No target off limits for SEC

Originally Published: July 16, 2013
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

HOOVER, Ala. -- The 2012 college football season ended with Alabama trouncing Notre Dame 42-14 in the Discover BCS National Championship, its second consecutive national title and the seventh in a row won by an SEC school.

On Tuesday, the 2013 season unofficially opened with SEC media days, and the sport's most dominant conference did what it does best -- beat up everybody else.

Florida coach Will Muschamp opened the day by criticizing Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, a former Gators coach who allegedly turned in his former school for secondary NCAA recruiting violations.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
AP Photo/Dave MartinFlorida coach Will Muschamp took an unexpected poke at Urban Meyer and Ohio State on Tuesday.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive openly questioned the NCAA's role in today's college football world.

And South Carolina All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney identified three quarterbacks who are afraid of him -- Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Georgia's Aaron Murray and former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson.

No one had the guts to doubt him.

Surprisingly, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who is typically the one firing shots across the bow, was relatively quiet. Spurrier was apparently happy with his golf game -- firing a summer-low 76 last week -- and even more excited about Clowney.

Otherwise, it was a pretty uneventful opening day of SEC media days, where coaches and players from Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss and South Carolina addressed more than 1,100 members of the media.

It might have been the calm before the storm. On Wednesday, players and coaches from six schools will address the media, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner whose eventful summer concluded with him being sent home early from the Manning Passing Academy last weekend.

Four new coaches -- Arkansas' Bret Bielema, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Kentucky's Mark Stoops and Tennessee's Butch Jones -- also will address the throngs of media for the first time Wednesday.

Muschamp, who guided the Gators to an 11-2 record in his second season as a head coach in 2012, made the biggest headline Tuesday. Addressing a small group of reporters in a 14th-floor hotel suite, Muschamp was asked about published reports that Meyer turned the Gators in twice for secondary recruiting violations since the start of the 2012 season.

Meyer, who went 12-0 in his first season at Ohio State last season and guided the Gators to national championships in 2006 and '08, has denied the allegations. The Buckeyes are on NCAA probation -- and prohibited from playing in the postseason last season -- for rules violations committed under former coach Jim Tressel.

Muschamp couldn't even stomach identifying Ohio State by its full name.

"That's really a dead issue with me," Muschamp said. "In both situations, we were turned in by Ohio. We didn't do anything wrong. The University of Florida didn't do anything wrong. And so we appreciated our friends from Ohio making sure we're compliant with NCAA rules. They certainly know a little bit about that subject."

Speaking of the NCAA, Slive wondered aloud what role college sports' governing body will have in the future during his opening address. Slive is apparently frustrated that the NCAA won't pass legislation to allow his league's schools to offer scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance, which would award athletes a monthly stipend of about $300 per month beyond the cost of room and board, tuition and books. Spurrier said SEC football coaches voted 14-0 to award the stipends to student-athletes.

Given the NCAA's current troubles, Slive said he welcomed its self-review of its structure.

"Moving forward, there are important questions that need to be answered," he said. "For example, what changes need to be made to the NCAA structure to provide significant roles for the stakeholders, the presidents, chancellors, athletic directors, institutional administrators, conference administrators and coaches? What is the proper role, function and composition and size of the NCAA board of directors?

"Do we need all of the services provided by the NCAA's national office, its many committees and task forces, or are some of these services better provided elsewhere? And how do we streamline the NCAA committee and legislative processes to provide leaders and visionaries who will ensure the NCAA's future?"

Clowney admitted college football would be more enjoyable if he was somehow being compensated for playing. He said he'll declare for the NFL draft as soon as his junior season ends, and Spurrier knows he has little chance of keeping his star player around for a fourth season.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
AP Photo/Dave MartinSouth Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney saw the fear in opposing QBs last season -- and named names.

"He knows the deal," Spurrier said. "We told him as soon as the bowl game is over after his third year he can take all the money he wants. He can sign endorsements, take money for autographs and do whatever he wants."

Clowney, who had 13 sacks and 23½ tackles for loss as a sophomore, said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds Monday. He weighs 268 pounds after losing six pounds, or "two good meals." In one of his rare appearances in front of the media, Clowney was more than candid, especially about the quarterbacks he has harassed over the past two seasons. He said Boyd is scared "every time we play them."

"You can look at a guy and tell if he's scared," Clowney said. "If he's staring at me before the ball is snapped, if he's staring at me before every snap, I'm just like, 'Oh, we got him.' I tell my teammates, 'He's shook. We've just gotta get a couple hits on him and he'll turn the ball over.' Throwing before he wants to, sliding."

For now, Clowney will have to live with being the biggest man on South Carolina's campus.

"When you're on campus and everybody is screaming your name, it's not too bad," he said.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball