SEC Media Days: 5 thoughts from the week in Hoover
HOOVER, Ala. — That’s it, that’s all.
See ya later, Hoover. Though according to Paul Finebaum, we’ll never see the town again.
If SEC Media Days is indeed moving on to bigger things, I’ll say this. I enjoyed my first and only trip to Hoover. The Belk stores and massive mall really added to the atmosphere.
But seriously, I did enjoy the week at Hoover. There was some good little nuggets that came from the 4 days of non-stop SEC fun. There were also some nice big nuggets that dominated headlines.
Let’s dig into those:
1. Alabama’s denial baffles me, but that storyline will fade in a hurry
In case you missed it, I wasn’t a fan of the Alabama discussion about the title game. It’s one thing to move on from 44-16 and to simply say “Clemson was the better team. We got our butts beat and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Instead, it felt like Alabama wasn’t capable of giving Clemson the credit it deserved. Nick Saban spoke of “distractions,” while Dylan Moses didn’t even think Clemson was the best team Alabama saw last year and Jerry Jeudy said that he thought Alabama’s best was better than Clemson’s best, but that we didn’t get to see it.
Not surprisingly, Alabama’s talk of Clemson made its way to ACC Media Days, where Clemson players all but scoffed at the notion that Alabama could have changed the final result on a different day. They even said that Notre Dame was better than Alabama, which prompted a little Finebaum-Trevor Lawrence social media beef.
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) July 18, 2019
I can’t blame them. Alabama isn’t used to getting whipped 44-16, and it showed. Sure, competitors are always going to think that their best is better than their opponent. But it felt more Alabama was blaming assistants who are no longer with the program, which wasn’t the best look.
The good news is that this storyline will fade once the season starts. It’s a new year, after all. What’s the only way it comes back up again?
Alabama vs. Clemson, Part V.
2. Joe Moorhead’s humble pie
I spent all of Wednesday with Moorhead (that story will come this weekend). When I talked with the Mississippi State coach before he addressed the media, I was amazed to hear him admit that he got ahead of himself last year.
“I am not saying I’m changing what our goals are, but the approach of coming off the plane (with) guns blazing, talking about ring sizes and Heisman Trophies — and the expectation level of the team entering the season, prior to me even getting there … without knowing the kind of history and the context of how difficult it is to win in this league,” Moorhead said.
I give Moorhead a ton of credit for admitting that. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a second-year coach wiggle out of the question “what was the biggest reality check for you in your first year,” I’d be rich. Moorhead didn’t do that. Instead, he owned up to getting ahead of his skis a bit.
That type of self-awareness is a good sign in Year 2. If I’m a Mississippi State fan, I’m optimistic that his offensive identity will really come out this year. Does that mean Moorhead is backing off his desire to win an SEC Championship? Absolutely not.
But realizing that the SEC ain’t no joke was something Moorhead had to experience for himself.
3. Kellen Mond and Lamical Perine are oozing with confidence
Mond and Perine made the most noteworthy individual headlines this week. At least in terms of confidence.
On Monday, Perine kicked things off with a bang. This sequence from the Florida running back was epic:
Lamical Perine asked about telling Nick Saban “no” when Alabama tried to flip his commitment.
Reporter: Nobody says no to Nick Saban.
Perine: “Lamical Perine did.”
— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) July 15, 2019
Perine also denounced Tennessee as a rival and said that he wasn’t an Auburn fan “at all” because they called him slow.
Perine seems poised for a big year in the Florida backfield, and certainly his comments in Hoover reflected how much he believes in himself.
Speaking of believing in oneself, the A&M quarterback said that he thinks he’s the best quarterback in the SEC.
Kellen Mond on SEC's talented QBs: 'In my opinion, I'm the best one'https://t.co/fu1WP3F4Ho
— SEC Football News (@SECfootball) July 16, 2019
Mond cited his Year 2 jump and how well he performed in Jimbo Fisher’s system. He praised Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm and Joe Burrow, but Mond repeated that he thought he was the best of that group.
If Mond really is the best, he’ll compete for a Heisman Trophy and lead A&M to its first Playoff berth. If he does it with that schedule, he can say whatever he wants.
4. SEC quarterbacks are more impressive than ever
Speaking of Mond, I was extremely impressed with how each of the 9 SEC quarterbacks handled themselves in Hoover.
None of them looked like they were in over their heads. That includes the likes of redshirt freshman Matt Corral, who was easily the youngest and least-experienced player representative of the week (he also did a good job of addressing the Egg Bowl brawl), and Feleipe Franks, who had all the right things to say about his roller-coaster career.
In a week in which 9 SEC quarterbacks represented their respective teams — it probably could’ve been 10 or 11 — you couldn’t really find someone who didn’t act beyond their age.
I really enjoyed hearing how professional Kelly Bryant and Joe Burrow came across. They walked and talked like seniors who understood the bigger picture, but you could tell they were enjoying the moment. Fromm was a bit more cliché, as was Tagovailoa, but they still were confident in what they said and came across comfortable with more eyes on them than anyone.
If Media Days was any indication, this has the makings of a big year for SEC quarterbacks.
5. Florida and Georgia played nice … and smart with their approaches
I was waiting for Florida-Georgia fireworks. But much like Fourth of July, they seemed to be in the rearview mirror. Too bad.
Every time a Florida or Georgia player was asked about the rivalry or each other’s fans, nobody took the bait. We didn’t get some lofty guarantee about this year’s game, and the attention to the social media battle between the 2 fanbases was a non-discussion (Kirby Smart did say the word “trolling” but said he didn’t get into that).
About the only noteworthy thing a player on both teams said about the fans was Perine saying that he thought the Florida fans were “bipolar.”
Lamical Perine: “Honestly, Florida might have the most bipolar fans. When we’re winning games everyone is happy. When we’re losing everyone is getting bashed from the coaches to the equipment guys, even kickers.”
— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) July 15, 2019
Go figure that after this offseason, the most interesting comment was friendly fire.
Perhaps we should have expected this. After all, Dan Mullen has been called out several times this offseason for his shots at the Dawgs with his spring game attendance trolling and the post-Justin Fields transfer comment about freshmen leaving campus. Why take aim any more with football season just around the corner?
Maybe that’s a good sign that — dare I say — talkin’ season is just about over.