BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – SEC Media Days 2014 day three 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 SEC Coordinator of Football Officials, the Executive Director of College Football Playoff, and the coaches and players from Missouri, LSU, and Arkansas are up (in that order.)
Keep this page open all day for updates. It will automatically refresh when new news is posted.
SEC Coordinator of Football Officials Steve Shaw will kick off day three of SEC Media Days 2014. He will speak at 9 a.m.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel is scheduled to speak at 9:30 a.m.
Shaw has taken the stage. He joked that officials are used to no applause.
“From an officiating perspective, we had a solid year last year.”
Shaw says that the officials have been working hard in the off-season to improve and enhance their review and evaluation techniques, including the use of technology.
Shaw said the targeting disqualification rule change in 2013 was the biggest change in his 20+ years as an official and director.
He said this rule change has had an impact on both player behavior and targeting fouls.
“The targeting change is not ruining the game, it’s making it better.”
Shaw says this is a off-year in the two-year rule change cycle. The only rules that can be changed until 2015 are relating to player safety.
Change number one: There has been a slight change of wording for targeting fouls. It’s a subtle change, but the wording has been changed to make a targeting foul clearer.
If replay overturns a targeting foul, the 15 yard penalty will not be initiated and the player will be allowed to return to the game.
Change number two: Low hits on passers.
When an offensive player is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground, no defensive player rushing unabated shall hit him forcibly at or below the knees.
Shaw said now you hit the quarterback below the neck and above the knees.
Instant replay change now reviewable: Location of the passer on a ruling of Intentional Grounding, and catch or recover of a loose ball in an endzone.
Shaw says the SEC is continuing the experiment of using an 8th official. He says it helps the officials call the game better.
The 8th official, or “center judge,” will spot the ball to give the other officials time to do their pre-snap routines and get into place.
Nationally, pace of play, targeting and dangerous contact fouls, sideline management, and unsportsmanlike conduct have been points of interest for coordinators around the country, according to Shaw.
He added that anything that looked “choreographed” will continue to be labeled as unsportsmanlike conduct.
Shaw has left the stage.
Shortly, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel will take the stage.
Coach Pinkel has taken the stage.
After a short opening statement, he has started taking questions.
Pinkel is talking about the difficulty of losing several starting players.
“The difficulty going into August is settling on which personnel sets we will use.”
When asked about past questions about Missouri being ready for the SEC, Pinkel said, “I don’t really get into that–what’s said or what’s predicted…I don’t really care.”
Pinkel said he just wants to be respected in the SEC and nationally.
When asked about losing some key players, Pinkel said, “It’s not a surprise when you lose people. It happens in college football. But that’s what recruiting and player development is always about…That is always our challenge.”
Pinkel said he didn’t do a good enough job in the 2012 season, saying that he could have gotten his team one more win to go to a bowl game.
Pinkel said he thinks Missouri’s fits well in the SEC. He said the fans did a remarkable job of transitioning to the SEC.
On players leaving early for the NFL: Pinkel said he hates seeing guys leave early and not get drafted. He says he wants conversation to make sure the right guys leave early for the NFL.
“I think we need to tweak it and make it better…We need to help those kids make better decisions.”
On Michael Sam: It was much bigger than Mizzou. The interviews I did after he was drafted were different that any I had ever done.
Missouri is playing against Toledo for the second year in a row this year. Shaw coached at Toledo for ten years before coming to Missouri.
“They have a rich tradition of beating good football teams.”
Pinkel called concerns about fast play football being detrimental to the health of players “fiction.” He said he has never had a team doctor or trainer come into his office and express concern about the health of his players due to fast play.
He said he’s happy to see another dimension of football being played.
On having Missouri’s non-conference games early in the schedule, Pinkel said that’s generally the practice in the Big 12, but that Missouri will transition to the way the SEC does it, with non-conference game spaced out over the season.
Coach Gary Pinkel has left the stage.
The student athletes from Missouri have taken the stage.
When asked which matchup he was looking forward to most, defensive end Markus Golden said, “For me, I’m so competitive that I just want to play. I don’t care who it’s against. However, I especially love playing all of the other SEC teams, so I look forward to playing against those schools.”
Golden said a mixture of confidence, getting comfortable, and believing in themselves made Missouri’s second year in the SEC successful.
