SEC: SEC 2011 Destin

SEC announces early-season TV times

June, 2, 2011
DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC announced the television schedule Thursday for several of the matchups the first three weeks of the season.

Kentucky will kick off the season for SEC teams when the Wildcats take on Western Kentucky on a Thursday night (Sept. 1) in a 9:15 p.m. ET game on ESPNU.

The BYU-Ole Miss kickoff on Sept. 3 is set for 4:45 p.m. ET and will be televised by ESPN. The Georgia-South Carolina game on Sept. 10 will also be an ESPN contest and kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET.

The Mississippi State at Auburn contest on Sept. 10 will be carried by the SEC Network and kick off at 12:21 p.m. ET.

Tennessee's visit to Florida on Sept. 17 will be a CBS national contest and kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Here's an updated look at the rest of the early-season schedule involving SEC teams:


Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky (Nashville, Tenn.), ESPNU, 9:15 p.m. ET


Utah State at Auburn, ESPN or ESPNU, noon ET
Kent State at Alabama, SEC Network, 12:21 p.m. ET
BYU at Ole Miss, ESPN, 4:45 p.m. ET
LSU vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas), ABC, 8 p.m. ET
Boise State vs. Georgia (Atlanta), ESPN, 8 p.m. ET

SEPT. 10

Mississippi State at Auburn, SEC Network, 12:21 p.m. ET
Cincinnati at Tennessee, ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET
South Carolina at Georgia, ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET

SEPT. 15

LSU at Mississippi State, ESPN, 8 p.m. ET

SEPT. 17

Auburn at Clemson, ABC, noon ET
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, SEC Network, 12:21 p.m. ET
Tennessee at Florida, CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET
Navy at South Carolina, ESPN2, 6 p.m. ET

OCT. 1

Ole Miss at Fresno State, ESPN2, 9:15 p.m. ET

Different challenge for Auburn

June, 2, 2011
DESTIN, Fla. -- The "year after" for Auburn is markedly different than it was for the two national champions that preceded the Tigers out of the SEC.

Florida won in 2008 and was the overwhelming pick to win again in 2009. The Gators ended up losing in the SEC championship game to Alabama.

Alabama won in 2009 and was the pick to win again in 2010. The Crimson Tide didn't even get to the SEC championship game.

Auburn, coming off its 14-0 march to the 2010 national championship, isn't on anybody's radar to repeat in 2011. The Tigers lost just about everybody from a year ago, including the Heisman Trophy winner (quarterback Cam Newton) and Lombardi Award winner (defensive tackle Nick Fairley).

Only six starters return from their national championship team, which means the competition for positions will be fierce once preseason camp begins.

It also means there won't be nearly the sense of entitlement for some of the players that was maybe the case at Alabama last season and Florida in 2009.

"It’s a different dynamic than maybe Florida or Alabama had," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Our guys are hungry. There’s no question that they’ve really, really worked hard in the last four months or so since January. It’s really been a joy for me to watch, guys coming back and getting back into it that fast, being hungry and being excited about competing and trying to win a job. That’s where we’re at."

Chizik said Jan. 10 seems like forever ago, especially with how drastically different Auburn's depth chart looks now compared to what it looked like going into the BCS National Championship Game matchup with Oregon.

"It’s different for us," Chizik said. "What you’re going to see at Auburn is a lot of new faces and a lot of new names. We’ve got guys just fighting for jobs continuously on our roster.

"There are very few positions settled on our roster. Our players understand that we’ve put (the 2010 national title) in our rear-view mirror and have moved on."

Video: Kentucky coach Joker Phillips

June, 2, 2011

Edward Aschoff talks with Kentucky coach Joker Phillips about oversigning.
DESTIN, Fla. -- June is here which means freshmen will be too.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss released their lists of freshmen who made it onto campus this week.

