SEC Media Days 2014 Live Blog: Day 2

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SEC Media Days 2014 (Photo: Drew Galloway/WHNT News 19)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – SEC Media Days 2014 day two is here and WHNT News 19 is your inside source for the first look at the 2014 football season.

We’re going to be in Birmingham all four days bringing you the inside scoop on your favorite teams, coaches, and players.

Today, the coaches and players from South Carolina, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Tennessee are up (in that order.)

Keep this page open all day for updates. It will automatically refresh when new news is posted.

Drew Galloway July 15, 20148:53 am

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier will kick off day two of SEC Media Days 2014. Players A.J. Cann, J.T. Surrant, and Dylan Thompson are with him.

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The Gamecocks have a tough 2014 schedule, playing seven teams that appeared in bowl games following the 2013 season, five of which won.

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Coach Steve Spurrier has taken the stage.

He says he’s been looking forward to “talking season.”

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Spurrier says most magazines have his team at 9 to 11 wins. He hopes his team can live up to those predictions.

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Spurrier is excited about quarterback Dylan Thompson, who performed well last year when he had to take over for an injured quarterback, he said.

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Spurrier says when he got to Florida as head coach, there was no recruiting to be done, since “the team was already there.”

But, he didn’t have the same ready made team when he got to South Carolina. He found boosters and donors to support the team while he recruited excellent players like Jadeveon Clowney.

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Coach Steve Spurrier

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“We worry more about ourselves than we do scheming our opponent,” Spurrier said.

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On statements about Nick Saban and recruiting at Alabama: “I think they’ve done extremely well, there’s no question about that…I guess, fortunately, sometimes the team that plays the best wins.”

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On coaching at Florida for 12 years and South Carolina for almost ten years: “You never know what your path in life will lead to. When I left Florida after 12 years, I thought I would coach at the NFL for a few years then retire to Florida or somewhere. That was a bad plan.”

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On Auburn’s season last year: “Gus Malzhan is one of the best coaches in the country, not just the SEC…He and I are good friends, I think. We don’t look forward to going to that game…They have outplayed us and out-coached us, but we will go in with a plan and try to take them at The Plains.”

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On advising underclassmen who want to go to the NFL: Spurrier says trying to talk a player into staying is not good. He says that they could suffer a career-ending injury that would take them out of the game all together.

He says he’s also an advocate for providing football and men’s basketball players with money while they are in school because of the revenue generated by them playing.

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On Vanderbilt: “Only time will tell if they can do it. I heard coach Mason talk about winning nine, I think that might be high… But I really like Derek Mason.”

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Coach Spurrier has left the stage.

The student athletes from South Carolina will take the stage shortly.

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Dylan Thompson, Quarterback

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A.J. Cann, Offensive Guard

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J.T. Surratt, Defensive Tackle

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Quarterback Dylan Thompson says that he can’t wait for the first game of the year.

“It’s what you dream about in the back yard of your home when you’re a kid.”

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Thompson is 3-0 as a starter, including a win at Clemson to cap the 2012 regular season. He also helped the Gamecocks hand UCF its only loss of the 2013 campaign on the road in Orlando.

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Thompson is a fifth-year senior who has completed 55.0 percent of his passes over the past three seasons for 1,827 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also rushed for five career scores and has a pair of 300-yard passing games among his three starts.

Drew Galloway July 15, 201410:11 am

The student athletes from South Carolina are gone.

Up next is coach Dan Mullen from Mississippi State.

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Mullen is entering his sixth season at Mississippi State. Mullen (36-28, .563) owns the highest winning percentage as a coach at MSU since the late Darrell Royal in 1954-55 (.600), and he is already fourth in school history for wins by a head coach (36). Mullen stands just one victory away from entering the top four.

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Coach Mullen has taken the stage.

He says he and his team are anxious to get back on the field after the positive season they had last year.

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“I’ve never been on a team that had more injuries than we did last year. We pulled through that adversity,” Mullen said.

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Coach Dan Mullen

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With strong buzz around the Mississippi State program, Mullen says his team is embracing the expectations on the program. He says his players aren’t shying away from it.

