HOOVER, Ala. -- The only question mark in Georgia's offense heading into the 2010 season is the only guy who hasn't played.
But here's the catch: The guys who will play alongside redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray have very few questions about him.
"Aaron is way ahead of his age and his experience," Georgia junior receiver A.J. Green said. "He prepares so well. That's what is going to help him. He's so mature to be his age. He's the perfect man for the job."
The Bulldogs return 10 offensive starters around Murray, who's gone through the past two spring practices at Georgia and was highly recruited out of Plant Senior High School in Tampa, Fla. He just hasn't taken a snap in a college game.
"We don't want to limit the skill and the experience that we have," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "But we also, as you say, can't just say, 'Let it rip' and hope that he doesn't stumble. I mean, we have to manage him. We have to help him understand that he does have a very strong core of people around him and does not have to make a spectacular play every time the ball is snapped.
"He needs to do his job. He needs to put the ball on the money. When the protection is there, the route is open, put it on 'em. If the protection is not there, let's throw the ball away, let's hit a check-down, let's make sure at the end of every drive that we kick the ball ... an extra point, field goal or punt.
"I think he understands that, but he's just got to live it out."
Caldwell Full Of Southern Charm
HOOVER, Ala. -- On a day when Steve Spurrier of South Carolina and Mark Richt of Georgia, with 26 seasons and eight Southeastern Conference championships between them, spoke at SEC media days, the guy who stole the show is a former turkey inseminator who has been a head coach for a week.
Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell made it clear Thursday that if running the Commodores doesn't work out, he always can fall back on stand-up comedy. That's a good thing, because being the head coach at Vanderbilt is no shortcut to job security. Vanderbilt is an original member of the SEC and, 77 years later, is still looking for its first league championship.
"Ah'm from New York originally," Caldwell purred. "Yew can tell bah the way ah tawlk."
Pardon the dialect. It is typed with affection.
Caldwell did not ride into Hoover on a truckload of watermelons, even if he does hail from Pageland, S.C., the self-proclaimed Watermelon Capital of the World (according to its favorite son). You don't coach the most cerebral position in college football, the offensive line, for 32 seasons at four universities if your shoulders are holding up a box of rocks.
But that didn't stop Caldwell from sounding as if he had stopped at the podium on his way to the general store to pick up a pouch of Red Man.
"My wife [Nora Lynn] said, 'You can't talk about anything but football,'" Caldwell said. "I can. I can talk about pouring concrete, farming, being a pipefitter ... working on a turkey farm. But nobody wants to hear that. Those are the things I did prior to getting into football. That's the God's truth."
Who would make that up? And who would make up that Caldwell is now one of the most public faces for Vanderbilt, aka Harvard on the Cumberland? The man whom Caldwell replaced, Bobby Johnson, not only took the Commodores to their first bowl game in 26 years in the 2008-09 season but brought a degree of professionalism to the job. Johnson did not allow the use of profanity in his football program.
Asked if he would continue that policy, Caldwell said, "You know, I'm no angel, that's for certain. We certainly do try to live by that. But it's just a sign of limited vocabulary. I know y'all can't tell it but I do have an education."
Spurrier and Richt discussed dethroning Florida. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and his preseason All-SEC quarterback, Ryan Mallett, talked about challenging Alabama. Caldwell could return to the relative anonymity of the offensive line by January. Actually, he still has some degree of anonymity.
"I can still walk in places and nobody knows me," Caldwell said. "Last night I was opening the door for people and they gave me a tip."
The point is, Caldwell charmed a room full of media members who have heard it all so much that, when his press conference ended, he received an ovation. That happens about as often as, say, Vanderbilt winning an SEC title.
Spurrier Ready For Cherry Garcia serving
HOOVER, Ala. -- The most surprising thing about Steve Spurrier's five-year tenure at South Carolina isn't that he's failed to overtake Florida and push the Gamecocks to the top of the SEC East -- it's that one of the great quarterback coaches of all-time still hasn't had a star at that position.