The Bulldogs welcomed 14 true freshmen and transfer Brandon Maye. Maye, a senior linebacker, played three seasons at Clemson. He started 33 games for the Tigers and compiled 233 total tackles. The three-time Academic All-ACC selection graduated with his bachelor's degree in May and will compete for the open spot at middle linebacker.

Here is a list of the 14 other newcomers for the Bulldogs:

S Dee Arrington
CB Taveze Calhoun
WR Devin Fosselman
ATH Zachary Jackson
DT P.J. Jones
OT Daniel Knox
OT James Maiden
OT Justin Malone
ATH Kendrick Market
ATH Benardrick McKinney
RB Derrick Milton
WR Joe Morrow
DE Preston Smith
TE Rufus Warren

Sixteen Ole Miss newcomers arrived Wednesday, including Mississippi’s top recruit linebacker C.J. Johnson. With senior defensive tackle Shackelford going down with a season-ending knee injury this spring, Johnson will be expected to compete for his spot this fall.

Here are the rest of youngsters that arrived in Oxford:

OG Justin Bell
RB Chelarvez Brown
LB Serderius Bryant
DT Uriah Grant
OT Mitch Hall
DT Woodrow Hamilton
OT Ethan Hutson
QB Maikhail Miller
WR Donte Moncrief
WR Collins Moore
OT Aaron Morris
S Denzel Nkemdiche
ATH Cody Prewitt
DE Kameron Wood
WR T.J. Worthy
DESTIN, Fla. -- It appears the Janoris Jenkins saga is finally over with in Gainesville, Fla.

Wednesday, Florida Today first reported that the former Florida cornerback pled no contest to possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Jenkins was given no probation or community service, but was ordered to pay a fine of $421.

The All-SEC corner was dismissed from the team by new coach Will Muschamp in late April after being arrested on marijuana possession charges for the second time in the span of three months. Jenkins was also arrested in June of 2009 after being involved in a fight outside a downtown bar.

"Whether Mr. Jenkins wants to learn a lesson from the last few months or not is up to him,'' State Attorney Bill Cervone told Florida Today. "If he can't figure out that smoking pot is illegal maybe he can at least learn to be more circumspect about it.''

Regardless of Jenkins' major goof(s) this spring, he cost himself millions by deciding to stay in school. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and it should be encouraged, in retrospect he’s no doubt wishing he had left. Who would have thought that Jenkins electing to stay his senior season might have ended up costing him almost everything?

The question now is if his actions will cost him millions next year.

One of the reasons Jenkins decided to stay was because he suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder at the beginning of last season. The injury would have inhibited what he could have done at the NFL combine this year, so he underwent surgery and decided it would be best to return and go through another season at full health.

It made perfect sense at the time, but two extremely poor decisions changed everything. Florida lost its best defensive player and Jenkins lost another shot at the college limelight.

Jenkins is still exploring his options and could still end up in the supplemental draft that will be held in July if there are applicants.

Jenkins could very well do that, or he could follow the rumor mill and head to Division II North Alabama, where some have him going.

It might be smarter for him to go the D-2 route and take a year to mature and show that his shoulder is fine. Jenkins was one of the best cover corners in the country last season and ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has him listed as a top-10 pick in next year's draft.

Uncertainty with the NFL might push him toward the college ranks as well.

Change would be good for Jenkins. He's done in Gainesville and done with the Gators. He needs to find a new place where he can reshape his image. He needs to stay away from guilty pleasures and concentrate on his future because there’s no he's an outstanding player, but who knows if he’s worth the investment.

Video: SEC spring meetings Day 2 wrap

June, 1, 2011

Chris Low and Edward Aschoff break down the second day from the SEC spring meetings.
DESTIN, Fla. -- Stephen Garcia is arguably the most suspended player in college football history.

But this time, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier insists that Garcia really is down to his last chance.

