ATLANTA (AP) — The Latest on SEC Media Days (all times local):
Florida coach Dan Mullen believes his team has improved its behavior accountability since he took charge of the program eight months ago.
“Every day we talk about decision making — how that decision is going to affect you, how it affects your teammates, how does it affect your family, how does it affect our football program?” Mullen said Tuesday during the Southeastern Conference’s annual preseason media gathering. “We talk about that constantly for them.”
After nine seasons at Mississippi State, Mullen returned to help the Gators regain their footing. Florida won the 2006 and ’08 national titles during Mullen’s stay as offensive coordinator, but the Gators have struggled on and off the field in recent years.
They haven’t won an SEC title in 10 years, a considerable drought for a program that earned eight league championships from 1991-2008. Last year’s team went 4-7 and was further embarrassed when nine players were arrested on felony fraud charges and suspended for the season.
For running back Jordan Scarlett, the Gators’ leading rusher in 2016, and four other players who have since rejoined the team, Mullen wants the entire locker room to hold each other accountable.
“Stick up and look out for each other as a team,” Mullen said. “That’s a huge thing. If your actions are not helping us achieve those goals, we need to reevaluate your actions.”
First-year Arkansas coach Chad Morris has a big rebuilding job ahead after inheriting a program that went 29-34 over the last five years and is coming off a 4-8 season that led to firing of his predecessor, Bret Bielema.
The Razorbacks will begin summer camp still unsettled at quarterback. Though Morris has yet to name a front-runner, sophomore Cole Kelley is the most experienced after starting four of nine games and passing for eight touchdowns, four picks and 1,000-plus yards.
Junior Ty Storey and redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt are next in line to push for playing time.
“I know we’ll have a great competition going on, and once we do name one, it doesn’t mean you sign a lifetime contract,” Morris said Tuesday at the Southeastern Conference’s annual preseason media gathering. “There is no lifetime contract at the quarterback position. It’s a continuous battle every day.”
Morris will deploy the same two-running back, run-first formations he used at SMU to rank eighth nationally in scoring and 12th in average total yards. He wants a fast-tempo attack similar to the one used by one of his mentors, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart says his Bulldogs aren’t afraid of the pressure to repeat last season’s success.
In his second season at Georgia, Smart took Georgia to its first Southeastern Conference championship since 2005 and a spot in the national championship game, where it lost in overtime to Alabama.
Despite losing such 2017 standouts as tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bulldogs may be picked at this week’s annual gathering of SEC media to again win the SEC East and return to the conference championship game.
That’s fine with Smart, who on Tuesday said “The pressure is really a privilege. … Those are things we embrace at the University of Georgia. We can’t run from those things.”
Smart says everybody asks if he has recovered from the national championship loss to Alabama. “It’s not like I have nightmares about it,” he said, adding he hopes his players will learn from the experience.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke is relieved to begin summer camp knowing that his team has moved past NCAA sanctions that included bowl bans for last season and this year.
The Rebels went 6-6 with Luke serving as an interim replacement following Hugh Freeze’s sudden resignation for personal misconduct. Luke landed the job full-time last November, getting a four-year contract worth $12.6 million three days after Ole Miss upset Mississippi State.
NCAA sanctions came a few days later. Ole Miss is still waiting an appeal on this year’s bowl ban, but Luke has noticed an uptick in interest in recruiting.
“I think sometimes fear of the unknown is the biggest issue, so once all the sanctions were delivered and everybody knows what you’re dealing with, you can then move forward,” Luke said Tuesday at the SEC’s annual preseason media gathering. “I think you’re seeing that on the recruiting trail.”
One of Luke’s biggest concerns is finding ways to improve the run defense, which allowed 243 yards rushing a game to rank 123rd in the nation.
“I think we have to find creative ways to load the box and make people throw it over the top to beat us,” he said.
SEC coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw says additional player safety rules are set for 2018. Blocking below the waist is limited to 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. Running backs, for example, are no longer allowed to dive at a defender’s knee from the side.
Pads and pants must cover knees, and if a player is in violation, he must leave the field for one play. A coach can call timeout to keep him in the game if the player immediately fixes his uniform.
The rules committee put 40-second limits in place following touchdowns, free kick returns and fair catches. Previously, a 25-second clock began after the referee signaled that the crew was ready.
And possessions will automatically start at the 25-yard line if a player executes a fair catch inside the 25 on a kickoff.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart will be in the spotlight when the Southeastern Conference’s annual preseason media gathering enters its second day.
After leading Georgia to the SEC championship and a spot in the national championship game in his second season, Smart is facing new challenges. The Bulldogs must replace such 2017 leaders as tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and linebacker Roquan Smith.
Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm has new competition from freshman Josh Fields, one of the biggest names in Smart’s top-rated 2018 signing class.
Arkansas coach Chad Morris, Florida coach Dan Mullen and Mississippi coach Matt Luke also will speak Tuesday.
This is the first year since 1985 the SEC Media Days have been held outside of the Birmingham, Alabama, area.
The annual event brings together coaches and players from the league’s 14 schools. This year approximately 1,000 media credentials have been issued.
The event will return to Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham, in 2019.
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