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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Media Days are heeeere

And a good afternoon from Hoover, Ala. and day one of the SEC Media Days.


I'm Michael A. Lough, filling in for Seth Emerson, who had a friend getting married during SEC Media Days, which, of course, is better than getting married during the season.

Silly people do that.

Mike Slive and Bobby Petrino are done, and Will Muschamp is up now, so I'll get back after listening to the latest head Gator.

Will Muschamp is a Gator.

Period. Time to move on.

He again put to rest the drastically overrated connections angle.

Muschamp, as he has said and will say again, may have played at Georgia, but ...

"I'm a Florida guy," was his simple response to the neverending question about his short roots at Georgia as a player.

Steve Spurrier has a bottomless tank of patience regarding quarterback Stephen Garcia. One wonders if he gave his kids that much of a break.

Defensive tackle Travian Robertson tried to dance around the Garcia question, and the apparently limitless patience Spurrier has.

"I'm not going to question it at all," Robertson said. "He's my boss."

Up next is Mississippi State and head coach Dan Mullen, who's making Starkville substantially more livable in the fall.

So far:

Petrino was Petrino: not an overwhelming people person. He looks like he ate something and can't figure out how much he doesn't like it. It's not horrible, but he'd rather have had something else. And he'd rather be somewhere else than in front of the media.

Muschamp is no barrel of laughs, but he showed some dry wit. He's been around tremendous coaching legends, and between his last two employers, he's much more likely to be compared to Nick Saban than Mack Brown.

Marcus Lattimore seems like a pretty thoughtful kid. He got up a few times in the offseason to run with teammates who were doing the early-morning punishment sprints, just to show that he was with them. More later on his advice for Georgia's Isaiah Crowell.

Florida QB John Brantley seems more than ready to put last year - OK, the last few years - behind him and run a normal offense without shuffling quarterbacks. Wideout Deonte Thompson wasn't complaining about a less dramatic offense and substitution pattern.

It's the normal crowd of 750-1,000 folks on hand. Silly questions have happily been limited. Nobody's virginity has been inquired about.

And the opener is done.

TGFSS: Thank God for Steve Spurrier.

He's getting back into form, where he just starts talking and the filter doesn't work.

He owned the room again, between discussing South Carolina's hopes, disagreeing with Mike Slive on multi-year scholarships, and the rollicking life and times of quarterback Stephen Garcia.

Spurrier said Garcia has made lifestyle changes, so he feels somewhat confident the drama is over. But Spurrier said too many people assume that Garcia has the job. Look for some competition with Connor Shaw.

Spurrier’s tone and inflection always adds to the humor.

As for Slive’s suggestion for multi-year scholarships rather than renewable yearly:

“No, that's a terrible idea, Commissioner. Do you sportswriters have a two-year contract, three- or four-year? Have you ever had a two-year deal?

“If you go bad, don't show up to work, your butt will be out on the street.
Everybody has to earn your way in life. You earn your way in life. Go from there. That's the way I believe.”

And then the comedian-timing pause and Spurrier smirk/smile:

“Luckily coaches have four- and five-year contracts. They get paid off if they get canned, I guess (laughter).”

Yes, stability at quarterback has become a dream.

“That would be helpful. Yeah, that would be helpful if our quarterback play was real solid and the quarterback was a player everybody could look up to and could rally around. That would be helpful. We're still trying to make that work out.”

Highly touted signee Jadeveon Clowney was put in handcuffs in a big bar area, ostensibly because he bore a solid likeness of the suspect of a robbery that had just happened. He was just questioned and released.

Spurrier found a teaching point, and got himself “arrested” a few days later.

“They had an armed robbery in the area. It was a guy with dreadlocks, a tall guy. So they saw Jadeveon in there, and they were looking for this dude. What they do, they handcuff you and then ask you a bunch of questions and then let you go.

“Of course, while he was getting handcuffed, all the kids in the bar there were taking pictures of him. That's what hit the Internet. Here is Jadeveon Clowney arrested in a bar down in Columbia. He wasn't arrested, he was just being questioned because he looked a little bit like the guy they were looking for.

