SEC Football Media Days Blog: Monday
Welcome to the SEC Football Media Days Blog, your online home for the big news, behind-the-scenes notes and quotes and special moments that make this annual event, held this year in Hoover, Ala., the unofficial start of college football season. Check back for updates each day throughout the week.
Hard to beat the bond between LSU's Ed Orgeron and Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow, who played both ways in high school and believes he "could've been a Division I player on defense, too," is Ed Orgeron's kind of quarterback.
"I do believe that Joe, if we let him, would run into a brick wall," the LSU coach said. "He has a linebacker mentality."
Orgeron is Burrow's kind of coach.
"I'll run through a wall for Coach O," Burrow said. "I won't run through a wall for just anybody."
It was clear Monday that the quarterback and the coach developed a unique bond during their first year together in Baton Rouge. If their confidence in each other translates to the field this season, the Tigers should improve on their 10-3 record and make a run at their first SEC title since 2011.
"I think he's proven the last two years he's one of the best coaches in the country," Burrow said of Orgeron. "Coach O is a player's coach. Coach O is a lot smarter than people think. He's one of the smartest people I've been around. Not just in football. In life."
Last season, with Burrow emerging as a leader and Orgeron presiding over a 10-win team, was special for both of them.
"I think we both proved a lot of people wrong at the same time," Burrow said. "A quarterback and a coach are always going to have a bond."
Theirs should give LSU hope that a special season awaits.
Florida QB Feleipe Franks blocks the noise, brings the heat
It's true, Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks said. He did hit 95 mph on the radar gun in a workout for the Boston Red Sox, who made him the 947th overall pick in the June Major League Baseball Draft, even though he hasn't played that sport since high school.
Good news for the Gators: Even though the Red Sox announced Friday that Franks had signed with them, it was to keep the baseball door open in the future because 31st-round draft picks don't give up starting quarterback jobs in the SEC to toil in the minor leagues.
Could Franks see himself following in the footsteps of Florida legend Tim Tebow after hanging up his football cleats, taking a shot at professional baseball?
"Hopefully," Franks said, "my football career is long enough I don't have to do that. We'll see."
The redshirt junior matured last season into a full-time starter who led Florida to a 10-3 record and earned other mentions in the same sentence as Tebow. Franks' 24 touchdown passes were the most by a Florida QB since Tebow in 2008. His 2,457 passing yards were the most by a Florida QB since Tebow in 2009.
With 24 TD passes and only six picks, Franks also compiled the best touchdown-to-interception ratio by any UF quarterback not named Tebow since Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel in 1996.
Florida coach Dan Mullen said "a light came on" when the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Franks "stopped listening to the outside noise" and "bought into using all his skill set."
Which is considerable. Franks' development is one big reason the Gators are considered a legitimate challenger to unseat Georgia as SEC East champions. Florida improved by six wins in its first year under Mullen, which was Franks' first year as the wire-to-wire starter.
"If we could go from 10 (wins) to 14," Mullen said, "I'd take that."
New Mizzou QB Kelly Bryant is no stranger to the SEC
Kelly Bryant had choices. After deciding to depart the Clemson football team after four games in 2018, taking advantage of the new NCAA redshirt rule, he could've played his final college season in 2019 at any number of SEC schools.
He'd considered Auburn out of high school and liked Gus Malzahn. He had a relationship with new Arkansas coach Chad Morris, who had recruited him as the Clemson offensive coordinator. But Bryant wanted to stretch beyond his proven skills as a dual-threat quarterback and "put myself in position to have a chance at the next level."
Who offered that opportunity? Missouri with former Dallas Cowboys assistant - and University of Tennessee head coach - Derek Dooley as offensive coordinator.
"He's a weird guy," Bryant said of Dooley, "but I like that about him."
Bryant really liked the way Missouri quarterback Drew Lock developed under Dooley last season into a second-round NFL Draft pick. Bryant called it "one of the main reasons" he chose Missouri.
"We'll attack you vertically down the field," he said. "There's not going to be any dropoff in the passing game."
Bold prediction considering Lock threw for 3,498 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, but Bryant doesn't shy away from speaking his mind. He said he "wasn't surprised at all" that his former Clemson teammates handled Alabama in the National Championship Game.
"Not being there was bittersweet," he said, "but at the end of the day, I was happy to see those guys celebrate."
Show me a more united team than Missouri
College football can bury you in an avalanche of numbers, even in July, but you won't find a more impressive stat than the one Missouri coach Barry Odom mentioned Monday.
Number of Tigers who entered the NCAA transfer portal after the program was hit with NCAA probation, which includes a postseason ban this year: 0.
"I'm proud of that," Odom said, with good reason. With college football players enjoying more freedom of movement thanks to NCAA rule changes, with Missouri players robbed of their opportunity to compete for championships this year through no fault of their own, it would've been totally understandable if multiple Tigers had at least put their names in the transfer portal.
That none did says something positive about the chemistry on a team that could be a dark horse in the SEC East.
At a team meeting after the sanctions were announced, Odom told his players they had the option to transfer and no one would look at them differently if they chose to exercise that option.
"He didn't hold back anything," said Kelly Bryant, the transfer quarterback from Clemson. "He could've kept some stuff from us. He just laid it out there for us."
Odom said the school would appeal but made no promises about the outcome of the appeal, which is ongoing. That honesty evidently appealed to his players. They all stayed even though they'd set some team goals a week earlier, one of which was to win a championship.
"What we focus on," Odom said, "is controlling our attitude and having absolutely zero excuses."
Welcome to officially official information on SEC officiating
Imagine a website dedicated to helping college football fans better understand the rules of the game they love and the game-day decisions they don't always embrace made by officials on the field and in the replay booth.
The SEC didn't just imagine it. Commissioner Greg Sankey unveiled it Monday: www.secsports.com/officiating.
As part of the conference's continuing and comprehensive efforts to improve the quality of its officiating and the public's understanding of the good work those officials already do, Sankey said, the website will include "educational videos, rules information and updated policies."
As TV networks add officiating experts to their broadcasts, the one voice that's been missing from an increasingly prominent and heated conversation - the voice of the authorities - will be added to the mix. Don't expect the conference to explain every call from every game in great detail, but hopefully, insight from the insiders at key moments will elevate the discussion above a shouting match.
There also will be a companion Twitter account: @SECOfficiating. That account launched Monday - adding more than 6,000 followers in less than two hours - with a lighthearted tweet asking fans to "Go easy on us!"
That won't always be the case, of course, but any thoughtful effort to demystify the officiating process and make the discourse about it less emotional and more informed has to be applauded.
SEC Media Days on the move
Commissioner Greg Sankey opened SEC Media Days 2019 - and a lot of eyes - by stating that next year's event will move to ... Las Vegas. That got the immediate attention of the media in the main ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham-Wynfrey Hotel, but he was only joking.
The SEC will send a football team there starting in 2020 as part of a new agreement with the Las Vegas Bowl, but Media Days will be on the move to a more familiar location. SEC Media Days 2020 will return to the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, where it was held in 2018, and land in Nashville in 2021.
Those will be just the second and third years the event has taken place outside the Greater Birmingham/Hoover area since its inception in 1985. By beginning to travel around the SEC footprint, Media Days has become the conference's preseason version of the NFL Draft. With approximately 1,000 local, regional and national media members here this week, there's no better vehicle to spread the gospel of SEC football than SEC Media Days.