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SEC Media Days: Day One Recap with Greg Sankey, Mizzou, LSU and Florida

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NCAA Football: SEC Media Day

THAT WAS STILL TARGETING, DEVIN WHITE

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Sankey

As expected, the Commish was peppered with inquiries about officiating, which was considered spotty last season. One of the league’s main initiatives is the launch of a new site directed to answer questions for fans and demystify the officiating and replay review process: http://secsports.com/officiating.

Sankey also defended the half-game targeting sanction, though acknowledged that it is a messy rule:

“If we could change behaviors without penalties, I’m sure we would. But we have different types of penalties for all kinds of behaviors, and that’s a particularly dangerous play which merits that severe accountability.”

So, you can take down those billboards, LSU fans.

On Missouri’s NCAA sanctions, many feel were capricious and downright draconian, given the alleged violations:

“I’ve always reserved comment about decisions, but the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee certainly has an opportunity here [with regard to Missouri],” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

With the legalization of sports gambling, it appears as though the league is making a backdoor push to the state legislatures to halt the expansion of permissible sports betting. Already, three states have opened the doors to sports betting, and Arkansas is expected to do so this fall at its West Memphis casino.

“As I stated last year, it may be ideal for us not to experience any expansion in sports gambling. What is needed now is for our state and federal legislative leaders to enact policies, oversight and to fund enforcement of those policies and laws to make sure we are protecting the integrity of our games...”

Also of note, Sankey emphasized the mental health of student athletes, and announced that SEC Media Days will be in Nashville next year, as the league bounces these things around.

Barry Odom (Missouri)

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Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

We did have a few fireworks with the first coach to speak. Mizzou’s Barry Odom. And he had a few things to answer for, namely NCAA penalties levied against his program, the plethora of transfers, and the off-season accusations of cheating he made against Tennessee.

Thank goodness for those relatively rare bright spots: Odom is among the SEC’s dullest orators.

About the (cheating) Vols:

“Everybody is going to have a bad day. You combine that with somebody that — who’d we beat 51-17 this year? Tennessee? Yeah, those guys. They are non-stop reaching out daily [saying], ‘Hey, come here.’ The grass is not always greener somewhere else.

Jeremy and I spoke, I wasn’t just singling out one school...We are okay and everyone is a competitor and want to build their team as good as they can build it and when you have good players, that’s a good thing that people want them.”

Odom praised the build of his team, which has taken some time, but has been built inside-out — the Tigers will be very strong along both lines. Odom also praised Kelly Bryant’s skills, leadership, and “natural fit.”

Weirdly, his defense of the academic cheating scandal was far more tepid than that of the Commissioner’s. It very much seems as though he’s prepared to accept sanctions and “move along,” no matter the outcome of the school’s pending appeal.

Odom also brought up a good point about the compact recruiting schedule. While it has benefited Missouri, as he notes, with the ESP, “June is just gone — visits, camps.” He seems to be indicating that so far, as most anticipated, the early period is definitely helping the P5 programs.

Dan Mullen (Florida)

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“Can I interest you in some Scripturally-approved diet supplements?”

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Mullen is always one of the most upbeat attendees at SECMD. And this year, there was extra pep in his step. For very good reason too: the Gators are loaded and veteran on offense, the Bulldogs are rebuilding, and there is still talent on defense. This is a chance for Mullen to make a splash after ending last season with a lot of momentum.

To his credit, Mullen isn’t shying away from those expectations either:

“I like to set the bar really high. I don’t know if there’s anybody out there that has higher expectations for the team as a program than I do. We like to set that bar high, and we’re constantly striving to be the absolute best that we can be...I kind of like them, having expectations, and I like guys in our program having expectations and expect great things from themselves, expect great things from the team and expect great things from the program.”

However, when given a chance to push for the UGA-UF game to be on-campus, he averred. Likewise, when pressed about the nature of the UGA-UF rivalry — one that has been red-hot this offseason, Mullen hemmed and hawed about Florida having many rivals that can lay claim to being the biggest one. This very public backing down to Georgia, beef that he started I add, was very unseemly if swagger and confidence were the goals. Georgia has already won the mind game it seems.

But, perhaps the most interesting thing he said was about the nature of college ball, where matchups aren’t as critical as they are in the NFL. And, as a spread guy, someone who wants to put his best players in space by exploiting matchups, it makes a lot of sense:

I think one thing if you look at football, there isn’t very much of a match-up game. It’s something that we started to really work on about 15 years ago when they created the offenses how to create advantageous matchups out there on the field. How to take -- how to work to get one of our better players or our best players on one of your weaker players.

So I think that was always a big focus that we have. If you look at the football at the next level in the NFL, that’s a huge focus in the NFL of how to create different matchups on the field. Because of that, I think defenses have done a great job over the years of trying to adjust to that. Okay. If you’re creating this matchup over here offensively, how do we defend and not allow you to create a huge advantageous matchup on you. It’s just part of the chess game back and forth.

On the Transfer Portal:

...If you’re going to have the transfer portal on this many guys enter the transfer portal in one year, I think you always have to look and say, okay, well, we’ve changed the rule over here, so we have to be willing to change the rule over here to make it fit to allow coaches to be able to best manage the roster and allow programs to manage the roster.

I’m not sure what concessions he wants to see in terms of roster management, but the Portal is giving everyone headaches.

Ed Orgeron (LSU)

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Well, that was certainly something, Coach O. He said 10 wins weren’t very good, took shots at Ishmael Sopsher, and basically sold this team as a reincarnation of the ‘85 Bears. I’m not sure if he’s selling us on this, gaslighting the country, or if he actually believes this stuff.

I do know that if this team fails to win at least 10 games, he has no one to blame for his head being on pike other than the guy in the mirror. It was a masterclass in failing to manage expectations.

On Ishmael Sopsher, whom LSU lost to Alabama in a very humiliating recruiting war:

“It’s a battle, especially for that area. We feel that we got the best player on that team. Devonta Lee had a great state championship game. He played offense, he played defense. He’s a great young man. Again, he wanted to come to LSU. His family, they wanted to be there. He never wavered. He went to take a couple visits. We felt he’s a high-character young man and he’s going to have a great career...

Some of the day was spent talking about the team’s weaknesses (too many deep balls allowed, failure to generate a pass rush with the down four.) But, at the same time, he said things like “this is the best group of DBs I’ve coached in 35 years,” which seems...dubious.

He also praised the offense to the moon, esp. Burrow and new OC Joe Brady:

We had Joe Brady come over and talk about RPOs run-pass options. He did a tremendous job. Coach (Sean) Payton asked me not to talk to him until the season was over, but once it was he came over and has done a tremendous job.

Yeah, I get that the LSU offense is trying to modern-up. But given Burrow’s strength, I’m not sold that a pro spread is JB’s game — not coming from Meyer’s power-spread system. Weirdly, last year’s ball control scheme may have been the better one for him than the new spread.

Expect to see the QBs running a lot more this year too. Packages have been installed for Myles Brennan — and O flat-out said they were running concepts, and he plans on smashing Joe Burrow into the a dozen times a game too.

We could not run Joe as much as we wanted to last year. We’re going to do a lot more running with Joe this year.

I don’t know, man. With Burrow’s limitations as a passer, Brennan’s even worse passing skills, key losses on defense, and a schedule featuring Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M, Florida and Auburn — this just seemed like an overaggressive overreach for a team that was an illusory 10-3 last year and that hasn’t sniffed Atlanta in almost a decade.