“Our police chief came and talked to the team and explained how that could happen. We didn't know how it could happen, so we learned a lot from it.

“I said, ‘Chief, can you handcuff me today right after practice?’ He said, ‘Sure, what time?’ ‘I talk to the media boys about 6, so get out there about five till 6.’ so he's standing there, I'm talking to the media boys. They don't know what is really going on.

”He said, ‘Coach, I need to talk to you about something.’

“He took me over to the side and handcuffed me. None of the boys knew what was going on. But anyway, he let me go after about a minute or two.

“I guess I came back and said that there was a robbery down at the convenience store, and somebody said the robber looked like that head ball coach down at South Carolina, so he had to come talk to me.”

Only Spurrier.

“Anyway, we learned a lot about that. You can get handcuffed, no big deal, don't worry about it.”

An eyebrow-raiser, perhaps, came from Mississippi State head coach and part-time Starkville Chamber of Commerce representative Dan Mullen.

Now we know. It's not Athens, or Tuscaloosa, or the Plains, or Gainesville.

The loveliest little hamlet in the conference is, yes, Starkville.

Yeah, me neither.

Granted, people always exaggerate how brutal a place is, when it never lives down to that level. Some people really just have nothing going on, so almost everywhere sucks.

But one wonder if somebody spiked Mullen's afternoon tea.

He got a nice chuckle after a reporter noted a billboard he saw when crossing the border into Mississippi, with Mullen's face and "Welcome to our state."

Paging the Rebels, paging the Rebels.

Said Mullen with a smile: "Did you enjoy your time there?"

The guy was speeding to Birmingham, so he didn't have time to smell the magnolias.

Starkville is one of those places often considered a coaching graveyard, but Mullen sure sounded happy.

"I think everybody, when they walk out, they leave Starkville on a Saturday, they're looking forward to coming back. They're looking forward to the event that it was, not just for one person but for an entire family. That's made all the difference."

The winning he's engineering sure helps. But he's not second-guessing the move in the least:

"I think in today's world, everybody thinks the grass is always going to be greener somewhere else. Fortunately in my career I got to coach at a lot of different schools and see a lot of different situations.

"The situation we have with the great recruiting base in the state of Mississippi and locally within a five-hour radius of us, having an administration where everybody is pointed in the same direction with the same goals, a fan base that's really bought into what you're trying to do, and a great group of young men to coach, I have a great situation. We're very, very happy there.

"Everything that I'd read about the rumors, I'd kind of laugh because none of that was even a conversation for me and my family."

And as for his home (which will likely lead to another billboard before the week is done):

"I've had very, very few people, and I grew up in the northeast, I've had family and friends come down to visit. The first thing you hear out of their mouth is, 'Wow, I didn't know this was such a beautiful place. What a beautiful place to live, great community, friendly people, you have all these amazing things.'

"I think you got to be going to Starkville to get to Starkville. You just don't pass it by. It's a hidden gem. Everybody that comes to visit us, that's the challenge we've had. Once they come on campus, whether it be recruits, parents, even fans, they say, 'Wow, I didn't know what a beautiful place this is, what a great place to live, what a great community Starkville, Mississippi is.'"

Indeed, visiting on a football weekend and dealing with warm store-bought beer is a shock, but there's something to be said for uniqueness.

And then again, look at what he's done and is doing in Starkvegas. He's not completely crazy. Plus, it's about one's own quality of life, not somebody else's.

Thursday's order for the print peeps:

Kentucky's Joker Phillips, Stuart Hines, Morgan Netwon and Danny Trevathan; Georgia's Mark Richt, Brandon Boykin, Ben Jones and Aaron Murray; Auburn's Gene Chizik, Emory Blake, Nosa Equae, and Philip Lutzenkirchen (84 points in Scrabble for that last name); and Tennessee's Derek Dooley, Malik Jackson, Tauren Poole and Dallas Thomas.

UGA is bringing a lineman. Bulldog fans, pray for no escalator incidents.

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