Five takeaways from SEC media days: Monday

semerson@macon.comJuly 15, 2014 

SEC Media Days

Florida Coach Will Muschamp speaks to media at SEC media days on Monday, July 14, 2014, in Hoover, Ala.

BUTCH DILL — AP

HOOVER, Ala. - - There's a whole lot of nothing that happens here at SEC media days. Coaches are excited about their player's offseason workouts. Yada yada. Players say there's a better chemistry on this year's team. Yada yada. The amount of times the word "excited" appears in the transcript is in the hundreds.

It's difficult to cut through the clutter and come up with something that is meaningful or that portends something tangible about the upcoming season. But we can try. Here are the five things that stood out Monday from a news and observational standpoint:

1. Missing Nick Marshall

Nick Marshall's non-appearance can be argued well in either direction. Auburn should have made him come and face the music, because he'll have to eventually, and Gus Malzahn and the three players who came had to answer questions about their quarterback anyway. Or ... Had Marshall come it would have been a circus and this way some attention was paid to other things.

But if you've interviewed Marshall you know he doesn't really have much to say, so his absence was not a huge loss.

It was telling that Malzahn brought up Marshall's absence in his opening remarks and referred to appearing at SEC media days as a "privilege" that Marshall had lost. It seemed as if Malzahn was hinting that this was going to be Marshall's punishment, along with running steps or something behind the scenes. Malzahn's aim: Make a show of anger, but ultimately don't yank playing time. Or at least that's the guess here. At this point it would be a surprise if Marshall isn't out there for the first series against Arkansas.

2. Vanderbilt moves on

A coach "winning" SEC media days is a fun thing with no permanent meaning. Witness the turkey-inseminating Robbie Caldwell in 2010. So the fact that first-year Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason was very impressive at the podium is nice, but it doesn't mean the Commodores are necessarily going to take the next step.

It was more telling that a Vanderbilt player seemed to throw James Franklin under the bus. According to my colleague Josh Kendall, Vanderbilt's Adam Butler said: "I was really surprised. He repeatedly told us, 'I am not leaving no matter what.' He even took it so far as to break out in tears like he always does. ... He was a big camera guy. He loved the camera. Absolutely, yeah you could say that."

Franklin did win, of course, which is why he got the Penn State job, along with his ability to recruit and speak. But with Mason you get the impression Vanderbilt will be a little bit more about Xs and Os, and less bombast than under Franklin.

3. Florida made the right moves

The jury definitely remains out on whether Will Muschamp was ready to be head coach at a place like Florida when he was hired in 2011. And Muschamp knows this season is critical for his future in Gainesville. But I came away from Florida's appearance feeling like the Gators at least did what they had to do this offseason:

- Muschamp needed to be given another season. The injuries were ridiculous - even worse than Georgia's - and it would have been unfair to pull the plug on Muschamp one year after leading a healthier Florida team to an 11-win season.

- Muschamp also did the right thing in changing offensive coordinators and going to a more open style. Who knows whether it will work. But people forget that Florida's defense was pretty good last year, and has been under Muschamp. So Florida is the reverse Georgia: If the Gators can at least improve a little on offense they have a chance to rebound in a big way.

- I still wouldn't predict huge things for the Gators. But a nine-win season sounds about right.

4. Slive makes no news

Which is good news on several fronts. It means that when it came to the upcoming autonomy vote the SEC commissioner felt no need to do any more than gently remind everyone that they want a few small concessions. No grand pronouncements about breaking away. Slive may be sensing that conference commissioners will accede to the wish of the SEC, which is that the Big Five conference have a lower voting threshold in order to pass legislative reforms.

And when it comes to the SEC Network, Slive also gently prodded the public to contact cable provider holdouts. It's obvious that behind the scenes Slive and SEC Network honchos think they're making headway. But if the momentum doesn't continue as August 14 approaches, the heat will ratchet up.

5. Where's the star power?

The contrast is pretty stark: Last year you had the reigning Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel), the next No. 1 overall NFL pick (Jadeveon Clowney), and returning and proven stars such as Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron, Jake Matthews, Jordan Matthews, C.J. Mosley, and so on.

This year the biggest name is probably Todd Gurley, who doesn't arrive until Thursday, with Marshall having been pulled out. So we're back to the coaches being the main attractions.

That hasn't dulled the attention, which may have something to do with the SEC once again credentialing nearly anyone who asks. (The Hoover Chamber of Commerce asked a question in the main room on Monday.) And ESPN is airing coverage almost as if LeBron James were about to walk in the lobby with Tim Tebow. Actually, since Tebow is now working on the SEC Network, I guess you can't rule him out. Stay tuned.

Tuesday at SEC media days: South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and players, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and players, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and players, Tennessee's Butch Jones and players.

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