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October 31, 2014

Joe Medley: Shaking back to life after SEC Media Daze

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Posted: Saturday, July 19, 2014 11:45 pm | Updated: 12:47 am, Sun Jul 20, 2014.

HOOVER — It’s the weekend after, and did SEC Media Days really just happen?

We were all at the usual hotel for the SEC’s annual preseason hype eruption. Commissioner Mike Slive gave his state-of-the-league address. The SEC’s 14 football coaches took their podium calls over four days.

Fans waited breathlessly at the foot of the escalator, and try walking through the hallway between ballrooms without bumping into someone holding a camera or mic.

So, yes, we just saw SEC Media Days. It just felt more like SEC Media Daze.

It’s hard to remember a time when there was less star power among the players sent to represent the schools. There was no Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel.

Media tried to talk about the departed Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner whose 2013 appearance after a checkered offseason energized Media Days. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin wouldn’t have it.

Sumlin just smiled and smoothly sent a shiver through the room. Send your “Johnny Football”, party-punk questions to the Cleveland Browns. He’s their problem now.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall could have been the star but had to stay home over a marijuana citation. It’s just as well. Anyone who’s seen him talk in a pack-media setting senses he’d rather pull the ball and run.

Bo was outspoken at Media Days, just not the Bo that will be featured with Barkley and the ‘Big Hurt’ in the SEC Network’s “SEC Stories” documentary series. It was Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace, who saw slight in media picking him as merely the third-team All-SEC quarterback.

Coaches had to carry SECMD14, and the usual suspects had their moments.

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier doubled down on his recent tweak of Alabama’s Nick Saban, seemingly walking it back before subtly questioning how Saban keeps loading up against conventional recruiting wisdom.

Saban went deep about discipline but sounded less the Vader-like roster ruler and more like a politician spinning after a second consecutive offseason with notable off-field hiccups. It takes a village, and the culture just keeps sending him increasingly immature kids.

But dismissals are last resorts.

“Now, when somebody proves they can’t be part of an organization, then sometimes you got to get the wrong people off the bus. I get that, all right?” he said near the end of an 780-word talk on the subject, tucked into his opening statement. “But I just want you all to know that we all have to be committed to trying to help our young people from a culture standpoint have a better chance to be successful in their life.”

Gus Malzahn, coach of the reigning SEC champion and national runner-up after leading Auburn’s historic turnaround, was at his say-little best. He covered a statement and five questions related to Marshall’s marijuana citation in 208 words, including 101 during his opening statement.

Most interestingly, Malzahn spent 50 words of a 56-word answer praising backup Jeremy Johnson,

Most amusingly, Malzahn needed just 15 words to deadpan pan a question about marijuana use in college football.

“Well, we have school rules,” he said. “Of course, I have team rules. We abide by them.”

Of course. Good to know.

It was all part of an SEC Media Days that passed with little excitement and lots of national media noting it.

The positive spin would be that the league enters the 2014 season with more mystery than usual. Just which stars will emerge and, perhaps, put the league in a position to win its eighth national title in nine years?

Then again, the SEC just saw its string of seven consecutive national titles end. There’s a nation outside the SEC footprint eager to eulogize the SEC’s reign.

This wasn’t the best year to have SEC Media Daze.

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