Is this the year Stephen Garcia does enough to change that?
Garcia was a hot-shot recruit coming out of high school, and everyone figured that the combination of his talents with Spurrier's coaching would produce some 21st century "Fun 'n' Gun" fireworks. But through two seasons, Garcia has been a pretty ordinary quarterback, completing 55 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while being sacked a whole lot this past season. Not coincidentally, South Carolina's offense has been pretty ordinary in that time as well.
If Garcia can step up this season, the Gamecocks might finally compete for the East Division title. He wasn't brought here for media days, which makes you wonder whether Spurrier still doubts his leadership ability. But Garcia's roommate, for one, thinks he is ready.
"He's matured a lot," fullback Patrick DiMarco said. "I've seen a huge change since he's come to campus. He's busting his butt, putting in the extra effort, working on his own with the receivers this summer -- things he hadn't done before. Hopefully, that'll translate onto the field."
If it doesn't, Spurrier might go back to the quarterback roulette he's become maddeningly famous for.
"Stephen is our starter," Spurrier said. "He'll be our starter unless he's beaten out by the next quarterback. Right now the next quarterback is Connor Shaw. ... We got two quarterbacks coming to the ballpark ready to play. We weren't in that position last year."
That means Garcia officially has an invitation to peer over his shoulder if things aren't going too well.
"I think I have a pretty good relationship with Stephen," Spurrier said. "I don't know how else to answer it. I let him alone this summer. I left him alone this spring pretty much, let him go play.
"Sometimes our local media thinks I'm critical of him a lot. I'm just trying to express what he needs to do to help our team. That's [to] avoid the sacks and make better decisions.
"So I'm not critical of him. He may be playing the best he can. I don't know yet."
It won't take long to know whether Garcia is playing well enough to lead South Carolina to new prominence. The Gamecocks open against Southern Mississippi and then have Georgia, Auburn and Alabama in their first five games.
One For The Archives
Vanderbilt interim coach Robbie Caldwell likes to joke that when Warren Norman broke Herschel Walker's SEC freshman record for all-purpose yards last season, Norman didn't know who Walker was.
"I don't mean to age some of you, but we knew who Walker was," Caldwell said. "[Norman] had to Google him and find out who he was."
Actually, Norman was well aware of the magnitude of what he accomplished last season, after finishing with 1,941 all-purpose yards. His season total is 11th-best among all SEC players, three spots ahead of 1,877 yards Walker gained during his 1982 Heisman Trophy campaign.
"I grew up in Georgia," Norman said. "I was a big football fan."
Caldwell said he expects even more from Norman during his second season in the SEC.
"We look to take him to another level," Caldwell said. "He's excited about it. He's working in the weight room to get ready, to prepare his body. You're going to take a pounding in this league."
The Life Aquatic
HOOVER, Ala. -- Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, five months removed from breaking a bone in his left foot, said Thursday he will be ready when the Razorbacks open the season against Tennessee Tech.
"I'm not dancing yet," Mallett said, "but we're about full speed and we're getting ready to go. I'm right out on schedule. Come camp I'll be in pads and in cleats and participate with the team and ready to go."
Being in cleats is not the same as running full speed in them, which is why August will be an important month for Mallett. He has maintained his conditioning over the past few months by swimming four days a week, up to 90 minutes each session. Other than joking about trying out for the Olympic team (that 6-foot-7 body would be pretty dangerous in the London pools), Mallett didn't have a lot of nice things to say about his aquatic experience.
That's the frustration of having a strong arm and not being able to use it. Then again, Razorbacks tight end D.J. Williams said that Mallett, with his foot still in a cast, stood on his back foot this summer and threw the ball 60 yards.
Caldwell's Comedy Show
• "This is the greatest thrill of my life other than my child being born. It's just tremendous."
• "My first hourly paying job was on the turkey farm. I don't know if I could tell you what my job was, but I was on the inseminating crew. That's a fact. I worked my way to the top."
