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VOL. 129 | NO. 137 | Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SEC Media Days Notebook: July 15

By Don Wade

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HOOVER, Ala. – South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier has been at this college coaching game a long time. He also had a stint in the NFL. And a college program’s big boosters, he said, are “similar to an owner in the NFL because they put the money up.”

But that’s where the similarity ends.

SPURRIER

“That’s the best part of it,” Spurrier said. “They don’t tell us what to do. They’re sort of the owners from a distance. They don’t tell you who to play, what plays to call, so forth.”

McKinney on a mission. The hype is almost as big as he is. Mississippi State junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney is on several preseason watch lists, is considered a legit All-America candidate, and even graded out as the top underclass linebacker prospect by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

Which is why at SEC Media Days Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott was being asked about what makes McKinney a “freak.”

“Just walking around,” Prescott said. “He’s 6-5, 250, and runs a 4.5 (40-yard dash).”

McKinney led MSU in tackles last year with 71. He had a team-best 3.5 sacks. And yes, quarterbacks are always on the menu.

“I like to get in the quarterback’s head,” McKinney said. “I know when they’re looking at me, they’re not thinking about their reads.”

World Cup at SEC Media Days? Yes, Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen was outed as a soccer fan.

“My mom is a British citizen,” Mullen said. “She grew up in North Wales. Grew up watching that stuff, watching the soccer.

“The World Cup is so exciting. You see the passion the fans have; the whole country is on top of it. I do think SEC football could be compared to European soccer. The passion our fans have is equal.”

Johnny Football replaced by punter. A year ago, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel took over SEC Media Days. This time around, with Manziel now in the NFL, head coach Kevin Sumlin is searching for his starting quarterback and even brought in punter Drew Kaser, who last year led the league with a 47.4-yard average.

Sumlin’s thought: get a good look at him now, in July, and hopefully he won’t be seen a lot later when the games start.

Predictably, at some level, the first question from media to Sumlin was about life after Manziel.

“Let me get this straight,” Sumlin said, chuckling, “the question is what’s it like not coaching Johnny Manziel?”

It could have worse, of course. Some reporter could have asked Sumlin if he was a beer being drunk by Johnny Manziel what kind of beer would he be. Another reporter did, however, ask Sumlin about Manziel and photos (partying).

“Is this the SEC Media Days?” Sumlin said with a laugh. “That’s a great question … about the Cleveland Browns.”

The Tennessee Volunteers were scheduled to be the last team to make the media rounds on Tuesday. The Vols are coming off a 5-7 season (2-6 in the SEC) in the first year under coach Butch Jones.

The high point: a 23-21 victory over South Carolina. The low point: losing to Vanderbilt for the second straight season, something that had not happened since 1925-26 and that resonates with the Commodores and their fans.

“It means a lot for us,” Vandy tight end Steven Scheu said. “For so long, it wasn’t much of a rivalry.”

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