“One more, and he’ll be finished,” Spurrier said Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeSouth Carolina's Stephen Garcia
Frankie Creel/US PresswireSouth Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says quarterback Stephen Garcia is down to his last chance.
For the record, Garcia has been suspended five times, including for all or parts of three spring practices.

His most recent suspension came after he became disruptive and was asked to leave an SEC-mandated life skills/leadership seminar in April. Garcia admitted to Spurrier that he’d been drinking prior to the event while celebrating a teammate’s birthday.

At the time, there were several associated with the program who felt Spurrier might send Garcia packing for good, especially considering how much Spurrier has publicly lamented Garcia’s lack of commitment and flimsy work ethic the past two years.

But Spurrier was singing a different tune Wednesday now that Garcia has been reinstated on a probationary basis for summer workouts.

“He’s made a life-change commitment,” Spurrier said. “He’s changed a lot about his life. He’s a changed person right now. Hopefully, he’ll stay that way.”

Spurrier wasn’t promising anything other than Garcia was getting one last chance.

Asked pointedly if he believed in Garcia, Spurrier responded, “I believe he’s worthy of another chance.”

Spurrier also hinted that Garcia could be sharing the quarterback duties this fall with sophomore Connor Shaw.

“Of the eight conference championships I’ve been fortunate enough to win, four of them we’ve played two quarterbacks,” Spurrier said. “So you can play two. It’s no big deal.”

One of Garcia’s biggest supporters through his series of off-the-field missteps has been Spurrier’s wife, Jerri.

“She’s been his baby-sitter,” Spurrier said. “I think she drove him to about 75 to 100 of his community hours he had to do after his first or second suspension.”

As for Garcia’s teammates, Spurrier said the majority were in favor of giving him another shot.

“Most of them wanted him back and hoped he could learn how to act a little bit better,” Spurrier said.

Ultimately, Spurrier said it’s going to be up to Garcia to make the most of this last chance. A fifth-year senior, Garcia could become the Gamecocks’ all-time leading passer in both career yardage and touchdowns with a senior season comparable to the one he put together as a junior.

Spurrier hopes Garcia has finally gotten the message, but he will reserve judgment.

“It’s too early,” Spurrier said.
DESTIN, Fla. -- Leave it to Steve Spurrier to steal some of the attention away from oversigning.

On Wednesday, South Carolina’s coach dropped a new idea for paying student-athletes -- and it won’t cost the universities a dime (or so he says).

Spurrier proposed that SEC coaches give $300 “out of their own pockets” to 70 football players for each game during the season. The stipend would cover family travel, lodging, food and even a night out with a significant other.

That’s $21,000 a game and $294,000 a season if a team plays 14 games.

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
Kevin Liles/US PresswireSteve Spurrier thinks players should should get a little money out the coaches pockets.
“I doubt it will get passed, but us coaches in the SEC, we make all the money -- as do universities and television [networks] -- and we need to give more to our players,” Spurrier said during the second day of the SEC spring meetings.

“We’d like to make that happen. It probably won’t, but we’d love to do it.”

By a bunch of coaches, Spurrier meant seven, including himself, which he read off by name to the media. The six others in favor of Spurrier’s proposal were Alabama coach Nick Saban, Florida’s Will Muschamp, LSU’s Les Miles, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt and Tennessee’s Derek Dooley.

“Now, the other guys didn’t want to talk about it, but those guys, they thought it was a good idea,” Spurrier said.

One of the “other guys” was Kentucky coach Joker Phillips. Phillips said the idea was well received by the coaches, but he wasn’t ready to sign off on it because it wasn’t a standard deal. The importance of the proposal, Phillips said, is that it should stir the debate about helping student-athletes financially.

“One of the things is we had a dialogue with it,” Phillips said. “We’ve talked about having a way to put up money to allow the prospects to get some type of expense money.”

There are a few issues that Spurrier’s plan runs into. For starters, the idea of a major conference paying its athletes outside of the rest of the NCAA won’t happen. Paying athletes is a national topic and can’t be governed by one conference.

