ATLANTA — Let me be clear.
Nobody “lost” SEC Media Days. Had an SEC coach or player dropped a Larry Fedora-like quote, perhaps I could make the argument that they took an “L.” That didn’t happen.
I preface that because if you read the title, you know that this is a column about winners and losers from SEC Media Days. And if I just broke that news to you, perhaps your title reading skills aren’t so great.
To me, winners are the teams who capitalized on the media days platform and the losers are those who didn’t. Does anything at media days impact anything that happens on the field in 2018? Probably not.
But anyways, these are my winners and losers from Atlanta.
I’ll be honest. I can’t say that I’ve spent a ton of time listening to Barry Odom speak to large crowds. But I came away extremely impressed. He seemed relaxed, but focused. In many ways, he came off as the most approachable SEC coach, which I wouldn’t have expected heading into the week. This said it all:
Odom is incredibly genuine and likable. Can really tell how grateful he is to not only be a coach but to also have a positive impact on the lives of young men. #Mizzou
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) July 18, 2018
Odom also had a moment where before SEC Media Days staple Bob Holt asked him a question, the Mizzou coach interrupted him and told him that Holt had seniority on him. To that, Holt said that “he wished he was paid as much as you guys.”
You had to be there. Just trust me. It was hilarious.
There was also Odom’s response to Cece Jefferson’s bashing of Mizzou’s weak home crowd atmosphere.
“I think the score was 45-16,” Odom said. “I thought our fanbase was pretty good that day.”
Besides Odom having a solid showing in Atlanta, his first-round quarterback prospect did, as well. Drew Lock didn’t come off like a first-round quarterback with a bunch of canned answers. Our Adam Spencer asked Lock what he missed about playing basketball all the time, to which he responded “the s—talking.” Lock also got a chance to address Tom Herman’s mocking of his touchdown celebration at the Texas Bowl.
Yeah, this quote was awesome, too:
Drew Lock was asked about Tom Herman’s mocking of his TD celebration.
“I got to do it a lot last season. About 44 times.” pic.twitter.com/QY2tBk60Gw
— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) July 18, 2018
I don’t know how many points Mizzou is going to score under Derek Dooley, but I know that the Tigers scored a ton of points in my book this week.
I had a feeling that Joe Moorhead would crush his first press conference in the SEC. He definitely won the award for “most confident coach” in Atlanta. For the vast majority of his time at the podium, he stood there with his hands in his pockets like he was casually talking to his buddies.
Moorhead definitely won some MSU fans over by saying the goal was “to be the best Power 5 team in the state.” Gee, I wonder who he’s talking about? My favorite Moorhead moment was his response to my question about his “welcome to the South” moment.
“I guess stepping out of your front door every day and being smacked in the face with humidity, that’s a pretty good ‘welcome to the South’ moment,” Moorhead said. “And then everything being wrapped in bacon. That’s pretty good, too.”
Just in case that wasn’t enough to make you like Moorhead, Nick Fitzgerald told the story about after the new coach was hired. Moorhead shot Fitzgerald a text, which said that he wanted him to figure out his ring size — that was the same thing he told other MSU players when he met in person — and that he wanted Fitzgerald to clear a space on his mantel for his Heisman Trophy.
Moorhead wreaks of swagger. I mean, the dude said his walkup song would be “Victory” by Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy.
That’s a win for that comment alone.
I wondered if Jeremy Pruitt was going to be extremely blunt at his first SEC Media Days. Pruitt was still himself — he told the story about thinking Eli Wolf was a manager and questioning if he could even block the Tennessee coach — but not in a post-spring game way. He had a great little soundbite after someone asked him a question about what advice he got from his former boss, Nick Saban.
“You think Saban’s gonna give me some advice?” Pruitt joked.
Pruitt handled himself well in Atlanta. He even waited back on a curveball and knocked it out of the park. He was asked about Aaron Murray’s comment that questioned Pruitt’s personality as a head coach.