“In the first year, we had a bunch of injuries, but last year we were healthy, so it’s about being healthy and competing. At Mizzou, we believe we can compete against anybody, and last year that’s what we were able to do. We’re goign to try and do the same thing this year.”
Junior Evan Boehm, who is new to the center position, said, “Last year, I was earning that new position, so I was a little unconfident, a little unsure about some things. Going in the year, you just have to go out there with confidence and work and be more physical than I was last year.”
The only date Boehm is looking forward to is August 3–the day they report for camp.
“You really can’t circle in the SEC. You found this out in the first two years that we’ve been here. You can’t circle that one game.”
The Missouri players have left the media room.
Coming up next is Bill Hancock, Executive Director of College Football Playoff.
Bill Hancock has taken the stage to talk about College Football Playoff.
This is a new era for college football. The best four teams will be selected with no strings attached, according to Hancock.
“Four teams is not too far. It goes far enough,” Hancock said.
The national championship game will remain on Monday night.
Every FBS team will have equal accesses to the playoff based on its performance. No team will be automatically included.
The selection committee will select the best teams, rank the teams of inclusion in the playoff, and select other bowl games and assign the teams to the sites.
There are former coaches, student athletes, administrators, journalists, and current athletics directors on the committee.
How the committee will make the decision: Strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and championships won.
Weekly top 25 rankings will be released for seven consecutive weeks beginning Oct 28.
The number one team will earn the right to play as close to home as possible, according to Hancock.
Hancock is running through a mock-assigning of bowl games. It’s a common sense method, with Hancock saying “It makes most sense for [team] to be in this bowl” for assignments.
This process seems to have some grey-area. Hancock says the goal will be for teams not to play the same bowl game two years in a row, but there are some situations where the selection committee may be forced to do just that. There seem to be many judgement calls that have to be made during this process.
“It will be up to the committee members to use their subjective judgement to make the selections,” Hancock said, but the selection committee “will not monkey with pure seeds.”
There is a recusal policy for people committee members who are compensated by the schools being discussed, Hancock said.
Hancock has left the stage.
He shed a little light on the matchup process, but one thing is certain–it is not a pure science. Commentators will still have plenty to speculate on before the matchups are released.
We have broken for lunch.
Coming up at 1 p.m, LSU head coach Les Miles will take the stage.
And we’re back. LSU head coach Les Miles has taken the stage.
“This is our fourth-straight 10-victory season…We’re really a team that’s on the cusp of winning championships.”
Miles says LSU is a team that expects freshmen to come in and play.
Miles is detailing the abilities of his veteran players and new recruits.
“Our players have had a great summer…and they have payed a tremendous price.”
“I would be not many picked Auburn a year ago. It’s anybody’s game.”
When asked about his junior players entering the NFL Draft, “I’d like to have those players back.”
Recruiting players able to play as true freshmen is the key to filling the holes left by veteran players leaving for the NFL Draft, according to Miles.
When asked about how All-American running back Leonard Fournette is doing, Miles said he is doing everything he needs to be doing.
Miles made the analogy that Michael Jordan wasn’t coached to be Michael Jordan, he simply accepted the role and responsibility.
When asked about the new College Football Playoff system, Miles said, “I think the playoff system is something that the national football system wanted. I think it’s a quality attempt.”
Miles said he believes the system will be expanded in the future as to not leave any team out.
When asked about the opening game against Wisconsin, Miles said, “They’re very talented…We recognize the challenges…It’s an opportunity for us to raise our level of play and we expect those freshmen to step up and play.”
“We have had the most early exits in college football. It has been a challenge, losing a senior class and juniors.”
Miles said his program tries to get the players to see the benefits of earning their degree and elevating their draft status by staying through the end of their eligibility.
Though, Miles said it’s difficult to “bemoan” the position of someone who leaves after their third year and is drafted highly.
Coach Miles ended his press conference saying the SEC is the conference of choice for players.
Senior offensive tackle La’El Collins said the key to the success of the offensive line in recent years has been focus.
“Each and every week is a battle. We face some of the greatest athletes in the country in the SEC, so if we prepare we’ll be okay.”
When asked about the pressures on the offensive line to support young quarterbacks and running backs, Collins said, “As a veteran offensive line group, we just have to set the tone on how we want the season to go. So I believe if those guys just buy into the program and buy into everything that we’ve done at LSU, then they will be okay.”
