Day 3 SEC Media Days
Yesterday we learned that Joker Phillips thinks its time for the Kentucky Football program to take the next step, that last year was year zero for Derek Dooley's coaching staff, and that when Gene Chizik's head hits his pillow at night he sleeps well.While Mark Richt was talking, he was questioned by his own offensive lineman Ben Jones. We even had a rumor that LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard had been suspended, but this was later said to be false by LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette. The final day is certain to be action packed, especially when you consider the huge amount of Alabama fans that will be in attendance to see Nick Saban and company.
The superstars of Birmingham, the Alabama Crimson Tide roll into the final day of SEC Media Days coming off a 10-3 record and a crushing of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. This year's team is thought by many to be a National Championship Contender. With 17 starters returning there are very few holes on this Alabama Football team, but the quarterback position does have some questions. AJ McCarron is the projected starter for Alabama, but could get a push from Phillip Sims. If Alabama is to win its 2nd National Championship under Saban then they will need to get solid play from McCarron. While Saban is never the most entertaining of speakers at SEC Media Days, he is the top coach in the league right now.
Trent Richardson will likely be the most popular player for the Tide at SEC Media Days. Richardson will take over as the starter running back for Heisman Winner Mark Ingram. Few doubt the talent of Richardson, but he has yet to prove that he can carry the load for a team like a Marcus Lattimore or Knile Davis has. Richardson will be joined by All American Mark Barron and All SEC linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
Last year Vanderbilt interim head coach Robbie Caldwell told us all stories about his days inseminating turkeys. Caldwell had the media in attendance rolling in laughter, but failed to produce in his one year as head coach as the 'Dores finished the year 2-10. This season it will be more about business when James Franklin steps up to the mic. Franklin was the former coach in waiting and offensive coordinator at Maryland the last several seasons. So far the new Vanderbilt head man has been impressive recruiting by landing eleven players rated 3 stars or better by Rivals. This year's team won't see those recruits, but they will see 18 returning starters and should see actual signs of an offense.
Quarterback Larry Smith has never seen a Commodore offense average more than 20 points a game in his 3 years at Vanderbilt. Smith has the honor of being the only Vanderbilt QB to start a bowl game in nearly 30 years. He's seen action in each of his first 3 years, but has never thrown for more than 1,300 yards in a season. When Vandy has won games over the last few years it has been on defense.Two players from that side of the ball will be in Birmingham today, CB Casey Hayward and LB Chris Marve.
One of the most exciting speakers in the SEC is Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. As hard as it is to believe Nutt has the longest consecutive tenure in the SEC among head coaches. Houston has not missed a SEC Media Days since he left Boise State to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks for the 1998 season. Nutt enters his 4th year at Ole Miss on a bit of a hot seat after a 4-8 finish last year that included losses to Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt, and rival Mississippi State. One thing that will be interesting about Nutt today is how he responds to some of the comments that Dan Mullen made Wednesday about MSU being "The State University of Mississippi". It will also be interesting to see if anyone in the media questions Nutt about taking in another transfer at QB this season. This could be the last time we see Houston at a SEC Media Days event, so get ready for some entertaining quotes and funny photos.
In a league that is stacked with great running backs this season, one player that overlooked is Ole Miss senior runningback Branden Bolden. Having played behind a great player like Dexter McCluster his first two seasons, Bolden wasn't the feature back at Ole Miss. Last season he was able to have a solid year with over 900 yards rushing. He enters his senior season only needing 929 yards to become the school's all time leading rusher. 6th year senior Kentrell Lockett will be at media days after an ACL injury a year ago as will All SEC Tackle Bradley Sowell.
The last two days have not been kind to LSU Coach Les Miles. Two days ago it was reported that the recruiting tapes LSU purchased from Willie Lyles were of poor quality and little recruiting value to them. This brings to question what exactly was LSU paying Lyles for. That will be the big question that Miles is faced with today, but there will be others relating to on the field issues. Miles' team is expected to contend for a SEC and possible National Championship this year. To improve on an offense that only scored more than 30 points twice in SEC play a year ago, LSU brought in former Louisville Head Coach Steve Kragthorpe. Many believe Kragthorpe is the key to an improved offense, but it should be noted that Louisville only averaged 18 ppg in its last season under Kragthorpe. In its last 3 years under Bobby Petrino, the Cardinals averaged over 40 points per game.
Jordan Jefferson is still the starting QB at LSU, despite the thought of many that Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger might steal the job. Jefferson did look better towards the end of last season, but still only passed for 7 TDs and had 10 interceptions. LSU has a very difficult schedule this year out of conference with games against Oregon and West Virginia. If the Tigers are going to be legit National Championship Contenders then Jefferson must show he can consistently move an offense.
Russell Shepard was supposed to be at SEC Media Days for LSU, but due to personal issues will not be available to the press. Instead the Tigers will bring along senior Ryan Baker and offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert. Hebert, the son of former Saints' QB Bobby Hebert had an interesting 2010. First, he was arrested in early May 2010 for a DWI. Then he makes up for it by saving the game for the Tigers in the Tennessee Game. Hebert was the center who snapped the ball when Tennessee had to many players on the field, giving the Tigers one last chance to escape with victory.
Today will mark the end of the 2011 SEC Media Days. It has been an entertaining couple of days that has given fans some real college football talk for the first time since spring practices ended. With practice only two weeks away it will soon be time for the South to buckle of the chin-straps and get ready for another exciting season of SEC Football.