Jeremy Pruitt on Aaron Murray’s criticism: “15 years ago, I was a kindergarten teacher. Now, I’m the head coach at Tennessee. You probably don’t make that ascension without knowing how to treat people.”
— David Ubben (@davidubben) July 18, 2018
Another fair point.
I didn’t find myself disagreeing or really questioning anything that Pruitt had to say, unlike his predecessor. I don’t know if that’ll translate into any short- or long-term success, but I know that Tennessee isn’t turning into anyone’s punching bag with Pruitt running the show.
That was a much-needed precedent to set. Pruitt did just that Wednesday.
I wasn’t sure how Jimbo Fisher was going to answer a question I had locked and loaded for him. I repeated his quote from 2017 ACC Media Days about the ACC establishing itself as “the premier conference in college football” and asked him how he felt about that a year later.
To me, his answer wasn’t great for either conference. He didn’t want to declare a “premier conference,” but he instead said that he believed the SEC elevated the ACC into what it is today. Is that probably true? Sure. Did that answer my question? Nope.
So when given an opportunity, Fisher did tout the SEC. Oh well. That’s not that bad of a look, though it is somewhat noteworthy in my opinion.
A worse look was what Jarrett Stidham said about the Aggies’ previous staff. Apparently Kevin Sumlin didn’t exactly go all in to land the talented Texas native when he became available on the transfer market.
“Honestly, coach Sumlin, he didn’t recruit me too hard. I probably tried to recruit myself to A&M a little bit harder,” Stidham said while meeting with reporters at SEC Media Days on Thursday. “Just because it was in-state, it was right down the road from where I was there in Waco. I had some family go to A&M before. Ideally, A&M was a close spot, I could see my family whenever I wanted and that kind of thing.
“But at the end of the day, I honestly kind of knew from the get-go that I was probably going to end up at Auburn. Regardless of going through the recruiting process again or not, I think I kind of knew that Auburn was the spot for me, and sure enough, it worked out.”
Would Stidham have saved Sumlin’s job? We’ll never know. But Stidham would have at least been an upgrade at the most important position during Sumlin’s final season.
But hey, the Aggies got their man in the end. Fisher is still a major win.
To me, the top loser of the weekend was Florida. Honestly, that didn’t have anything to do with what Dan Mullen said in his first SEC Media Days as Florida’s new coach. And no, I’m not hating on his kicks.
I’m hating on Florida’s new uniforms. Rather, the “big reveal” of Florida’s new uniforms.
Florida made this big reveal for the new Air Jordan jerseys, and as it turned out … they were almost identical to their old uniforms. They switched the side of the logo so that the Jumpman is on the left, which is really the only notable difference with their past Nike jerseys:
— CollegeFootball News (@CFBNewsToday) April 11, 2018
I mean, I get it. Having a big reveal is all the rage, but let’s be honest. It’s just like adding a logo to a jersey. Cool, I guess.
But anyway, the other thing that bothered me more was what Jefferson said about Mizzou.
Here was his full comment about playing in Columbia last year (Mizzou won 45-16):
I asked Florida defensive lineman Cece Jefferson what he remembered about #Mizzou last year that made them so tough to defend (Missouri won 45-16).
Bashing their fans wasn’t quite the kind of answer I was expecting, but wow. pic.twitter.com/mRJviphkOk
— Bennett Durando (@BennettDurando) July 17, 2018
Woah. I liked Jefferson’s comfortability with the media, but you can bet the Florida sports information department had some thoughts on that. That’s just not a smart thing to say about a team that destroyed you last year.
I mean, maybe he just said that because he knows Florida doesn’t have to play at Mizzou this year. The Gators do, obviously, still play against the Tigers … which they scheduled as their homecoming game.
Hmmmm. Methinks Mizzou might have a chip on its shoulder for that trip down to Gainesville.