My 10 favorite moments from 2021 SEC Media Days
HOOVER, Ala. — And just like that, football season is off and running.
Sort of. Talkin’ season gave us plenty of noteworthy moments at SEC Media Days this week.
We had SEC commissioner Greg Sankey coming out from the jump and discussing COVID vaccination numbers “that need to improve.” We had Lane Kiffin talking rat poison. Mike Leach discussed his love for a 64-team Playoff, Sam Pittman bragged about his ACT score (18) and Kirby Smart casually referenced texting with Quavo about Name, Image and Likeness (don’t be thirsty). Nick Saban casually mentioned that his quarterback, who hasn’t even started a game, has NIL deals approaching 7 figures.
Oh, and by the way, Oklahoma and Texas might join the SEC.
Just another ho-hum SEC Media Days, right?
Not so much. It was eventful. Filler? What filler?
Hoover was the place to be this week. These were my 10 favorite moments from the week in Hoover:
1. Eli Drinkwitz talks Horns Down … and fires away
The Mizzou coach was a MOOD at his first SEC Media Days. You knew it was gonna be good when he shared with the media in his opening statement that he asked SEC commissioner Greg Sankey if “horns down” would be a penalty if Texas came to the SEC.
Drinkwitz was fantastic. He gave Paul Finebaum a shoutout for stealing the thunder of SEC Media Days with his new contract, he talked about Twitter not being a good indicator of true popularity, he joked that he called up Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk after finding out Texas and Oklahoma reportedly have interest in joining the SEC and said that he’d have no doubt that Mizzou’s schedule would somehow feature both future opponents.
There was also a question about Mizzou’s rivals and how they’re lacking (?) but Drinkwitz turned that into a flex about owning Arkansas.
“I don’t remember the last time they beat us, so I kind of like that one,” he said.
The man rocking some Mizzou-colored Jordans was on a mission Thursday. No SEC coach was more charismatic than Drinkwitz. He also talked about why he’s hesitant to criticize officials.
“I’m what they call new money,” Drinkwitz said. “So I’m not really giving away money right now. I think some of these other guys have had money for a long time. So it doesn’t quite matter as much to them. My wife would kill me. She still lets me live off that Auburn salary. How do I draw the line between brash? I just focus on I am who I am. I do carry the weight, alright, what’s the negative impact if I say something really stupid.
“Learned a couple things last year when I picked a fight with Kirk Herbstreit, and called somebody Lou Saban, but it is what it is, live and learn.”
Drinkwitz even trolled Yahoo’s Pete Thamel, who tweeted that Shane Beamer gave a shoutout to “B-list SEC Network talent” during his opening statement. That was in reference to SEC Network’s Peter Burns and Alyssa Lang.
— Eliah Drinkwitz (@CoachDrinkwitz) July 22, 2021
What a legend. The SEC is better with Drinkwitz in it.
2. Getting the full Jordan Davis experience
If Drinkwitz was the star of the week among SEC head coaches, there’s no doubt that Davis was the star among SEC players.
The Georgia nose tackle was as natural and engaging as they come. We got to learn about his love for Swedish Fish and Nerds Ropes and how much he values eating up space for his teammates.
I absolutely loved this quote.
“Being on a watch list is cool and being on everyone’s radar, but that’s kinda what I want,” Davis said, “Because if they’re on me, that means somebody’s free.”
That’s a dude who gets it.
He was comfortable admitting that he’s confused by NIL issues, as well. That’s refreshing. That’s honest.
Davis came off like a human being, which isn’t always easy for kids under the bright lights of the main podium. He’d smile and point at a reporter he knew before coming out and asking a question. And when a reporter started off a question by sharing something about their roots, here’s how Davis handled it.
Reporter: I’m also from around the Charlotte area. I went to Olympic High School.
Davis: You went where?
Reporter: I went to Olympic High School.
Davis: Yes, sir.
Am I now an even bigger Davis fan? Yes, sir.
3. Nick Saban’s response to a 12-personnel question
Shoutout to my guys at Kentucky Sports Radio.
KSR’s Adam Luckett asked Saban about 12-personnel sets (1 running back, 2 tight ends), which figure to be more of a staple with Bill O’Brien’s offense. Saban looked to his right with his hand on his forehead like he was squinting at Luckett.
It led to this exchange:
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) July 21, 2021
Amazing. That’s the reward for asking a smart question.
For what it’s worth, it yielded a smart answer, too. Saban went deep into an answer about how defenses are now reacting to teams who want to spread you out, and that lining up a bit tighter — Saban calls that “wad ball” — limits what you force a defense to cover in terms of space.
But Saban delivered a laugh out loud moment, and those don’t come by very often.
4. Josh Paschal’s spark with J-Lo
One of the few bummers of the week was that players didn’t get their side podiums to be able to address media members. That might not sound like much, but think about it. What makes you more nervous:
- Scenario A: You sit at a table with maybe a dozen reporters around you
- Scenario B: You stand at a podium in a ballroom with TV cameras in front of a couple hundred seats
Scenario B is far more daunting.
But Paschal, in Scenario B, delivered a story that would usually only present itself in Scenario A.
In case you missed it, the Kentucky defensive lineman and cancer survivor discussed the time he went on “TODAY” and had a memorable encounter with a certain Jennifer Lopez.
“I’ll set the scene for everybody, all right?” Paschal said. “I was outside the dressing room because all the famous people and the actual commentators are right there. So J.Lo keeps coming in and out. So my mom, she keeps fan-girling and everything. She loves J-Lo. And I’m like, all right, it’s not that big of a deal, but in my mind, I’m thinking it’s J-Lo, it’s J-Lo, it’s J-Lo. I keep seeing her.
