SEC: 20120717-sec-media-days

Video: Previewing SEC media days, Day 2

July, 17, 2012

John L. Smith and Les Miles take to the media on Day 2 with programs heading in different directions, yet still are favored to challenge in the SEC West.

SEC media days, Day 1 wrap

July, 17, 2012

Texas A&M and Missouri made their SEC debuts in two different ways at Day 1 of SEC media days.

For the full Day 1 notebook, click here.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Ace Sanders didn’t always want to be the guy.

As a kid, he wanted to take things away from the guy. He wanted to be the one who ruined things for the offensive guy and stopped the best players.

That was until tackling became harder and more painful as he got older and everyone around him got bigger. Then, he was all about making plays and having the glory as a highlight reel-making wide receiver.

[+] EnlargeAce Sanders
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireSophomore Ace Sanders returns to lead the Gamecocks' young receiving corps.
Now, he has as big a chance as ever, as he steps into the go-to role at South Carolina.

“The coaches handed the reins over to me,” Sanders said at SEC media days Tuesday. “I look over the group to make sure they know where they’re going. I have to make sure they’re on the same level as me.”

With former All-SEC stud Alshon Jeffery now in the NFL, Sanders has been left to oversee a very unproven wide receiver group in Columbia, S.C. More importantly, he has no choice but to be the guy, as he returns as the Gamecocks’ only receiving threat with 20 or more catches from last season (29).

Coach Steve Spurrier wants to air it out more this year, but he has to find more reliable receiving targets for quarterback Connor Shaw.

Sanders' numbers don’t scream “superstar,” but those around Sanders believe he’s primed for a true breakout season in 2012.

Senior safety D.J. Swearinger said Sanders has been a pain to guard because of his speed and elusiveness. The moves he can make and the separation he gets have left plenty of his defensive teammates frustrated and dizzy during practices.

“Off the line, he’s probably the quickest I’ve very seen,” Swearinger said. “A lot of people say he’s short, but he’s quick. A lot of people think he’s just quick, but he’s also fast -- he runs a 4.3 [40-yard-dash]. He’s a very quick receiver that a lot of nickels and safeties are going to have a lot of trouble with this year.”

For Sanders, who barely stands 5-foot-8 and weighs just 180 pounds, he says he’s going to have to increase his physicality this year. Growing up in south Florida, Sanders never had to worry about his size much because the talent around him was never all that big. In fact, his speed usually made him the more imposing player when he was younger.

“I kind of intimidated guys more than they intimidated me, so I got used to getting to the bigger guys when I got in college,” he said.

But when he was introduced to the SEC, he received a rude awakening.

“My freshman year, I’m lined up in the slot and I got [Dont’a] Hightower from Alabama over top of me and Courtney Upshaw over the middle, and I’m like, ‘These are the guys you want me to block as a freshman? You want me to block these guys?’” he said. “I had to get back in the weight room and hold my ground for a little bit.”

Sanders added 20 pounds and now sits in a position to scare counterparts this fall. Barely recruited by in-state powers Florida and Florida State, the Bradenton, Fla., native is ready to really make a name for himself this fall and he’s ready to help guide South Carolina’s offense.

“Ace has developed into a real top-flight receiver,” Spurrier said. “Of course, he’s always been pretty good. He’s going to have a good year.”

South Carolina will need him to.

Video: Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy

July, 17, 2012

Chris Low talks with Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy at SEC media days.

Video: South Carolina's Ace Sanders

July, 17, 2012

Chris Low talks with South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders at SEC media days.

Video: Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin

July, 17, 2012

In his first year at Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin is prepared for what the Aggies will face in the SEC.

Video: Missouri's T.J. Moe

July, 17, 2012

Edward Aschoff talks with Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe at SEC media days.

Video: Spurrier on the upcoming season

July, 17, 2012

At SEC media days, Chris Low talks with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier about the upcoming season.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Marcus Lattimore might not be in attendance at the SEC media days, but there’s been plenty of chatter about South Carolina’s star tailback.

In short, it sounds like he’s as good as new.

“He looks like the old Marcus, in and out of cuts and sudden moves,” South Carolina junior receiver Ace Sanders said. “Actually, he looks like he’s gotten bigger and stronger to me.”

Lattimore, who’s rushed for 2,015 yards and scored 27 touchdowns in 20 career games, missed the last half of the season a year ago after tearing the ACL in his left knee against Mississippi State. He’s been working feverishly ever since to get back, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that the Gamecocks’ medical staff has pronounced Lattimore 100 percent healthy to start preseason camp in August.

“He’s picked up right where he left off,” South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw said.

Sanders said Lattimore has been doing everything the entire team has been doing in offseason workouts.

"He's right there with us every day," Sanders said. "That lets you know that he's game-ready."