He says to get to the championship game will take a special year, but he has some special players.

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About quarterback Dak Prescott: He is a tremendous worker with the will to win. He’s the first one on the field and the last to leave, according to Mullen.

Mullen says the work that Prescott has done on his quarterback skills has made him a much better passer than he was last year.

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On having 30 returning seniors: The fact that you have a veteran team is big.
Mullen says having the older leaders on the team is going to be an advantage for the younger, but talented, players.

Drew Galloway July 15, 201410:41 am

On having 30 returning seniors: The fact that you have a veteran team is big.

Mullen says having the older leaders on the team is going to be an advantage for the younger, but talented, players.

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“Dak is going to be a different player than he was last year.”

Mullen says Prescott will have to get comfortable with the team, but he’s expecting more deep passes down the field.

Drew Galloway July 15, 201410:49 am

On the differences between the 2012 and the 2013 seasons: Every team responds to losses differently. As the year went on in 2013, the team realized they could play tight games against great teams.

“That team had so much confidence going in to the bowl game.”

Drew Galloway July 15, 201410:56 am

On the new format for the national championship: It’s going to be really interesting. No one knows really what’s going to happen or how they will pick teams.

The key is you want to be able to look back on the season and say “college football got it right. The best team won.”

Drew Galloway July 15, 201411:00 am

Mullen says you can’t rely on just a superior offense or defense, but that a team has to be the complete package to win the SEC championship game.

Drew Galloway July 15, 201411:01 am

Coach Dan Mullen has ended his press conference.

The student athletes from Mississippi State will take the stage shortly.

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Dak Prescott, Quarterback

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Benardrick McKinney, Linebacker

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Jay Hughes, Safety

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Jay Hughes missed 12 games in the 2013 season due to an Achilles tendon injury. He says he has bounced back and is ready to put his feet on the field.

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Mississippi State players have been putting in extra hours this summer to improve their game.

Benardrick McKinney said, “The leadership got together. It was about 11 of us. We talked and said we need to do extra work if we want to compete with big teams and go to Atlanta.”

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McKinney said quarterback Dak Prescott is a great leader who likes to make everyone around him better.

Recently, both McKinney and Prescott have been named to some watch lists. McKinney said, “It’s a great honor…Like I was telling the other media people, my mom always told me to be humble, so I just take it day by day and just be a great player.”

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Prescott said he has high expectations for himself. “I’m going to continue to do what I do, work hard, get better, and try to be the best quarterback that I can.”

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About MSU’s three wins at the end of the 2013 season, Prescott said, “I think our team faced a lot of adversity, as a team with guys going down and couldn’t play, we just trusted each other and guys stepped in and filled positions an it gave us a nice gel towards the end of the season.”

Drew Galloway July 15, 201412:04 pm

The Mississippi State players have left the media room.

Up next is Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin at 1 p.m. CST.

Drew Galloway July 15, 201412:57 pm

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is up to the podium next. This is Sumlin’s third year at Texas A&M (20-6 record in 2 years.)

Drew Galloway July 15, 20141:02 pm

Coach Kevin Sumlin has taken the stage.

Sumlin says he is excited about the year.

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Sumlin says the new football facilities at College Stadium are the final piece of the puzzle to put together a winning season.

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Sumlin says he didn’t come here today to tell people who the quarterback would be. He says that decision will take more thought and time.

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Coach Kevin Sumlin preparing to take the stage.

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Sumlin says across the board his team is ready to go. He is particularly excited that he didn’t lose any special teams players.

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Coach Kevin Sumlin

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“We’ve got the pieces in place and we have to work with them. We have some young guys that we will have to integrate and work into place.”

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On Johnny Manziel: The difference between the NFL and college football is the turnover in players. That’s what is exciting about college football, according to Sumlin.

“I understand there’s not going to be another Johnny Manziel–the way he played. Does that mean we change the way we play offense? Maybe.”

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On Myles Garrett: He’s strong and explosive. “All signs point to him being as advertised. We don’t usually go off of lists, but they usually don’t screw up ranking someone number one.”

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On quarterbacks: “You don’t really know what a guy can handle until you get him in the game…Some guys handle that and thrive off of it, and some don’t.”

