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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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First Day of 2016 SEC Media Days

The 2016 SEC Media Day is held in Hoover, Alabama.
Photo by Provided

The 2016 SEC Media Day is held in Hoover, Alabama.

HOOVER, ALA.–With SEC Media Days kicking off yesterday, media members from across the country began their four-day frenzy of picking the minds of coaches and players from across the conference.
Monday’s action included appearances from SEC Commissioner, College Football Playoff Executive Director, Bill Hancock, Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt.
The action kicked off in the late morning with opening statements from Sankey. In his remarks discussing the activities of different football players around the conference, Sankey praised A&M junior defensive end Myles Garrett for his achievements on the field but also beyond the game of football.
“He has an affinity like me for trying to read a book. His goal is one every two weeks. He writes poetry, which I do not,” Sankey said. “He left Twitter, which I did not, though I thought about it over the last year. Refrained from social media because he said this, ‘Getting better as a person, football player and leader is how I want to spend my time.”
Auburn University followed Commissioner Sankey and began taking questions. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn answered questions regarding the quarterback position. After inconsistent play from Jeremy Johnson and Sean White who both started at quarterback for Auburn last season, the starting QB position is a hot topic in Auburn. Junior College transfer John Franklin III is making a strong impression in the spring, the race may become a tight three-way battle in August.
While Malzahn recognized the strides Franklin III made during Spring Practice, he added that both Johnson and White are in a better position to be successful for the Tigers than a year ago, and the offense will seek to find their identity after naming a starter while aiming to build around their strengths.
“First of all, John is the guy to be impressed with. He’s really won his teammates’ respect which is always important for a new guy coming in,” Malzahn said. “The two older guys both are in a lot better spot than they were this time last year. The positive is we have three guys that we feel like can execute our offense. The challenge we have is defining and figuring out who that guy is that gives us the best chance to win games, but once we make that call on who that guy is, we will tweak and try to build around their strengths.”
The Tigers, who limped to a 7-6 (2-6) record a year ago, will hit the ground running this season with a grueling September, opening with last years’ national runner-up Clemson. With a match up with Malzhan’s previous school, Arkansas State, before two conference games against LSU and Texas A&M.
Fortunately for Auburn, all four games are at home, but are essential for the Tigers’ 2016 campaign and for the future of Malzahn who hasn’t had much success since 2013. Malzhan, however, is confident that his team can produce big wins with their home-field advantage to start the season despite the skeptics.
“We got a real schedule starting out. I would probably put our schedule up against anybody in college football, especially early. We have a pretty tough opener, obviously with Clemson, one of the better teams in all of college football, with maybe the best player in all of college football. So, we got our work cut out for us,” Malzahn said. “The fact that we are playing at home will do nothing but help us. We got in, my opinion, the best crowd in college football. It’s really something to be able to play and coach in front of them.”
College Football Playoff Executive Director, Bill Hancock, began the afternoon session, touching on the success the Playoff in providing a unique experience the games provide not just for the players, but for everyone in attendance.
“Fans love the College Football Playoff,” Hancock said. “We provided a memorable experience for students, not only student-athletes but band members, spirit squad members and students who just go to the games.”
With ratings down last year due to the Semifinals being played on New Year’s Eve, Hancock addressed the measures the committee is taking to assure the Playoff is played on its traditional days in accordance with the host bowl games traditional slots.
“We know we face the challenge with New Year’s Eve,” Hancock said. “We may have had a bit of a sophomore slump with the New Year’s Eve matter. I feel fortunate that we have time to make the right decision on this, and we will take our time, and make a decision [on dates of games].”
Hancock concluded his day at the podium by answering the question many fans want to know: ”Will the Playoff expand?” Hancock’s answer, however, was not what they wanted to hear.
“There’s no discussion of expanding,” Hancock assured. “We set the four-team tournament for 12 years, and there’s no discussion in our group about any kind of expansion.”
The Florida Gators were next to the stage, with head coach Jim McElwain discussing their desire to build on their SEC Championship Game appearance a year ago.
“Really took pride in giving themselves an opportunity to get to Atlanta, and I was really excited for not only our players, but our organization, just to be able to experience that event, because that is one of the greatest events there is, and it was a lot of fun,” McElwain said. “And yet very disappointed in how we finished. Not something that we’re proud of, and not something that, you know, I take very lightly. Yet, at the same time, it was an opportunity for us to kind of learn. And learning from that, it will be interesting to see how this year’s team responds.”
With Tennessee and Georgia being the presumed favorites by media members to win the East this season, junior offensive lineman David Sharpe took note on how the team recognizes the doubt in Gainesville for the Gators to defend their division crown.
“We are very motivated by [Tennessee and Georgia],” Sharpe said. “We are ready to play those guys. We can’t wait to play.”
McElwain also addressed the ‘state championship rings’ Florida State awarded its players for last season’s victory over the Gators, accepting Florida’s defeat from their in-state rival.
“I mean, they won it,” McElwain admitted.  “I know what a great job they do up there and what a great program they have.  Jimbo has done an outstanding job when he took over changing that thing and winning a bunch of ball games.”
Vanderbilt concluded Day One at Media Days with Derek Mason discussing how he believes his team can take a step forward from their 3-9 and 4-8 years in Mason’s first two seasons in Nashville.
“We have 15 returning starters, and we have a lot of guys who have played significant or earned significant time, played in the SEC, and we’re extremely excited to see this group take the field,” Mason said. “The greater part of that experience, when you’ve had guys that have gone through the fire, is leadership and what that looks like. As my leadership has grown, their leadership has grown. The idea of who we stand for, what we need to do in the midst of playing in this conference, moving towards being not just competitive, but winning games, is the ultimate goal for this team, and that’s where we planned on being in 2016.”
In 2015, the Commodores were ranked 28 total defense, their offense ranked 116 of 127 in total offense only managing 326.5 total offensive yards and 15.2 yards per game.
Mason feels optimistic about his offensive unit this season, however, after naming Kyle Shurmur the ‘Dores starting quarterback in the offseason and returns a team-player in Ralph Webb at running back.
“[Shurmur] showed great character and leadership in the offseason. He has been pushed by guys behind them,” Mason said. “When I look at Ralph [Webb], he’s the first one in, last one out. He fully understands what it is to take true — or full advantage of the opportunity that is Vanderbilt.”
Day Two will begin with Steve Shaw, SEC Coordinator of Football Officials with representatives from Georgia and Mississippi State in the morning session. The afternoon session begins with Tennessee before ending with Texas A&M. Head Coach Kevin Sumlin and players Myles Garrett, Trevor Knight and Ricky Seals-Jones will take the stage for the Aggies.

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