CatsIllustrated.com is keeping you up to speed on everything that's happening in Hoover.
No one's going to pick Vanderbilt to win the East and the Commodores' program identity has never been one associated with a lot of swagger, but Derek Mason and his players appeared confident, and sounded confident, during their appearance in Hoover on Tuesday.
“For the first time in my tenure, I look at depth on this football team,” Mason said. “And I truly believe we have a chance to do something special.”
Mason has his reasons. He said he's got a "junior-senior team" with all the ingredients to put a special season together.
Derek Mason said when his team beat in-state rival Tennessee and finished strong down the stretch in 2016 it took the team to a different level
Even though Vanderbilt won't have a lofty preseason ranking in the SEC pecking order, according to anyone, there's definitely some buzz. So is the renaissance in Nashville real? We're about to find out.
EXPECTATIONS IN ATHENS
ESPN's FPI rankings (yes, the same ones that give UK a 6-percent chance of winning the East) say Georgia is the favorite to represent its division in Atlanta. Ultra-talented quarterback Jacob Eason returns, and even if he struggles he'll have Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to lean on. And those are just some of the reasons expectations are high in Athens.
“I think understanding expectations is a powerful synergy that exists between a player and a coach,” Smart said. “There's no question in my mind the area is significantly heightened after you have been through a season together. The expectations are conveyed and understood much easier after season one.”
UGASports.com's Anthony Dasher writes about Nick Chubb's decision to return to Georgia and what Kirby Smart said about how that impacted others. Now, as part of a dynamic two-headed backfield beast in Athens, Chubb says he has unfinished business.
"Not to suggest that Kirby Smart wasn’t comfortable his first year as a head coach, but he certainly seemed more relaxed running Tuesday’s gauntlet of recorders and cameras at SEC Media Days.
Smart, whose occasional flare-ups with the press have been well-chronicled, joked around and made small talk with members of the media throughout his nearly four-hour tour of the festivities being held here at the Wynfrey Hotel.
GATORS EYE THREE-PEAT
Florida's defense hasn't been the problem in recent years. Even as the Gators have won two straight SEC East championships, the offense just hasn't always been a thing of beauty. But this year, Jim McElwain says, the Gators should be able to lean and rely on a strong offensive line.
"One of the biggest storylines of the offseason has been the addition of Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire to Florida’s quarterback room, so Gators head coach Jim McElwain was surely going to be asked about his new signal-caller Tuesday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.
Throughout his time talking to reporters – his first media availability since Zaire officially enrolled at UF in late June - he discussed what went into the decision to add another quarterback to the group. He noted that Zaire didn't join the Gators to simply 'hold a clipboard.'"
"Two questions entering SEC Media Days for Florida head coach Jim McElwain concerned two of his wide receivers, junior Antonio Callaway and freshman James Robinson.
After a May citation for marijuana possession – his second marijuana-related incident as a Gator – Callaway’s status for Florida’s season-opener against Michigan on Sept. 2 remains up in the air.
Meanwhile, Robinson is the lone 2017 signee who hasn’t arrived on campus yet, as he waits to be academically cleared in order to enroll. He was unable to join the team for the start of Summer B classes on June 26.
When discussing both wideouts Tuesday, McElwain didn’t have all that much to say."
BULLDOGS LOOKING FOR PROGRESS
How could so many smart football people have been so wrong about former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott?
“Why did they miss on him in the draft? I have no idea. … I think when you get to the NFL, everybody is looking for something different and you might not be looking for a quarterback, or someone of his style,” Mullen said, via Chase Goodbread of NFL Media. “That’s very unique, where you might slot a quarterback in [the] draft or what they’re looking to get out of that quarterback position. It’s hard to say teams missed on him because you don’t know what their strategy going into that draft was.”
Saturday Down South's Adam Spencer writes that the Bulldogs could be close to getting a key piece of their offense back. And this timetable is rare, to say the least.
"My life has no finish line, and I tell the players that," Mullen said. "There is no finish line, so we're always striving to get better in everything that we do every single day to reach our potential and be the best that we can be. There's obviously a lot more ahead of us."
Can Florida three-peat in the East or is UGA ready to overtake the Gators? Mississippi State has momentum and Vanderbilt's returning starters bring confidence.
Rivals.com's Woody Wommack talks about the LSU-Florida rivalry, Dak Prescott's impact on Mississippi State's recruiting, Jacob Eason's place at UGA and more.