DESTIN, Fla. -- Now that the SEC spring meetings are concluding, let’s whip through a 20-point inspection from the meeting rooms, lobbies (and beaches) at the Sandestin Hilton:
1. There’s no doubt that some type of expansion is coming in college athletics, and there’s no doubt that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has a plan in place.
2. No, he’s not divulging that plan and doesn’t feel like there’s any rush to do anything at this point. But he won’t be slow to pull the trigger if he thinks the league can strengthen itself. The SEC feels like it’s very much in the driver’s seat no matter what happens.
3. Two of the possibilities that popped up the most during casual conversation with coaches, athletic directors and other league officials were Texas and Virginia Tech. Both are tailor-made for the SEC in football, and it would be two brand new markets you’d be adding to the league.
4. Noting how crazy it’s been in the Big 12 for the last several weeks, Slive said there was a “sense of calm and sense of togetherness” within the SEC.
5. There was far too much talk in the league last season about the officiating to suit Slive. As far as he’s concerned, nobody (at least nobody he can control) will be talking about it in 2010. “We’re through with public comments about officiating. The conference is through with public comments. The coaches are through with public comments about officiating, and in terms of accountability, we’ve walked the walk and talked the talk.”
6. Florida coach Urban Meyer looks like a completely different guy than the one I remember from last December at the SEC championship game. I still don’t know if he’ll coach a lot longer than five more years, but he’s ready to go this season in what will be a bit of a change for the Gators. Suddenly, they’re not the team everybody is talking about in the national championship race. But they’re still the Gators. “There’s not many stadiums we walk into where it’s not the game of the year,” Meyer said. “That’s the way it is. The one thing about this league is they’re a bunch of hunters in this league.”
7. Losing to Alabama in last season’s SEC championship game wasn’t the hardest part for Meyer. It was the way his team performed in that game (or didn’t perform) that was so difficult to accept. “We missed over 20 tackles and had a couple of turnovers, so we didn’t play the way we took great pride in," Meyer said. "That’s what happens when you play that way against great people. You get exposed.” The Gators were 45-2 under Meyer in games where they had single-digit missed tackles going into that Alabama contest.
8. Even though he no longer has Tim Tebow, Meyer is adamant about keeping the “Tim Tebow package" as a part of Florida’s offense. He said converted tight end Jordan Reed and true freshman quarterback Trey Burton both looked good in the spring. “We’ll certainly have two elements. We believe at Florida that one dimension is not who we are and how we’re going to move the ball. We’re going to have that element that’s not Johnny (Brantley) that you have to prepare for.”
9. Imagine that. Even Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs thinks Alabama is getting the shaft this season in having to face six teams in the league coming off bye weeks. “It’s unfair and has to be fixed,” Jacobs said. “I don’t know when it will be fixed. None of us want to be in that position, even though they won them all [in 2009].”
10. You gotta love LSU coach Les Miles’ response when asked if he considered cowbells an artificial noisemaker. “Maybe not in a pasture,” Miles said.
11. Alabama coach Nick Saban had the word of the week, referring to stuff he doesn’t want to deal with as “mouse manure.”
13. The more you hear Richt talk about Murray, the more obvious it is that he was going to be the guy all along. “He led his team to a state championship and understands the team concept,” Richt said. “He’s got a very strong arm, a quick release and is more mobile than most people give him credit for. He’s very strong. If you saw him with his shirt off, you’d be surprised how physically strong he is.”
14. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier had every chance to back off on some of his tough talk concerning junior quarterback Stephen Garcia, but the closest the Head Ball Coach would come to saying anything positive about Garcia was something along the lines of “Maybe he’ll come around. We hope he will. We’ll just have to see.”
15. Speaking of Spurrier, he’s as funny as ever … even when he’s not trying to be. He’s one of those rare head coaches who says whatever’s on his mind and doesn’t care who’s standing around to hear it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say something was off the record.
16. It sounds like Barbara Dooley, the mother of first-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, has been talking a little too much for Dooley’s taste. “My mom showed up at the Atlanta Big Orange Caravan wrapped in orange,” Dooley said. “I had to remind her that the event was not for her. She’s developed a little bit of an icon status in Tennessee, and I’ve had to ban her from the state.” Asked why he banned her, Dooley cracked, “Because she violated the media policy, and she doesn’t really give a damn what I say.”
17. While Dooley is careful not to criticize his predecessor, Lane Kiffin, it’s obvious he wasn’t too keen on Kiffin’s “Lil Wayne talking trash” approach. “It wasn’t my style. It was Lane’s style, and that’s not to be critical," Dooley said. "I just don’t think it helps you win football games getting in verbal attacks with other people.”
18. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said the Rebels will have a package in place at quarterback for incoming junior college transfer Randall Mackey. “He’ll get a crash course. We’ll give him a small package and see if we can’t get him a role. He looks beautiful on film and has some unbelievable talent. Now, he’s just stepping on our campus, and SEC speed is different. There’s the playbook. So let’s see how he adjusts and how mature he is. Hopefully, there’s a role for him. We’ve got to give him the ball.”
19. Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said it’s going to be critical that younger players come through in the offensive line and at receiver this season. The Commodores signed a pair of 6-4 receivers in Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews, and Johnson is also eager to see what incoming freshman receiver Trent Pruitt of Fitzgerald, Ga., can do when preseason practice begins.
20. The SEC athletic directors approved a proposal that would still allow Mississippi State fans to ring their cowbells next season. But here’s the catch: They won’t be allowed to ring them while the game is being played. Timeouts are fine. The pregame is fine. Change of possessions are fine. But with the other team facing third-and-12 and backed up against its own goal line is not fine. It’s a compromise of sorts, and Mississippi State could potentially face fines if cowbells continue to clang away while the game is being played. Something tells me the Mississippi State athletic department had better be ready to ante up.