“So she’s changing because she’s performing that day. She’s changing, and she’s coming back, and she’s walking up the stairs, and I just look up. I was looking at the stairs, and I look up, and we make complete eye contact. And she winked at me. I hope that wink was real because I’ve been telling this story ever since it happened. When I tell you I melted, I melted.”
Can you blame him? I can’t. Nor can I deny the fact that Paschal told the best individual story of any player this week.
5. Lane Kiffin’s reaction to the Bryce Young NIL money was incredible
News came out on Tuesday that Saban said the Alabama quarterback already earned “ungodly” NIL money nearing the 7-figures. Kiffin’s reaction was that of pure amazement. His face said it all.
“That number just blew me away,” Kiffin said. “You didn’t prepare me for that. That’s amazing. He made a million dollars and hasn’t started a game yet? Wow, I don’t even know what to respond to that, but great for him.”
Kiffin was so consumed by Young’s earnings that minutes later when he was asked a totally unrelated question about Jerrion Ealy’s shoulder surgery, the subject instantly shifted back to the Alabama quarterback:
Lane Kiffin on Bryce Young almost reaching $1 million in endorsements: pic.twitter.com/ECEVimGKDx
— Sidelines – Bama (2020 National Champions!) (@SSN_Alabama) July 20, 2021
“The guy’s made a million dollars already? That’s good, man,” Kiffin said. “He don’t need to play next year against us then.”
That answer was infinitely better because Kiffin wasn’t briefed on that before taking the stage. Unscripted, unfiltered Kiffin is the best Kiffin.
6. Lane Kiffin shamed me for giving him a compliment
In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with giving someone a “W.” What’s wrong with guys lifting each other up?
Well, I learned the hard way that Kiffin isn’t about that life.
I thought Kiffin would be willing to discuss his weight loss. He looked like the 2009 Tennessee version of Kiffin. He tweeted about how indulging less in Mississippi food yielded positive results for him, and he said in his press conference that he was trying to lose weight.
So I asked “Lane, you said you’re trying to lose some weight. Besides not indulging so much in Mississippi food — I know you tweeted about that — what else have you done and what have been the results so far?”
Kiffin, um, thought that was strange to ask a guy and then accused me of being negative about Mississippi food:
— Chicago Gump (@GriffinTSmith) July 20, 2021
Hey, I love Mississippi food. I wasn’t here to shame it. I thought I was using Kiffin’s words.
Oh well. Strange answer, if you ask me.
7. Shane Beamer owned his first SEC Media Days appearance … and then delivered the photo of the week
Two things can be true at the same time. One is that it’s significantly easier to be positive and full of life before coaching in your first SEC season as opposed to after it. The other is that Beamer was fantastic in his SEC Media Days debut.
Beamer had a not-so-subtle shoutout to 4-star tight end recruit Oscar Delp, he delivered that aforementioned shoutout to SEC Network personalities and he was engaging like few SEC coaches all week. He didn’t speak in clichés. Beamer came off genuine and like he was truly soaking in the opportunity of getting his first head coaching gig.
The first-year South Carolina coach was the clear winner of Day 1 in Hoover. The fact that he later recreated the iconic Steve Spurrier Arby’s photo was icing on the cake:
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) July 19, 2021
That’s like three thumbs up, at least. https://t.co/lvnoMXvnl4
— The State Newspaper (@thestate) July 20, 2021
Now that’s how you become loved by a fan base. If Beamer can get to a bowl game, he’ll have South Carolina fans thinking he can copy Spurrier with more than just a photo.
8. Mike Leach was the only person all week to drop a “coup d’état”
Leave it to Leach to force everyone to look up how to spell a word.
The first SEC Media Days appearance for the MSU coach wasn’t exactly loaded with 1-liners or long tangents about American history. He did, however, deliver a 12-second opening statement. He also referenced his desire for a 64-team Playoff.
But Leach really turned heads when he was asked about interviewing for the Tennessee head coaching job … which took a wild turn after John Currie was fired as athletic director after meeting with Leach.
“I talked to Tennessee, but nothing ever got nailed down. Then pretty soon they had a coup d’état there,” Leach said. “You guys can sort that among yourselves. It’s pretty well-documented. I didn’t end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me.”
I’ll go out on a limb and say that like Leach, “coup d’état” made its SEC debut.
9. Jimbo Fisher’s powerful 4 words
News hit the college football world Wednesday when the Houston Chronicle reported that Oklahoma and Texas reached out about joining the SEC.
Jimbo Fisher, a man of many words, delivered 4 that said it all.
“I bet they would,” Fisher said after letting out a laugh.
YES, JIMBO. MORE ONE-LINERS.
Fisher didn’t just leave it at that. I sort of wish he did. He went on to give the cliché line about “I’m just worried about A&M.”
But all that mattered was that less than an hour after the original report came out, Fisher delivered the 1-liner that plenty of SEC fans would’ve responded with in that spot.
10. Bryan Harsin’s press conference
Just kidding. He answered 3 questions in a 35-minute press conference. And boy, it was a snooze fest.
On the bright side, if you’re ever searching for a generic football coach speak for some sort of standup comedy sketch, Harsin has it in spades.
10A. Getting to sing “Friends in Low Places” at karaoke at Gabriel’s in Hoover
Because if that’s not Southern, I don’t know what is.