• "A wild turkey is one of the smartest animals in the world. But a domestic turkey is the dumbest thing. We had to put sprinklers out there to keep them from smothering out there in the summer when it gets hot. If you don't believe it, research it. I guess it's why I worked so well with them. There's probably a reason."
• "You had to like watermelon, number one, because it was the watermelon capital of the world, we proclaimed anyway. You had to like hunting and fishing. Frog gigging. I was scared to death of girls, so that didn't interest me. And I played ball." -- on his hometown of Pageland, S.C.
Spurrier Talks Agents
One Good Thing
Arkansas: Not a single Arkansas wide receiver made the first or second team on the coaches' preseason All-SEC squad released earlier this week. Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright combined for 19 touchdown catches last season, and all three averaged at least 16.6 yards per catch. "I know our receivers will take it personal. They're very motivated. They think they're a good group. They think they're good as individuals. It will be a great motivating factor for them," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said.
Georgia: Georgia receiver A.J. Green doubts the comparisons between he and Alabama's Julio Jones will ever end, and Green has no interest in weighing in on who's the better receiver. But when it comes to the best cornerback he's ever faced, that's easy. "Patrick Peterson, by far," Green said. "He's a big, fast guy. You see him and are like, 'All right, I can run by this guy,' but you can't. He's one of the premier corners in the nation." Green and the LSU junior have become friends off the field. "We're pretty cool," Green said. "He talks a lot, but he doesn't talk junk to me."
South Carolina: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is unsure what will happen to senior tight end Weslye Saunders, who was questioned last week by NCAA investigators about the infamous party in Miami that was allegedly funded by agents. "He went with several players on a trip to Miami, I think, during spring break," Spurrier said. "I guess the question is: Who paid for it? Who paid for what they did while they were there? When the investigation is finished, I guess we'll find out about all the guys." Spurrier said he's talked briefly with Saunders about the trip and that Saunders told him he did nothing wrong. "We'll let it play out," Spurrier said.
Vanderbilt: Chris Marve is one of those guys all the recruiters and recruiting analysts missed. That is, everybody but the Vanderbilt recruiters. His only major scholarship offer was to Vanderbilt, and the Memphis product eagerly jumped on board. He's been one of the SEC's most productive linebackers ever since, racking up more than 100 tackles in each of his first two seasons. The 6-foot, 230-pound Marve is still at a loss as to why he didn't receive more interest coming out of high school. He sent out tapes to many schools and even went to a couple of camps. "It doesn't matter now, because I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than right here," said Marve, who led the SEC in tackles per game (10.1) last season.
Arkansas: D.J. Williams
Best Of Day Two
Best Quote: "I'm so anxious to get out there and prove everybody wrong that we are a championship team," Georgia receiver A.J. Green
Best Admission: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier believes there are more players getting in trouble with the law now because police don't cut players a break like they used to. "In our day, if you were out and something happened, they would say, 'Can you get home? We'll drive you home,'" Spurrier said. "They did not go in the tank that night."
Best Back-handed Compliment: Spurrier, who hasn't had the nicest things to say about quarterback Stephen Garcia ever since last season ended, said it was his understanding that Garcia has been attending all of the summer workouts and passing drills. But Spurrier was quick to note that there's been nearly 100 percent attendance across the board. "If we're going to compliment (Garcia) on that, then we've got to compliment all of them," Spurrier said.
Best Kiffin Jab: SEC commissioner Mike Slive isn't the only one not keen on mentioning former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin by name. To Spurrier, Kiffin is "the former Tennessee coach & I didn't pay a lot of attention to [him]."
Best Bowtie: For Thursday's festivities, Vanderbilt's Chris Marve broke out a red bowtie to honor his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Georgia's Green Under Scrutiny
Tracking SEC Media Days
Vanderbilt: Warren Norman
Arkansas: Jake Bequette