The best thing about Lattimore’s return is that the Gamecocks shouldn’t have to lean on him as hard as they did his first two seasons. He has 460 touches (carries and catches) in 20 career games.

“Some people say he’s the best running back in college football, and certainly two years ago, he really carried us,” Spurrier said. “Last year, when he got hurt, other guys stepped up. Brandon Wilds played well, and Kenny Miles came in the last two games and played very well.

“We have more guys now. We’re a different team when Marcus is healthy, but I’ve got a feeling that Kenny Miles will play a little bit more than he did last year.”

Shaw is eager to see what the Gamecocks’ zone read package looks like with Lattimore in the backfield. They played only one full game together last season (a 54-3 rout of Kentucky) after Shaw moved into the starting lineup. Lattimore was injured the next game against Mississippi State.

“I’m very comfortable with what we’re doing,” Shaw said. “But we’ll have a more diverse offense than just the zone read. It’s not only Marcus, either, but we have a lot of guys behind him who can play.”
HOOVER, Ala. -- It sounds like Missouri quarterback James Franklin's shoulder is ahead of schedule.

Coach Gary Pinkel said during the first day of SEC media days on Tuesday that Franklin, who underwent shoulder surgery this spring, is finally throwing a real football. Until now, he was only throwing a Nerf football.

"James is doing well," Pinkel said. "We expect him to be a 100 percent (for the season opener).

"He's ahead of schedule."

One thing Pinkel said he won't do is hesitate to play Franklin in the opener against Louisiana Tech if he's healthy. While Franklin injured his throwing shoulder, Pinkel said that if the medical staff clears him he won't wait to put him on the field.

"The medical staff will make a decision on when he plays," Pinkel said. "Whenever they say he'll play he can play. We're not going to save guys. We're not doing that. We don't do that. When they're ready to play they'll play."

Wide receiver T.J. Moe said he expects Franklin to come back stronger because he's dealt with this injury before. As a freshman, Franklin first tore his labrum when a player walked into his arm while he was attempting to throw during two-a-days and recovered just fine.

Moe also said that while Franklin hasn't been able to do much physically, that hasn't kept him from getting involved in drills. Moe said Franklin was always calling out plays during spring practice and has been during 7-on-7s.

According to Moe, Franklin's football life hasn't been too boring.

"He doesn't have to sit out everything it's just he can't do bear crawls with us, so he'll sit that drill," Moe said. "He can't do bench press, but quarterbacks don't hardly do that anyway."

The only thing Moe said might be difficult for Franklin is trying to get more reps this spring. Moe knows Franklin will try to throw as much as he can during camp, and he'll have to learn to slow things down for his shoulder.

Josey's return still unlikely

Pinkel said that while running back Henry Josey's rehab for his knee is going well, the chances of him playing this fall are still pretty slim.

"He's doing really well," Pinkel said. "It's going to be a stretch (for him to return this fall), but we're not counting him out."

Josey suffered a devastating knee injury against Texas last year, after rushing for 1,168 yards.

Pinkel said Josey has had a "remarkable attitude" throughout the entire process and added Josey will do everything he can to come back, but Pinkel wants to make sure he's completely healthy before playing him.

"The most important thing is that we get him to 100 percent, so he can be the best he can be," Pinkel said. "He's got these three years to play, so hopefully we'll get two great years out of him."

Edward Aschoff talks with South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger at SEC media days.

Video: Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope

July, 17, 2012

Chris Low talks with Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope during SEC media days.

SEC media days kick off

July, 17, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. -- SEC commissioner Mike Slive kicked off the SEC media days on Tuesday with his annual address to reporters.

Right behind him came the two newest teams to the league -- Missouri and Texas A&M.

Fittingly, two of Texas A&M’s players were sporting cowboy boots.

Senior outside linebacker Sean Porter said the Aggies got over the excitement of moving to the SEC a long time ago and are ready to see how they stack up.

They don’t plan on being anybody’s punching bag, either.

“We’re not coming into this conference and trying to make this a warm-up year,” Porter said. “We’re trying to come in and win like everybody else is trying to win.

“We don’t want anyone marking us as a win right now. We’re not training to be one of the bottom teams in the league.”

Welcome to the SEC media days

July, 17, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. -- It's the unofficial kickoff to the college football season ... the SEC media days.

We'll be here all week bringing you updates on every team, including videos, tidbits from the coaches and players in attendance and a wrap-up of every day.

On the docket today are the two new kids in town -- Missouri and Texas A&M -- along with South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

You can watch live on ESPNU and ESPN3. The festivities start today at 1 p.m. ET. Also, be sure to check out our @ESPN_SEC Twitter account, where you can find live coverage.

Well, I need to hurry over to the Wynfrey Hotel and pick up my media guides. If you don't get there early, the Alabama guides are usually gone.

Those things are hot commodities in these parts.