HOOVER, Ala. — Day 1 of SEC Media Days is in the books, with relatively few shots fired.

After commissioner Greg Sankey’s 20-minute filibuster — and then shockingly short Q&A — three coaches made their way to the podium: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Florida’s Jim McElwain and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.

Armed with a bag full of clichés, Malzahn shed very little light on his quarterback situation. However, he did praise John Franklin III a handful of times. McElwain was long on folksiness yet short on insight, which is his rep in Gainesville. He doesn’t say much, but at least what he does say is delivered with a smile.

Mason, conversely, was just as eloquent as he was dapper. He also took no prisoners. Asked if there’s more pressure on him as a black coach, he didn’t mince words: “My ethnicity has nothing to do with my position.”

As far as the players are concerned, here are some of the comments I found to be particularly interesting.

lights, camera …

Even for a former five-star signee who is used to publicity, Media Days can be an intimidating experience.

Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams didn’t have much to offer when reporters first started asking him questions — bland, one-sentence answers. He wasn’t surrounded by local beat writers with similar agendas.

But as the interview continued, the 6-foot-4, 309-pounder started to loosen up and enjoy the process more.

“When I first came in I felt kind of nervous, all of these cameras in here,” Adams said. “But now, I feel good. I feel comfortable, and any time someone asks a question, I’m ready to answer.”

Adams was very candid about his bond with D-end Carl Lawson, who he has been around since his prep career.

“Me and Carl have known each other since 11th grade,” he said. “We played in the Junior Bowl together, and we were roommates then. We stayed right beside each other. That just made us be closer as players. That’s why we’re always together. We learn from each other.”

Gators not content

Florida exceeded expectations in 2015 winning the East. But the Gators won’t catch anyone napping in 2016.

RELATED: Jim McElwain’s curious QB room at Florida

While the D led the way a year ago, five starters were taken this past April in the NFL Draft. Even if UF still has lots of talent, you don’t just replace Jonathan Bullard, Antonio Morrison and Vernon Hargreaves.

According to linebacker Jarrad Davis, despite the myriad departures, the plan is to improve, not maintain.

Jul 11, 2016; Hoover, AL, USA; Florida player Jarrad Davis speaks to reporters during SEC media day at Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

“With the defense we had last year, it kind of set the standard,” Davis said. “It set the bar extremely high, and this year it’s the same level. But everything we do is going to be centered around taking it to the next level. You don’t want to stay the same in anything you do. You want to get better.”

Although Florida won’t be selected by the media to repeat as division champs, Davis is far from satisfied.

“Our goal as far as the SEC championship is to not only get there, but we want to win,” he said. “It is a lot to say that you made it because not everyone does, but we want to say we won it and moved on. It is something that is on our mind constantly.”

shining ‘star’

Vanderbilt’s Oren Burks was an All-SEC pick at safety a year ago. However, he’s no longer listed as a safety.

Due to his ability to be a playmaker in the box, coach Derek Mason is morphing Burks into a linebacker — the “star” position, specifically. He’s big enough to handle the switch at 6-foot-3 and a lean 222 pounds.

The line between safety and linebacker gets blurrier by the day with the sophistication of Mason’s system.

“The star position is a hybrid outside linebacker and safety position, so I’ll be a little bit closer to the ball and trying to make dynamic plays for the team,” Burks said. “We have a lot of depth in the safety and corner positions, so I’m excited to come down to the linebacker position and try to make some plays for the team.”

Mason wore a pair of hats in 2015, both head coach and defensive coordinator, which will continue in 2016.

“I think coach Mason is one of the greatest defensive minds in the nation, so it’ll be just a matter of us learning his scheme,” Burks said. “We’ve only used a percentage of the tools that he has in his toolbox. But I’m excited to see what he does next year, especially with the different packages we have. By moving me around, as well as the other players, he’ll be able to show off our strengths.”

pick six

  • During his opening remarks, Sankey praised Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett for abstaining from social media. Meanwhile, Sankey’s comments were being live tweeted by a league official.
  • Miraculously, in the main media room, not one question from a reporter had anything to do with satellite camps, which was a monumental upset.
  • “You gotta win the close ones.” Malzahn’s transcript contains some version of that quote several times. Clearly, that’s a point of emphasis on The Plains in 2016.
  • College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock paid the room a visit and said that there has been zero discussion about expanding the four-team playoff to six or eight teams.
  • To the delight of many, McElwain initially walked right up onto the stage and then back down the other side. A conference representative waved him off because the room wasn’t ready for him.
  • When Mason was asked about his linebacking corps, he somehow managed to seamlessly drop John F. Kennedy into the answer.


John Crist is the senior writer for Saturday Down South. You can send him an e-mail directly at jcrist@saturdaydownsouth.com or follow him on Twitter @SaturdayJC.