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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Winners and losers among SEC coaches at Media Days

Last Modified: Sunday, July 20, 2014 1:10 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

There is such a thing as “winning the press conference.”

Face it, SEC Media Days is over and it’s still almost a month and half until an actual kickoff, and for the life of me I can’t get excited about wondering how Georgia’s offensive line is going to pan out.

It’s not that time yet.

What it is, as South Carolina’s Steve Spurrer as usual said best, is “the talking season.”

It doesn’t mean jack about who’s going to win or lose games, but fans must have something to tide them over until the real taunting begins.

So coaches talk.

Some better than others.

So now — why not? — we give you a totally subjective ranking, strictly based on entertainment value, of how the 14 coaches made it through the madness that is SEC Media Days.

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: The Head Ball Coach long ago retired this trophy.

It’s always the must-see hour at media days.

Funny thing, for such an accomplished entertainer, his persona at the podium sometimes looks like he’s a bit nervous. Maybe that’s part of it.

It does almost seem like part of the act, with perfect pace and impeccable timing for his zingers.

Only Spurrier can call Nick Saban “The greatest recruiter in the history of college football” and make it come out like a jab at Saban’s on-field performance.

Underrated is the aw-shucks manner in which he manages to get his long list of accomplishments into the discussion.

It’s always, “I guess somebody said, I don’t know, that that had never been done at this school before and, I don’t know, I guess that’s right.”

Les Miles, LSU: The Hat just can’t help himself. He just can’t. Given the size of the audience and the length of time behind the microphone, you are going to have some incidents, some laughable moments, some hijinks. You just are.

His tangles with the English language — or whatever that pig-Latin he speaks is — are legendary. And his annual State of the Miles family address always comes off like Chevy Chase cavorting with the Griswolds.

The really scary thing is that the SEC’s press corps is gradually starting to understand and even comprehend Les-speak without even a furrowed eyebrow.

Nick Saban, Alabama: OK, with Saint Nick it’s not exactly a soft-shoe, song and dance up there.

When he does attempt humor, it often seems forced and obligatory.

But when the SEC’s E.F. Hutton speaks, people not only listen, most often he makes sense.

Think of that one professor you had in college where you really didn’t want to miss class and still learned something.

He also speaks plain English, which is always a plus with coaches.

Go ahead, try to stump him. Off the top of his head, in reaction to questions, he could tell you how many NFL early-entry wannabes there were three years ago (53), how many there were this spring (102) and how many of them those year went undrafted (36).

Guy does his homework, studying every possible angle of the game.

I know I’d feel good about him being the Czar of College Football.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: Can’t remember any real belly laughs out of his session, but it’s not hard to figure how he’s become such a feared recruiter.

Guy has some personality now. And doesn’t lack for confidence.

Mark Richt, Georgia: The guy gets criticized for being the “nicest guy in the SEC.” But I do like that, for the most part, if you ask a question, you get an answer that sounds like it’s what he really believes and not what he thinks will sound good.

That’s rarer than you might think.

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss:

Pretty good story-teller. Relaxed, engaging. Spurrier likes him, so he must have something going for him.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: This year’s only first-year SEC coach had quite a debut. Gets extra points for daring to wear a bow tie to the affair. But his enthusiasm was contagious in the room.

Vandy coaches have traditionally lost their enthusiasm early, but he seems like the perfect choice to build on the strides James Franklin made.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: It’s kind of a guilty pleasure for me to watch Mullen. I can’t take my eyes off him. His body language and facial expressions are just way too goofy to be entrusted to lead an SEC football team.

It’s probably misleading. I also listen to him talk about the state of State, and find myself trying to remember which years they won national championships.

Will Muschamp, Florida: Of the coaches prone to fall back on “coach speak,” at least with Muschamp it seems to come more naturally.

He was this year’s media-designated “hot seat”coach, and handled it fairly well, if not with a lot of laughs.

Gary Pinkel, Missouri: Obviously a sharp guy, but doesn’t seem to care if anybody knows it. Sounded like he was reading the minutes from a board meeting.

Brett Bielema, Arkansas: I get the feeling that he’ll skyrocket up these rankings if the Razorbacks ever win anything. For now, being the torch-bearer for the anti-hurry-up offense crowd is getting tired.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Looks the part. Dresses the part. Obviously a sharp guy. But you get the feeling if you take him away from dickering with his Xs and Os, the guy is lost and uncomfortable.

Butch Jones, Tennessee: He used his full allotment of time and I heard him say a lot (drone on). Nothing that really stood out, though.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky: Maybe it’s not fair to rank him this low. He had to follow Saban this year while everybody was basically packing to go home.

And Kentucky’s football coach, alone among his SEC cohorts, spends more time explaining how he’s coexisting with Big Blue basketball than how is offensive line is looking.

I can say this. He and the three Kentucky players he toted along with him spent their money well during a pre-media days shopping spree at Men’s Wearhouse.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com


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