“That’s a whole bigger conversation,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

“That’s a national legislation. That involves the cost of attendance. That involves a lot more than us 12 schools in here.

“Coach Spurrier’s desire there is part of that conversation. You just couldn’t do it individually for one sport and you couldn’t do it individually in this league.”

The next debate will come with paying athletes outside of football. Foley said that the only way to effectively pay student-athletes is to incorporate all athletes from all sports. Because of that, he thinks it will be some time before we see extra NCAA-mandated finances for student-athletes.

The bottom line is that not every school can afford to do it and those that can will gain a major competitive edge. Also, giving the SEC a chance to provide prospective athletes with even more incentive to join the conference will put other conferences at more of a competitive disadvantage.

Phillips said the SEC’s play in general puts other conferences at a competitive disadvantage and legislation like this would only enhance that.

“We’ve already won five straight crystal balls,” he said. “People think we have an advantage just being who we are. The SEC, people will look at us a little different, but they already look at us a little different.”

Spurrier’s suggestion won’t come close to flying, but it does echo the sentiments of most of the conference: Student-athletes deserve to be compensated.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said he’s been in favor of full cost of attendance for student-athletes for a long time and interprets Spurrier’s plan as more of a nice thought that helped stir the debate of paying athletes.

“My reaction was that it was a generous gesture and an expression of his concern,” Slive said. “The bottom line was that the coaches came out in support of the discussion of full cost of attendance.”

At least Spurrier is realistic about the slim chances of his proposal even sniffing legislation, but his interest appears to be in the right place.

Spurrier wants to enhance the well being of his athletes by helping them grab some of the big bucks he and his institutions bathe in.

“I just wish there was a way of giving our players a piece of the pie,” he said. “It’s so huge right now. As you know, 50 years ago, there was no kind of money and the players got full scholarships. Now, they’re still getting full scholarships and the money is in the millions. I don’t know how to get it done, but hopefully there’s a way to get our guys that play football a little piece of the pie.”
DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC presidents and chancellors will have the final say, but the football coaches said Wednesday that they were in agreement with keeping the number of players a school could sign to letters of intent each year at 28.

The whole oversigning issue has been a hot topic at the SEC spring meetings, and there was a lot of talk that the league was eyeing legislation that would effectively end oversigning and the grayshirting of players or, at the very least, significantly curb it.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, a proponent of oversigning as a way to effectively manage scholarship numbers, said the coaches were 12-0 in favor of keeping the number at 28.

“Hopefully, they will leave it there,” Spurrier said. “But if they don’t, we’ll keep playing anyway. They’re not going to cancel football.”

Even Florida’s Will Muschamp voted along with his coaching colleagues to keep the number at 28 despite Florida’s policy as a university not to oversign. The most the Gators sign every February is 25, which is the maximum number a school can enroll on scholarship each August under NCAA rules.

Critics of oversigning say existing players are squeezed out to create additional scholarship room and that grayshirting players (asking them to defer enrollment until the next January) is an unfair practice that leaves players scrambling at the last minute.

“As long as you’re up front and honest, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said.

There were several proposals tied to the oversigning issue that were discussed this week, including the current practice of players being allowed to go on scholarship for the summer, then delay enrollment until January.

Another proposal would give the league office increased oversight on those players placed on medical scholarship.

There’s a chance that some of the proposals could be tabled and some could be passed.

“There have been a lot of different philosophies and scenarios offered,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Likely, there will be some change, some now and some later.

“I think the coaches have a really good feel for the issues, but we don’t have the authority to make the decisions that give us a comfortable, easy alternative.”

That authority will fall on the chancellors and presidents, who will vote Friday.

How much the coaches’ voices will be heard remains to be seen.

“I don’t know that it’s a competitive advantage. I don’t necessarily know that is accurate,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik, responding to those people who say the SEC is at a distinct advantage over other conferences that don’t allow oversigning.

