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SEC Media Days left us with plenty of talking points

Published 12:01am Sunday, July 21, 2013

As expected, SEC Media Days had plenty of topics for discussion, from new rules to several “shots fired” quotes to discussions on the fairness of schedules.
Oh, and someone named Johnny Manziel was front and center, defending himself amidst rumors that he was asked to leave the Manning Quarterback Camp because he was hung over.
With so many angles to look at, let’s review some of the bigger stories from this past week’s meetings with SEC coaches, players and officials.
What’s the real story, Johnny?
After reports surfaced early last week that the defending Heisman Trophy winner had departed the Manning Quarterback Camp early, Dallas Morning News reporter Kate Hairopoulos tweeted that Manziel was suffering from dehydration, citing his father, Paul Manziel, as the source.
Fast-forward to SEC Media Days, where Johnny Manziel claimed he simply overslept and missed a meeting, then departed the camp, instead of having been asked to leave.
So what’s the real story? Who knows? Manziel certainly has garnered his fair share of critics for his extra-curricular activities this offseason, but I for one don’t think his play will be affected a bit. For some, no matter what distractions are going on, the football field can be a place of escape. I have a sneaky suspicion that’s the case for Manziel, but we’ll see.
Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling
LSU head coach Les Miles is not a fan of permanent opponents. He once again made that clear last week, and it’s easy to see that his comments are a not-so-veiled shot at Alabama playing Tennessee every year, while his team plays Florida.
In the microscope of one year, Miles is right — the scheduling is unfair. But he wasn’t complaining when Alabama faced six SEC teams coming off their bye weeks in 2010, three of which were losses for the Tide: South Carolina, LSU and Auburn.
The point is, some years the schedule will favor his team, while other years it won’t. Alabama shouldn’t be asked to give up its annual game with Tennessee, nor should Auburn be asked to stop playing Georgia every year. To make amends, perhaps the league should adopt a policy of only having divisional games count in the divisional standings.
Ole Miss fans’ great expectations
Hugh Freeze took the time during his SEC Media Days appearance to repeat the same message: Temper expectations, Hotty Toddy fans.
It was the same thing he told me when he visited Natchez several months back, and he’s been repeating it ever since last season’s 7-6 finish and a top recruiting class in February.
But after watching the likes of LSU, Alabama and Auburn win SEC and national titles in the last six years, Rebel fans are hungry for a special season of their own. While Freeze may think it’ll take several more recruiting classes to compete for SEC titles, if he can get his players over the mental hump of, “we’ll find some way to blow this,” his team could surprise some this fall.
Next step for Bulldogs?
Dan Mullen has led Mississippi State to winning seasons each of the last three years in Starkville. But Bulldog fans want more — and Mullen is not oblivious to that.
Mullen acknowledged at SEC Media Days, saying the “ultimate goal is to go to Atlanta and compete for an SEC championship.”
The Bulldogs’ head coach is no doubt aware that the road to Atlanta is tough. If his team is to make a bid for an SEC title game appearance, a lot will ride on the shoulders of quarterback Tyler Russell. Like his team, the senior is ready to take the next step and become one of the league’s premier passers.
Manziel, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are easily the best three signal-callers in the league, but I personally believe Russell has the talent to be right there behind them. If MSU is indeed going to take the next step, it will need him to live up to that potential.

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