Live Blog: SEC Media Days 2015 Day 1 – Auburn, Florida & Vanderbilt

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Stay with throughout the week for updates from SEC Media Days 2015

Stay with throughout the week for updates from SEC Media Days 2015

HOOVER, Ala. – SEC Media Days 2015 has finally arrived and WHNT News 19 is your inside source for the first look at the 2015 football season.

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

This four-day event kicks off at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham with an address from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, followed by the head coach and players from Auburn, Florida, and Vanderbilt.

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

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Interactive Content Producer Drew Galloway here. I’m coming to you live from Hoover at SEC Media Days 2015. I’m here with Ryan Cody, Chase Horn, Christine Killimayer, and Kasey Langley.

First up today is an address from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey at 11:30 a.m.

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They just gave the five minute warning. Things are about to kick off!

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Commissioner Greg Sankey has taken the stage.

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Sankey says he is usually used to seeing Mike Slive giving the opening address.

Sankey, the eighth commissioner of the SEC, says it is a great honor to be named commissioner.

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Sankey says he is the first commissioner with at Twitter account – @gregsankey

He says it is a small representation of the changes happening to college football.

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Sankey says the Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are A-changin'” has an appropriate lyric for this occasion:

Come writers and critics

Who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide

The chance won’t come again

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Sankey says he is proud of the campuses who have followed the example of the South Carolina legislature in the debate on the Confederate flag.

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Sankey’s vision for the SEC can be summed up in three words: Scholars, champions, and leaders.

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One goal is to graduate every student athlete, in addition to making sure that they are ready to attend when they enter as freshmen.

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Sankey is sharing stories of athletes who completed their degrees after leaving school early to turn professional.

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New efforts will be taken to make sure the SEC conference and teams comply with NCAA rules in order to make sure teams and players comply with all rules and regulations.

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A conduct group will be assembled to make sure as a conference, teams and players are working as one on policy and enforcement, Sankey said.

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The players’ stories, says Sankey, are the reason why he believes the best days of the SEC are ahead of us.

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It’s time for Q&A.

Sankey says he has not considered applying any official pressure when it comes to the Confederate flag. He says it is a chance to have a discussion about the issue.
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Sankey says as times change, there is a new conversation about how to help players transition to their careers. He says a larger conversation about having players return to the classroom is coming for more sports in general.

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Commissioner Sankey has ended his address.

Scheduled next is Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. Jeremy Johnson, Jonathan Jones, and Kris Frost will be with him.

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Correction: The Auburn student athletes will be joining us before head coach Gus Malzahn.

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Auburn LB Kris Frost

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The Auburn student athletes have left the stage. Coming up shortly is coach Malzahn.

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Coach Malzahn has taken the stage. He says his team’s motto this year is “count on me.” He says this means that players can count on each other on and off the field.

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Malzahn says the entire offensive staff is back for the third year in a row and Will Muschamp has been hired as defensive coordinator. He says he hopes this will set his team up for success this year.

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Malzahn says he feels good about where Jeremy Johnson is at. He says Johnson has the confidence of his team and staff.

Malzahn says Johnson could have started at any team last year, but this is his year.

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Muschamp’s approach and energy for the game has given players and other coaches more confidence. “We think the future is very bright.”

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The fact that Muschamp has been a head coach in the SEC has allowed Malzahn the opportunity to use him as a sounding board for ideas.

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Malzahn says having Muschamp is truly a unique situation.

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Watch Gus Malzahn live on Periscope via @whnt

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On the Iron Bowl – “We’re playing at home this year, and I feel good about our chances.”

He says the team is focused on defense in the upcoming Iron Bowl game.

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Malzahn says the veteran players are helping the talented younger players get their heads right for the upcoming season.

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On the SEC West – “I think the west is the toughest conference in the country. No question about it.”

Malzahn says the key to coming out ahead is “surviving the grind.”
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On quick and aggressive play – “The bottom line is winning games. Whether you’re playing fast or slow… It’s something you have to get used to.”

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On having the biggest video board in college football – It will help the energy in the stadium, providing a boost to players.

Malzahn says it’s so big that they will have to practice with it on so players aren’t shocked during the first game.

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Coach Malzahn has left the stage.

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Take a look at coach Malzahn’s address on our Periscope channel by clicking here.

