HOOVER , Ala. - Gearing up for his seventh (yes, seventh) season at South Carolina, coach Steve Spurrier seemed even more colorful than usual Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Football Media Days.
Spurrier, whose team finished 9-5 last season and made its first appearance in the SEC Championship Game, said in his opening statement he believes tailback Marcus Lattimore “is the best running back in the country,” and that Alshon Jeffery is, “in my opinion, the best receiver in the country.”
He later added that as a team, “we have a ways to go.”
Then the real fun began.
Before long, the Ol’ Ball Coach let loose a few zingers.
Earlier Wednesday, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive outlined an ambitious proposal that would, in part, eliminate year-to-year scholarships for players and effectively make them multi-year deals.
Spurrier’s reponse: “I think that’s a terrible idea, commissioner. ... If you go bad and don’t show up for work, you’ll be out on the street, right? So everybody has to earn their way in life. That’s the way I believe.”
Sensing some irony, he continued: “Luckily, coaches have four- or five-year contracts. They get paid off if they get canned, I guess.”
Later, Spurrier spoke of quarterback Stephen Garcia, who has started 28 games but is suspended at least until August.
Asked why he’s given the often-troubled Garcia so many chances, Spurrier grinned and shrugged.
“I guess we don’t want to kick him out for stupidity,” he said, sparking another round of laughter.
“Again, he’s not done anything to be arrested, thrown in jail, DUIs, things like that. He’s just done some stupid things.”
Dan in real life
Not long after crossing the state line into Mississippi, northbound drivers on
Interstate 59 are greeted by a huge billboard of Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen which reads, “Welcome to our STATE.”
The land-grab ad campaign was the idea of the marketing staff at State, Mullen said, an idea he enthusiastically endorsed.
“We are the state university for Mississippi,” Mullen said. “I would love nothing more than to win a championship for the people of Mississippi. They deserve to be champions.”
The people of Mississippi have had a long wait: the Bulldogs’ only SEC title came in 1941.
Band of brothers
The memory of Nick Bell, a Birmingham-area defensive end who died from cancer Nov. 2 at age 20, is never far away from his former Mississippi State teammates.
“He’s probably sitting next to me right now,” quarterback Chris Relf said as he answered questions from reporters.
On Relf’s left wrist he wore a white bracelet that read in maroon lettering: Nick Bell, #36, Bulldog for life. He said most of the Mississippi State players have worn them since late last season.
“It was hurtful for all of us,” Relf said of Bell’s death. “We know he’d want us to stay strong and keep competing.”
Coming soon: SEC films
The SEC announced Wednesday that ESPN will create and televise four documentaries focusing on the conference.
The series, called “Storied,” will appear on ESPNU, and will fit the mold of the network’s “30 For 30” series.
The series begins Sept. 7 with “Herschel,” which chronicles the life of former Georiga superstar Herschel Walker.
The second film will focus on the first SEC Championship Game in 1992, and how the game helped change college football.
Sugar Bowl still not a win
Ohio State might have vacated last year’s Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas, but Razorbacks fourth-year coach Bobby Petrino said there’s no need for his school to revise record books.
“It’s a 10-win season,” he said, referring to last year’s 10-3 record. “We had every chance to win that game on the field.”
All that aside, Arkansas appears ready for another strong season. The Razorbacks bring back 13 starters (though they’ll have to replace quarterback Ryan Mallett), and Petrino said he has “a fast football team. ... Our speed on offense gives us a chance to be a special football team. And our speed on defense is where it needs to be.”
In three seasons under Petrino, Arkansas has gone from 5-7 to 8-5 to 10-3.
Day 2 of SEC Football Media Days will be highlighted by coach Gene Chizik and players from reigning BCS national champion Auburn.
Also on hand will be coaches and players from Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee.
LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt wrap up media days during Friday’s session.