The four-day whirlwind that was the 2016 SEC Media Days wrapped up Thursday afternoon at the Wynfrey Ballroom in Hoover, Alabama.
What started out with a series of dull press conferences — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn kicked the festivities off trying to provide the 1,000-plus attendees with as little to write about as possible — ended with a series of engaging moments.
We break them down here…
“I need to be more of a dominating specimen, more tenacious this year,” Auburn defensive lineman Montravius Adams
“I better be careful. Don't get in a pissing contest with a skunk. Right? So he's gone. He can't say nothing about me right now… big Bret, big guy, the whole deal, he's got dogs this big in there yapping at your ankles in there. So you have to bust his chops about his tiny dogs,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops telling a story about his friend Bret Bielema.
“I want to be remembered as the greatest quarterback to ever play,” Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly
“I’m excited to get down to the real Death Valley and see how loud it is…the real Death Valley with over 100,000 people,” Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly hinting at some bad blood with his former team Clemson
“I understand how the SEC -- I'm sorry, the Michigan-Notre Dame thing sounds sexy to everybody else, but I think Michigan and Arkansas sounds sexy,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on cancelled matchup against the Wolverines
“I don’t really care about answering the critics because I’m going to do what is right for the players. If the players really did anything that wrong they would have got charged with something. There weren’t charges brought against these guys. Do we condone the behavior? No, but you are innocent until proven guilty in this country regardless of whether you get convicted in the media or not,” Alabama coach Nick Saban got into a heated exchange with Paul Finebaum on SEC Network
“I get mad at myself for not doing a better job preparing our players, and you get a little frustrated when the young men don't execute exactly the way we want to, and I wear my emotions sometimes on my sleeves a little bit more than I should, so -- I don't remember the situation. I black out sometimes” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp on breaking a finger during halftime last year as Auburn’s defensive coordinator
“You don’t have to ask me if I’m going to suspend anyone for our first game. It doesn’t even come up in our program,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on player discipline
“You know what? I don't wear that cape. I really don't. I think my ethnicity, okay, has nothing to do with my position. I think I'm intelligent enough to be a head coach, and I've proven over time that I can, you know, do the job,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason on if he feels added pressure one of the only African-American head coaches in the SEC
“So I went to Cuba, and Cuba is a communist country, and that was kind of the reason that I went,” LSU coach Les Miles recapping his offseason travel plans
Winners and losers
The quarterback had no problems answering questions about what went wrong at his previous stop in Oklahoma. Knight patiently laid out the reasons behind his transfer, how he picked Texas A&M and getting his new teammates to believe in him.
Knight has plenty to prove on the field after struggling the past two seasons, but during his brief time in the spotlight at SEC Media Days showed why Kevin Sumlin credited the quarterback with being a calming influence in the locker room the minute he stepped on campus.
Fournette spent much of his time during his session with reporters talking about anything but football. In the wake of the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge, Fournette about how important it was to use his status as a Heisman frontrunner to speak up on social issues.
"I have a voice in the city I’m from especially in Louisiana," Fournette said.
Fournette previously used his popularity to help raise funds for flood victims in South Carolina, auctioning off a game-worn jersey that ended up selling for more than $100,000.
“I figured why not be that difference-maker for your generation,” Fournette said. “As far as having a platform, I feel all athletes should use it. Young kids look up to who play in college, especially for myself with where I’m from in New Orleans. So why not be the generation to stop all the violence going on?"
Fournette’s activism might be more important than any touchdown he scores this season.
The Mississippi State coach dealt with a series of questions surrounding the university’s decision to admit five-star recruit Jeffery Simmons. Video of Simmons hitting a woman in a street fight surfaced online leading to pair of misdemeanor charges.
Mullen stressed the importance of second chances in welcoming Simmons to the Bulldogs family, but also distanced himself from the admissions process that allowed Simmons to enroll with minor penalties (one-game suspension, counseling services).
The coach described it as an uncharacteristic incident, but the dispassionate response coupled with Mullen saying he was “thrilled” to have Simmons on the team did little to quiet the controversy.
First year coach Barry Odom’s introduction to SEC Media Days probably didn’t go as planned. The news broke an hour before Odom walked onto the stage at the Wynfrey Hotel’s main ballroom that the athletic director who hired him was leaving for Baylor.
Odom learned the news from Mack Rhoades the night before travelling to Hoover, Alabama. Rhoades leaving for a school embroiled in a sexual assault controversy with an interim football coach isn’t a good look for a university trying to move past a tumultuous year on and off the field
Odom now finds himself in a situation having to replace the winningest football coach in school history without an athletic director, school president and chancellor.
Saban’s ran down the ins and outs of his roster during a low key press conference at SEC Media Days. The fireworks came when he stepped onto the SEC Network with Paul Finebaum.
Finebaum asked about Saban’s decision not to suspend left tackle Cam Robinson and defensive back Hootie Jones, who were both arrested in the offseason on gun and drug charges.
The two had a heated exchange on-camera and it continued when the program went to commercial. The discussion put a direct spotlight in the lenient approach coaches are taking across the league in the wake of serious misconduct.