Senior linebacker D.J. Welter said his team has been preparing for all the new quarterbacks in the conference by watching film in the off-season.
Welter told reporters he is a fan of the new College Football Playoff, saying, “I feel like it’s a great opportunity for college football to be able to have four possible teams win the national Championship and it’s also an excellent opportunity for everyone playing college football, especially LSU…At the end of the season, we will hopefully be one of those four teams.”
The LSU players have left the main media area.
Up next is Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.
Arkansas opens the 2014 season at Auburn, marking the first time the Razorbacks will open with a conference opponent since joining the SEC.
Arkansas will face arguably one of the toughest schedules in the country in 2014, with its 12 opponents combining to post a 103-54 record (.656) in 2013, including nine with at least eight wins, and three opponents ranked in the top seven of the final 2013 AP poll. According to the NCAA’s strength of schedule formula, Arkansas enters 2014 with the toughest schedule in the nation.
However, this season Arkansas returns players who accounted for 95 percent of its total offense, 91 percent of its rushing yards, 99 percent of its passing yards, 80 percent of its all-purpose yards, 60 percent of its receiving yards and 63 percent of its touchdowns in 2013.
On defense, Arkansas returns players from last season who accounted for 66 percent of its tackles, 63 percent of its tackles for loss, 50 percent of its sacks, 88 percent of its interceptions, 82 percent of its pass breakups, 100 percent of its forced fumbles and 50 percent of its fumble recoveries.
Coach Bret Bielema has taken the stage.
Bielema opened by talking about how much he appreciates the media.
Bielema said about safety Alan Turner, “It’s never good when your safety is your best tackler, but it’s the truth.”
Bielema said there was some staff turnover after last season, but his program is better for it.
When asked about what kept Arkansas from breaking through in some close games, Bielema said, “A lot of times, teams lose the game before they win it.”
He said his coaching staff is taking a look at what they are asking their players to do while asking their players to perform consistently.
Bielema said about coach Gus Malzhan “We don’t necessarily see eye to eye in things, but one of the things you have to learn in life it to respect the opposite side of your position.”
Bielema said Malzhan’s fast play offense goes against everything he believes in.
Bielema said they won’t be going to dinner together anytime soon, but they’re not throwing rocks at each other, either.
Bielema called the tough Arkansas schedule “awesome.”
Bielema said when it comes to recruiting new staff members, he says he doesn’t care about how impressive someone’s resume is, he only cares about results.
When asked about the transition to the SEC, Bielema said the biggest culture shock came from “winning and losing.”
“We’ve done a lot of little things that are going to affect the big picture…I do know it’s going to be better.”
Bielema said he has not softened his stance on fast play offense, saying that it would be like softening his stance on player safety.
Bielema said that either a ten second rule or mandatory substitution rule could improve player safety in the future.
He said when they do play against no-huddle offenses, they use their offense to keep the opposing team’s offense out of the game as much as possible.
On opening up the season against Auburn, Bielema said, “To play the team that played in the National Championship game can be nothing but a positive thing.”
Coach Bielema has left the stage.
The student athletes from Arkansas will take the stage shortly.
When asked about what it’s like playing for Bret Bielema, Brey Cook said, “He is an incredible guy. What you see is what you get. He’s the same way on social media and in public and behind the scenes. He’s a great guy and he really brings a whole new level of physicality to our offense and he is a really fun coach to play for.”
Defensive end Trey Flowers said several other defensive ends have stood out in summer workouts.
“You’ve got Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis, JaMichael Winston. Those guys have come a long way and I feel that they are mature mentally. They understand it’s going to take them to help us win.”
Flowers said having four different defensive coordinators in four years has been challenging, but said, “The challenge we face is terminology. It’s all defense, we’re all stopping the offense, but how you communicate with each other is probably the biggest challenge.”
The players from Arkansas have left the main media room.
That concludes SEC Media Days 2014 Day three. Tomorrow is the big day. Starting at 9 a.m. Friday, the coaches and players from Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Kentucky will take the stage to answer the media’s questions.
WHNT News 19 will again be in the press room to give you the inside scoop on your favorite team.
Tune in to WHNT News 19 tonight to see video from today’s press conferences.