC is all in on establishing Texas as a true SEC state. It was a decade ago that A&M gave the SEC that foot in the door. Unlike A&M, though, Texas will unofficially play host to Media Days in 2024.
What’s interesting is that the Big 12 has its Media Days in Dallas, specifically at AT&T Stadium (so does the AAC and Conference-USA). Those were held last week. Will the Big 12, which is making no secret about a desire to “rebrand” continue to host its conference media days in Dallas in a post-Texas world? It’s worth noting that in 2018, the SEC started to move its Media Days around within the region, so it isn’t necessarily making Texas its permanent home.
But consider that a nice tip of the cap to the incoming Longhorns.
2. Clark Lea got quite the extension
When you win SEC games at Vandy, you get rewarded. After Lea led the Commodores to victories against Kentucky and Florida in 2022, he was rewarded. Handsomely.
While the terms of the deal are undisclosed because Vandy is a private school, Pete Thamel reported that the deal will keep Lea at his alma mater for the remainder of the decade:
Sources: The contract extension for Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea announced this morning is a three-year extension that will carry him through the 2029 football season.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 17, 2023
Also significant was the timing of the move. As Vandy hosts SEC Media Days, Lea’s deal made the rounds. While it was technically only a 3-year extension, it does feel like a significant commitment given to him following a significant Year 2 improvement.
Since it joined the SEC in 1933, Art Guepe is the only coach to reach 10 years at Vanderbilt. If Lea coaches through that extension, he’d be the second longest-tenured coach in program history. Will that happen? Vandy certainly believes so.
3. It’s truly bananas how different Eli Drinkwitz and Jimbo Fisher discussed play-calling duties
On Monday, it was fitting that Fisher and Drinkwitz spoke consecutively in the main media room. Usually, coaches don’t speak consecutively because player representatives are in between the coach press conferences. But having Fisher and Drinkwitz back-to-back was wild.
Fisher and Drinkwitz both went out and hired offensive coordinators. As head coaches who held play-calling duties for teams who finished with losing records, both coaches make extremely similar personnel moves, but you wouldn’t have known it based on their responses.
Fisher was asked if new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino would have full control of the play-calling duties.
“There’s a lot of things that are involved in what goes on, I’m not going to get into what we’re doing, how we’re doing it,” Fisher said. “I’m not trying to avoid anything, I just don’t want to create the narrative out there for what goes on. Listen, Bobby was hired for a reason, and he’s a tremendous coach and a tremendous guy, tremendous football mind, tremendous recruiter, he’s done a great job recruiting since he’s been there, everything he does.”
“Hopefully he’ll call the game, we’ll have suggestions on things we do, whether it’s offense, defense,” Fisher said. “Every coach is always involved. It’s more collective thing than people want to give it room for, and then when you get to calling you get on a roll, you get guys that can do it, and I believe that Bobby can definitely do that. Does it as well as anybody in college football. Have great respect for him.”
OK, I know what you’re thinking. How is Fisher supposed to handle that? Well, here’s how that’s done, folks.
“At the end of the season it was clear to me that we were ineffective on the offensive side of the ball, and it starts with being retrospective on what do you do as the leader of the team, as the leader of the offensive side of the ball, what are the issues,” Drinkwitz said. “I wasn’t giving us the best advantage that we could have offensively to be successful, and so it was my estimation that I needed to embrace my role more as the head coach and do the things that needed to be done there and turn over the play calling to somebody else.
“I do not plan on calling plays. I plan on being involved on the offensive side of the ball just like I am on special teams and on the defensive side of the ball as the CEO of the organization.”
Yep. That’s how you do it. Drinkwitz is giving up play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore, and darn it, he made that clear.
All Fisher has to say is “Bobby has play-calling duties. I’m taking a step back.” That’s it. But instead, he’s leaving this with total uncertainty and clearly getting frustrated that he’s being questioned about it.
You don’t have to reveal your entire offensive philosophy. If Fisher doesn’t want to speak about how many 4-receiver sets they plan on running, nor does he need to divulge if they’ll operate more of an up-tempo offense. It’s just strange that Fisher acts like someone asking about play-calling duties is trying to get his social security card.
Fisher wouldn’t even name a starting quarterback despite the fact that Conner Weigman appears to be the overwhelming favorite. Somebody needs to tell Fisher that a little transparency won’t be the difference in another 5-7 season.
4. But the most interesting comment of the day came from Ainias Smith
The A&M receiver was asked about the confidence brought by Petrino’s offense, and where that came from. His answer was as good as any I heard all day.
“Coach Petrino, that’s just letting him be us. It’s not so much a stress on doing every little thing perfect,” Smith said. “I feel like Jimbo is somebody that loves perfection … don’t get me wrong, Jimbo is a great coach and he’ll come back and talk to you later on, but in the moment, Coach Fisher has so much to worry about. It was low-key hard for him to get back to some of those players in the moment because of him being the head coach.
“But now with Coach Petrino, Coach Fisher can sit back and actually talk to some of the guys. Not only can Coach Fisher talk to the guys, but with the addition of Coach Petrino, he was a head coach. He knows the roles and how to talk to the players. With all of that being tied together, it just works like magic. Coach Petrino lets you makes mistakes, lets you know that it’s gonna be OK, and that you’re gonna learn from it. Now with that, us as receivers, we have the confidence to go out there and just do us … we’ve gotta learn from it and not stay on the same mistake.”
It sounds like, hey, Fisher loves to micromanage and players needed a new perspective to actually learn instead of having someone hound them for what they did wrong.
Let’s see how that bodes for A&M in 2023.
5. Brian Kelly confessed something about his accent
The big news out of Monday was that the LSU coach is still changing his accent based on where he is.
“I think my accent is pretty good and has gotten better throughout the recruiting process,” Kelly said. “It depends on if I’m in northern Louisiana or southern Louisiana. Sometimes I get over to Lake Charles, it’s got to change a little bit.”
Kelly didn’t fall for the bait of busting it out. Thankfully. He did, however sound a bit more confident at his second SEC Media Days. Kelly spoke about how the Tennessee blowout loss was a legitimate fork in the road. If his team didn’t fully buy in, it would’ve splintered in Year 1. Instead, of course, LSU stayed the course and won the West.
Will Kelly become the first coach to be picked to outlast Nick Saban in the West since Les Miles in 2012? We’ll know by week’s end.