“I just know it’s very difficult to try and hit a home run 100 percent of the time, signing 25 guys and expecting 25 guys to be on your campus for fall practice. I just think there is too much margin for error in there with all the variables that can happen with a student-athlete.”

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said there’s a difference between oversigning and excessive signing.

“What I would be for is to close the loopholes and track the 28 and see if it leads us to any abuse, and I don’t think it will,” Dooley said.
DESTIN, Fla. -- Like many around the SEC, Dan Mullen saw the cowbells used at Mississippi State games as a gimmick.

Even when he took the job as the Bulldogs’ head coach in 2009 he still considered them a “neat thing” and an “amusing deal.”

[+] EnlargeCowbell
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisMindful of an SEC ruling that allows for limited cowbell ringing, this Mississippi State student dressed as a cowbell for their game against Auburn in September.
But as the issue of using cowbells returns to the SEC meetings, Mullen’s outlook on their use has transformed and he now understands the symbolism and the tradition of what the rattling of such a simple device means to a fan base and a university.

Unfortunately for Mullen, tragedy shaped Mullen’s new opinion.

Mullen and the rest of the Bulldogs family were rocked by the death of defensive end Nick Bell last fall. While at Bell’s funeral, Mullen stood and watched as Bell’s mother stood over her son’s coffin as it was being lowered into the ground. As Bell’s mother said goodbye, the thing that caught Mullen off guard was the sound of her ringing a cowbell he thought had more place being clanked inside a stadium.

Mullen watched -- and felt -- the pride she had in both her son and the tradition he stood for. It was then that he realized cowbells were no longer a silly scheme to rattle opponents.

“It’s not an amusing thing anymore,” Mullen said at the SEC spring meetings Wednesday. “It is a deep-rooted symbol and tradition of the people of the state of Mississippi and Mississippi State University.”

It was that crushing realization of how important this tradition was to everyone associated with the university that made Mullen understand that this was a practice he had to fight for.

In 2010, the SEC ruled that cowbells could be used before games, at halftime, during timeouts and after scores. Ringing of cowbells during the game action, which had become a staple of Bulldogs fans, would amount to a penalty.

The first offense would cost the school a $5,000 penalty, the second offense $25,000 and the third offense would cost $50,000.

In October, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Mississippi State had been told it violated the conference’s noisemaker policy. That prompted Mullen to tell students and fans to respect the new rule.

Now that the season is over and topic could be up for debate again, Mullen said he thinks the fans did a good job of respecting and adapting to the rule last season.

As far as the noisemakers being considered a competitive advantage for the Bulldogs, Mullen doesn’t agree.

“We’re certainly not the loudest stadium in the conference and we’re probably near the bottom in crowd noise,” he said. “I can’t see how it even gives us an advantage.”

The scene at Bell’s funeral opened Mullen’s eyes to the true meaning of the tradition, but as the year went on, he began to really see the impact the cowbells had on fans, even when they weren’t ringing.

Mullen wants to keep the league’s current rule and wants to educate fans on the SEC’s meaning of the rule and the league on the rich tradition of the bell.

“I have young people come in with cowbells that their grandfather gave them on their death bed,” he said. “They look at it like you’re trying to take a tradition away from our family or a deep-rooted symbolism of our family and trying to rip it away from us.”
DESTIN, Fla. – On paper, you’d assume the Jeremiah Masoli experiment at Ole Miss was a failure.

[+] EnlargeHouston Nutt
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertOle Miss coach Houston Nutt said working with Jeremiah Masoli last season will help him in developing his next starting quarterback.
The Rebels went 4-8, including an embarrassing 49-48 loss to Jacksonville State at home. And while Ole Miss averaged 30.6 points per game, Masoli passed for 2,039 yards with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

It just wasn’t a banner year in Oxford.

