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[SEC MEDIA DAYS] Day One Takeaways


The first day of the 2017 edition of SEC Media Days is in the books. Compared to days in the past, it was a relatively quiet day in Hoover.

Day one was “coaches on the hot seat day” as Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU all walked through revolving doors of media interviews held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Riverchase Galleria. Coaches and players alike paraded from room to room entertaining the questions of local and national media.

First up for the day was Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema. Bielema, who became a father on Saturday, said he was enjoying being a father, but he did not get a pass from the media after a mediocre 2016 season. Last season the Razorbacks finished with a 3-5 record in SEC play and just 7-6 overall.

The issue in 2016, and Bielema admitted this, was the inability finish games. Late in the season Arkansas held huge leads against Missouri and against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl, and squandered them both. The difference between 7-6 and 9-4 was a handful of plays, and energy at the end of games. Bielema said his team has not forgotten those losses, and is working to change the narrative in Fayetteville. “Our team is learning why this happened in 2016, embracing it, and moving forward,” he said. “As coaches we are finding the positives. We have definitely made changes, and have owned it. We are going to worry about how to win the second half,  and not how to lose it.”

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen followed suit to his head coach. He said his team has worked profusely in the off-season on conditioning to help itself in the second half of games. Allen essentially told the media his team is looking to have the mindset of SEC West foe Alabama. “Alabama is out there, and they’re going 100% every play. They have the right mindset.”

Allen also took the blame for many of the troubles Arkansas had last season. When asked about the player he needs to be in 2017 to have a better season he replied, “For me, I just have to take what they give me. A few times last year, I felt like I had to make a play to get us back on track. I thought I had to get out of my comfort zone and it didn’t always work out. Punting isn’t always the worst thing. This year if I get four yards on a 3rd-and-6, I know that it is playing field position and flipping the field. Knowing the scenario of the game and the down and distance will really help me out by playing smarter and staying in the flow of the game better.”

Tennessee has been rebuilding, or so it seems, since Head Coach Butch Jones took over in 2013. In 51 games as the Volunteers’ head man, Jones is just 30-21. For Tennessee, who once sat atop the SEC in the late 90s and early 2000s, his tenure has been disappointing. Jones does however have a way of neglecting the negativity thrown at him by members of the media. After going 9-4 in 2016, Jones said he was not disappointed in his team. “We’re very proud of the fact that it’s very, very difficult to win in the Southeastern Conference, and we’re one of only three programs that
have won nine games two years in a row. We’ve been very fortunate to have three straight bowl victories, first time in 20 years in our great program’s history and tradition,” he said.

Although Jones continues to avoid the reality around him, the coaching seat is hot. 30-21 as the head coach at Tennessee is not enough Knoxville. 9-4 last season, with what was supposed to be the best QB in the conference in Joshua Dobbs, was a huge disappointment especially when considering the Vols entered the season ranked in the top 10. If Jones wants to be the head coach at Tennessee in 2018, he needs to get his team to 10 wins and compete in the SEC East as opposed to finihing fourth in hs wn division like last season.

Ed Orgeron highlighted the day for the LSU Tigers. After finishing the 2016 as the interim head coach after Les Miles was fired mid-season, Orgeron was hired full-time, even with a career 22-29 career record as a head coach in college.

The question, and the problem, for the LSU Tigers remains the same as it did under Miles tenure in Baton Rouge. Will LSU have a viable option at QB? It is no secret that LSU has as much or more talent than than 99% of the teams in college football. The problem has been getting the receivers the ball. In recent history, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have both played at LSU, but no one has been able to get them the ball. Let thank sink in, Beckham Jr. and Landry, two of the NFL’s best have been on campus at Baton Rouge, but the downfield passing game has been abysmal. Danny Etling Jr. returns at QB for the Tigers, but last season he was shaky at best, especially under pressure.

The problem under Miles was predictable play calling, but junior running back Derrius Guice said that will no longer be an issue under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. “Coach Canada brings a lot of awareness for defense, as they must be on their A-game and mentally focused. It is an offense where there will be a lot of disguises, a lot of
motions. This offense will take us as far as we want to go, it us up to us, to the team, to buy into it and to really understand it and like it enough to trust the process. I feel like we are doing a great job of it so far, that everyone is buying into it, and everyone is doing what we have to do to understand it and really excel in it. And I feel like it is the best thing for all of us right now, to buy into it and excel and trust it,” Guice explained.

If the LSU offense can make some significant changes in 2017, expect the Tigers to compete in the SEC West.

SEC Media Days will continue on Tuesday. The following coaches and players are set to face the media:

*Head Coach listed first followed by players

  • Steve Shaw, SEC Coordinator of Officials
  • Georgia – Kirby Smart, Nick Chubb (RB), Sony Michel (RB), Roquan Smith (LB)
  • Vanderbilt – Derek Mason, Oren Burks (LB), Kyle Shurmur (QB), Ralph Webb (RB)
  • Mississippi State – Dan Mullen, Donald Gray (WR), Dez Harris (LB), Martinas Rankin (OL)
  • Florida – Jim McElwain, Duke Dawson (DB), Marcell Harris (DB), Martez Ivey (OL)

Jeremy Law for | © 2017, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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