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Next in the main media room is Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain. He is scheduled to take the stage at 2:30.

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McElwain was announced as the Florida Gators’ 25th coach in Dec. 2014.

He coached at Colorado State from 2012-2014. He also served as offensive coordinator at Alabama in the 2008-11 seasons, earning two BCS Championships during his time there.

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Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain has taken the stage.

He says he’s proud and humbled to once again be a part of the SEC.

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McElwain says the team has made the transition well, with the older players really helping the younger players along.

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On rebuilding – We’ve got a way to go, but there are some great things in place from coach Muschamp.

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When asked about turning around the program, McElwain said it’s great to have high expectations. He says he thinks that in recruiting he will have the opportunity to find some explosive play-makers.

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On cost of attendance at Florida, McElwain said as long as everyone is playing by the rules, he thinks having that knowledge publicly available is a great thing for the student athletes.

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On relying on his first year players, McElwain said the guys all signed up to come play, and they will get that opportunity at Florida. 

“For some of those guys, that learning curve is going to have to happen rapidly.”

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McElwain said his team will rely on the veteran defense players this year. The focus will be on improving offense and special teams.

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On cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, McElwain says he is a true competitor who works to tune his craft every day.

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On player accountability, McElwain says it all starts with the leadership within the football team. He says coaches and staff can only make so much of a difference. He says it comes down to the players’ choices.

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McElwain says he and coach Nick Saban have spoken several times a year since he served as offensive coordinator at Tuscaloosa. McElwain says Saban helped advise him as he took the head coach job at Florida.

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McElwain says many factors are taken into account when recruiting players, including criminal background. 

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Coach McElwain has left the stage. The student athletes from Florida are making their way to the main media room.

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Jonathan Bullard says he’s embracing his leadership role with the Gators.

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Vernon Hargreaves III says his father, Vernon Hargeaves Jr., linebackers coach at Arkansas, never pressured him to join sports.

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A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to bring you the latest from SEC Media Days 2015. Here’s Ryan Cody and Chase Horn working hard!

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Hargreaves says the stadium at South Carolina ranks among the toughest to play. “The stadium is off the wall. It gets so loud.”

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The student athletes from Florida have left the stages. Up next at 4 p.m. is Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.

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Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason has taken the stage.

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“It’s good to be back. A year older, a year wiser.”

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Mason said “Last year was a little bit of a disruptive road that we were on.”

“Last year was a little disappointing, but it was a comma, not a period.”

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Mason says the team is moving toward reinventing themselves. They are a much different football team than one year ago.

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Mason says he takes full responsibility for not being a good football team in 2014.

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New staff Mason hired onto the program are looking to reinvigorate the team.

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“Our football program is well on its way to doing what it needs to do.”

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“Each year stands on it’s own merit. One year does not make a football team… We were a young football team last year. I think we’ve matured.”

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When it comes to cost of attendance, Mason says Vanderbilt has the best deal money can buy when it comes to academics and athletics.

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“Last year as a first year coach, I made the assumption that we were a little bit better coming out of the spring than we were. I’m not making the same mistake this year.”

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Mason says he’s not about predictions for this season, but instead about the work.

With 22 years of coaching, he says he takes every year as a separate entity.
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On lessons learned during his first year, Mason says as a coach you don’t have all the answers. You have to rely on those around you. He said that forced him to make some staffing changes in order to stay competitive in the SEC. 

“I assumed that because we were in the SEC, we would play like we were in the SEC. And that comes back on me.”

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Coach Derek Mason has left the stage. Up next are the student athletes from Vanderbilt.

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Spencer Pulley says the team is different than last year, with different players taking leadership roles and different coaching staff.

Pulley says this year will be different because of the attitude and mentality of the team is different.

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Pulley says there’s still a lot of off-season left, but if the team continues on the track it is on, Vanderbilt will be a contender in the SEC.

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Pulley says there’s still a lot of off-season left, but if the team continues on the track it is on, Vanderbilt will be a contender in the SEC.

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Spencer Pulley

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The Vanderbilt players have left the stages.

This concludes the SEC Media Days 2015 day one press conferences, but WHNT News 19 has much more coverage coming to you tonight in our newscasts. Be sure to tune in to see what the coaches and players had to say!