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When asked if this is a transitional year or if Texas A&M can have another good year, Sumlin said, “We have our own expectations–I’ll put it that way. Our first year, no one expected anything from us. Last year, people expected us to beat the Green Bay Packers…We’re going to play the best we can play…In some places we are young, but they are talented players.”

He added, “We don’t have time for a lot of rebuilding years. There will be someone else standing up here before too long.”

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Sumlin says the commitments of the players, the facilities, and the school give him the depth needed to recruit top players.

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Coach Sumlin has left the media area.

The student athletes from Texas A&M are up next.

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Drew Kaser, Punter

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Deshazor Everett, Defensive Back

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Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle

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When asked how the prospective quarterbacks stack up to Johnny Manziel, Ogbuehi said, “Kyle [Allen] is more of a pocket guy. Kenny [Hill] is a little bit more mobile. I see a lot of similarities in that the are both playmakers as well.”

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Senior defensive back Deshazor Everett said, “To give up as many points as we did as a defense is embarrassing. We’re definitely going to come out stronger this year.

“We’ve got to play better, that’s all we can take from it.”

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“Its definitely not making the defense simpler, it’s understanding the game. That’s what coach has taken the time to do–explain thing to us. With the younger players, he explains to them why the guy next to them is doing what he’s doing and why they need to do their job. It all sort of works together,” Everett added.

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When asked how much better the defense is capable of becoming, Everett said, “If we play the way we believe we can play, we will be a lot better.’

Drew Galloway July 15, 20142:05 pm

The Texas A&M players have left the media room.
Up next is University of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.

Drew Galloway July 15, 20142:11 pm

This will be Jones’ second season at the University of Tennessee. Jones owns a 55-34 record (.618) in seven seasons as a head coach, and his teams have earned bowl appearances in five of his seven seasons as a head coach.

Jones is 34-18 (.654) in conference play and both 44-2 when leading at halftime and 45-3 when leading after three quarters. Jones joined UT from the University of Cincinnati, where he finished with a 23-14 record (.657) in three seasons with the Bearcats.

Drew Galloway July 15, 20142:31 pm

Coach Butch Jones has taken the stage to give his opening statement.

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Jones say each year is different with up to a third of your team turning over every year, on average. He says that Tennessee is in a unique position–they have had to replace half of their team.

“We’re the only school in the country that has to replace both our offense and defensive interior lines.”

Drew Galloway July 15, 20142:34 pm

“Our verteran players have done a great job of mentoring the younger players.”

He says the players that have joined him today at SEC Media Days are veterans who have earned the right to represent their school with hard work and dedication.

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Jones calls Curt Maggitt the heart and soul of the team. Maggitt is coming off of an injury that left him unable to play. Jones says he is excited to get Maggitt back on the field.

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Jones says that he isn’t focused on any game yet. His main focus is the first day of training.

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“What makes college football special is the rivalries…We just have to get back to making these rivalries matter,” Jones said.

Drew Galloway July 15, 20142:43 pm

Jones said the new summer workout rules have really benefited the team since there are so many new players and true-freshmen. He says there is a balancing act that the coaching staff must maintain to allow players and staff time to rest physically and mentally.

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Jones says he has coached against Derek Mason and he looks forward to getting that opportunity again.

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Jones calls the SEC a competitive league with no off-days and a daily grind. He says it takes a mentally tough football team to be able to go on the road to a “hostile environment.”

Drew Galloway July 15, 20142:57 pm

Coach Butch Jones has left the stage.

The student athletes from the University of Tennessee will be in shortly.

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Tune in tonight at 5, 6, and 10 to see video from SEC Media Days 2014!

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Coach Butch Jones giving his opening statement.

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AJ Johnson, Linebacker

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Curt Maggitt, Defensive End

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Mack Crowder, Offensive Line

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That wraps up our SEC Media Days 2014 day two live blog. Tune in to WHNT News 19 tonight at 5, 6, and 10 to see video from the day’s press conferences.

We’ll be back tomorrow for day three with SEC Coordinator of Football Officials Steve Shaw, Missouri, LSU, and Arkansas.