But when coach Houston Nutt puts the paper down and throws the record aside, he’s very pleased with the job Masoli did in his only season at quarterback with the Rebels.

Arriving under controversial terms after run-ins with the law forced his dismissal from Oregon, Nutt took a ton of ridicule for his decision to recruit and sign Masoli in 2010.

During the first day of the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., Nutt glowed about Masoli and the role he played at Ole Miss last season.

“Not a better guy that I’ve met in just a one-year time,” Nutt said Tuesday. “I’d do it again.

“He was a class act and I know he made mistakes out there [on the field] but boy he came in and helped our locker room.

“He did right by us.”

With a team struggling for leadership last fall, Masoli was the one who stepped up to guide the team behind the scenes. This year, Nutt will be breaking in yet another new quarterback, but the new guy won’t be as experienced as Masoli.

The Rebels will have redshirt junior Randall Mackey, junior college transfer Zack Stoudt and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti competing for the starting spot this fall. Mackey and Brunetti are the leaders.

Mackey impressed the most at the beginning of the spring, but Brunetti made the strongest push at the end, leading Nutt to currently favor Brunetti, who has the only Division 1 experience.

“If we played tonight, Brunetti would probably go out there first tonight,” Nutt said. “But we’re not playing tonight.”

Regardless of who gets the nod, Nutt is hoping the new starter takes the path Masoli took when he arrived. Watching how Masoli acted and how he prepared, Nutt said he has a better handle on how to deal with this season’s first-year quarterback.

The first thing Nutt wants to do is drill the notion of enhancing their work ethic into each one. That was the staple of Masoli’s character with the Rebels, and Nutt is hoping that trend continues with his new, younger gunslingers.

“Some of them can handle it,” he said. “Some of them it may be a little bit harder transition.

“[Masoli] wanted to be accepted by his peers and his teammates and he did it with work ethic. I think that’s key.”

Video: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt

June, 1, 2011

Chris Low chats with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt at the SEC spring meetings.

Video: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen

June, 1, 2011

Chris Low talks with Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.

Video: Alabama coach Nick Saban

June, 1, 2011

Chris Low talks with Alabama coach Nick Saban about the tornadoes that ravaged the state last month.
DESTIN, Fla. -- Behind the bitter rivalries and fan base hatred, friendships are formed and (some) actually last in the SEC.

While you might not see it when the lights come on and the cleats dig into the grass, opposing coaches are known to befriend each other while their fanatical followers wage verbal –- even physical –- combat with each other.

For new Florida coach Will Muschamp, he’s made a habit of avoiding rubbing coaches the wrong way since he took over this year. He seems to have friends at just about every school in the South and is best pals with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who has a beach home with the Gators’ coach.

Can we get some trash talk already?

The Tennessee-Florida rivalry turned sweet for a few minutes as Volunteers coach Derek Dooley talked about the friendship he and Muschamp have had since their years as assistants LSU and with the Miami Dolphins.

Their friendship was first forged at LSU under head coach Nick Saban and Dooley said the fair amount of time they spent together is the main reason for them staying “good friends” throughout the years.

“Assistants who are together for that long, and certainly on Nick’s staff, you become pretty close because you spend a lot of time together,” Dooley said.

Muschamp agreed with Dooley, but went a step further, saying that their time –- and success –- under Saban also helped them ascend through the coaching ranks.

“People want the blueprint,” Muschamp said. “They want to see what’s happened before.”

Dooley said he and Muschamp kept in touch even after branching out and spoke to each other almost every week last season.

But with both in the same conference -- let alone the same division –- Dooley said the conversations have been shortened and less detailed.

“There will be a little change this year,” he said. “We still speak, of course, but both of us are a little more guarded in what we say just because of the competitive nature.

“At the end of the day it is extremely competitive and it’s hard for everybody to prosper, so we’ll how it goes.”

Let's see how those phone calls go after these two meet in Gainesville, Fla., this fall.