Tennessean sports writer Nick Cole just finished his first SEC Media Days. This is what he learned as he ranked the teams for the season.
7. ARKANSAS: Bret Bielema sounded like a man in denial when it comes to fast-paced, no-huddle offenses. Sticking to his guns on the opinion that they pose an injury risk to his players, the second-year coach said that he wanted no part of the style of play. Unfortunately for Hogs fans, teams like Auburn, Ole Miss and Missouri remain on the schedule.
6. TEXAS A&M: The Aggies were not able to get away from questions about Johnny Manziel. Coach Kevin Sumlin had to bring his presser to halt. "Is this SEC Media Days? That's a great question for the Cleveland Browns. Anybody else got something (to ask)?"
5. OLE MISS: Bo Wallace has found his arm strength. The former Giles County standout battled fatigue in his surgically repaired throwing shoulder last season, but said he feels like he is back to 100 percent after an offseason focused solely on strengthening the shoulder. The Rebels will need a big season from the third-year starter.
4. MISSISSIPPI STATE: This could be the year the Bulldogs make a push to the upper tier of the West. Coach Dan Mullen has taken the Bulldogs to four consecutive bowl games, but said this is the year the team should make a push for a trip to the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs return 17 of 22 starters.
3. AUBURN: Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall will be reprimanded … maybe. The biggest news the defending SEC champions made was choosing not to bring the preseason All-SEC quarterback because of a citing for possession of marijuana last week. After Coach Gus Malzahn suggested not being there was a punishment for Marshall, some wonder if that will be the extent of his discipline.
2. LSU: Les Miles is the most entertaining man in the Southeastern Conference. That may not exactly be breaking news, but he dazzled media members with tales from his vacation and his excruciating answers to questions he didn't care to field. Tigers players raved about incoming running back Leonard Fournette, who is the top-rated freshman in the country.
1. ALABAMA: Nick Saban is the king of SEC Media Days. Whether it is because of the event being held near Tuscaloosa or the respect his national championships command, the whole building's activities for the day revolve around when he will speak. He used his pulpit to push the elimination of games played against teams that do not belong to the five "power conferences."
7. KENTUCKY: There just isn't a lot of interest when a basketball school is coming off a winless football season. Mark Stoops was the 14th and final coach to approach the podium. He was forced to follow Alabama's Nick Saban, who along with the Crimson Tide players, drew much of the attention away from the Wildcats.
6. TENNESSEE: The Vols have a brutal schedule and a ton of talent to replace on both the offensive and defensive lines, and Butch Jones wanted to make sure that everyone knew about it. He sounded like a man trying to tone down the expectations of a fan base that is hungry for a winner after three consecutive losing seasons.
5. VANDERBILT: Derek Mason continues to be unafraid of the press conference game. Exuding a low-key confidence as the lone new coach, he was not shy about sharing his expectations of to taking the next step from back-to-back nine win seasons. With a sixth-place prediction, the media did not agree with his assessment.
4. MISSOURI: Not only does Missouri not worry about the loss of quarterback James Franklin, but the Tigers also are embracing a move into the Maty Mauk era. The sophomore said he models his game after former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, without the off-the-field indiscretions. If he's anywhere close, Missouri could repeat as SEC East champs.
3. FLORIDA: Will Muschamp is very much aware that he is coaching for his job. He didn't shy away from it, and his players were pressed often with questions about having that weight their shoulders. The performance of quarterback Jeff Driskel in his return from injury may determine Muschamp's fate.
2. GEORGIA: Mark Richt is comfortable with his quarterback situation. He compared the replacement of long-time starter Aaron Murray with senior Hutson Mason to the change from David Greene to D.J. Shockley in 2005, a year in which the Bulldogs won the SEC East. Having one of the best running backs in the country in Todd Gurley helps.
1. SOUTH CAROLINA: Steve Spurrier has this event down to a science. There is not much that can throw the Old Ball Coach off his game. Whether it's calling Alabama the greatest group of talent ever assembled on a college football team or responding to a question about Texas A&M's ability to compete by commenting on Kevin Sumlin's ability to negotiate a contract extension, he knows all the right buttons to push.