Media Days: Day 1 capsules


Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze stands at the podium on Day 1 of SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 7:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 10:11 p.m.

Florida

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Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze stands at the podium on Day 1 of SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer

Coach: Will Muschamp, third year (18-8, all at Florida).

Last year's record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 in the SEC (T-1st in the East), lost to Louisville 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl.

Fans' expectations: Despite the Gators' disappointing upset loss in the Sugar Bowl, Florida has some momentum going into Will Muschamp's third season. This is a team that's capable of taking down Georgia and South Carolina and winning the Eastern Division. The defense will be strong again, especially on the line and in the secondary, and capable of carrying a UF offense that is still finding its way behind second-year starting quarterback Jeff Driskel. The passing game will be better, giving the Gators the balance they were missing last season. This is a team that can contend for the SEC title.

Realistic expectations: Driskel will be markedly improved in his second year as the starter and should be a more proficient passer. But the reality is the Gators are still lacking dynamic (and proven) playmakers in the receiving game. Last year's leading receiver, tight end Jordan Reed, is gone and there is no obvious go-to guy heading into the season. Chances are the Gators will struggle again in the passing game, which will place a heavy burden on new starting tailback Matt Jones and the running game. A loss at Miami in the second game of the season is a real possibility. If that happens, the Gators could find themselves limping into a tough SEC schedule that includes road games at LSU and South Carolina. And there is the two-game losing streak to Georgia to contend with.

Quotable: “Other than maybe the tight end position, I think we've got a chance to be better at all positions than we were last season offensively. “I'm really excited about (junior quarterback Jeff Driskel).” — Will Muschamp

Missouri

Coach: Gary Pinkel, 13th season (163-98-3 overall, 90-60 at Missouri).

Last year's record: 5-7 overall, 2-6 in the SEC (5th in the East).

Fans' expectations: With quarterback James Franklin returning to full health and seven offensive starters back, the Tigers will light up the scoreboard with their spread offense. Throw in an improved defense, and the Tigers will take advantage of an easy early schedule to get off to a 5-0 start heading into their game at Georgia on Oct. 12. Missouri isn't ready to challenge Georgia, South Carolina and Florida in the division, but the Tigers will start moving in that direction.

Realistic expectations: The Tigers had a tough time adjusting to life in the rugged SEC in their first season, and there's no reason to think that will change in 2013. The offense should be more productive with a healthy Franklin and the return of potential star tailback Henry Josey, but the Tigers are going to have problems with consistency in a strong defensive league. Missouri still isn't quite good enough on both lines of scrimmage to make a serious run at the division title.

Quotable: “Last year was difficult. We're used to winning. Our players have worked tremendously hard. The staff has worked tremendously hard. I'm excited that August is close by and we get a chance to get back out there and compete.” — Gary Pinkel

Ole Miss

Coach: Hugh Freeze, second season (37-13 overall, 7-6 at Ole Miss).

Last year's record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 in the SEC (5th in the West), defeated Pittsburgh 38-17 in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Fans' expectations: After surprising success in Freeze's first season, which included a rout of arch-rival Mississippi State, a bowl victory and one of the best recruiting classes in school history, the Rebels are ready to challenge Alabama and LSU in the West. Quarterback Bo Wallace will trigger a wide-open offense, while a much-improved defense will keep the Rebels in every game.

Realistic expectations: The Rebels are riding great momentum heading into the season, but that could stall out in the first week, when Ole Miss travels to Vanderbilt for a Thursday night game. It gets even harder two weeks later, with consecutive road games at Texas, Alabama and Auburn. Ole Miss certainly will be an entertaining team to watch, especially on offense. But the defense has too many holes and the overall talent level of this team is still nowhere close to the elite teams in the West.

Quotable: “Our task in Year 2 is to maintain the enthusiasm and energy from both our fans and our players and everyone that is involved in our program as we continue to strive to be relevant in the SEC West.” — Hugh Freeze

South Carolina

Coach: Steve Spurrier, ninth season (255-118-2 overall, 66-37 at South Carolina).

Last year's record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC (3rd in the East).

Fans' expectations: With two proven quarterbacks (Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson) and the nation's most dominating defensive player (end Jadeveon Clowney), the Gamecocks are headed back to Atlanta as the winner of the Eastern Division. This is going to be Steve Spurrier's best South Carolina team, one that will be balanced on offense and dominant on defense, especially up front with Clowney and Co. A win at Georgia in the second week will launch a championship season.

Realistic expectations: This has a chance to be Spurrier's strongest overall team at South Carolina. But for that to happen, some important things are going to have to happen. The Gamecocks are going to need to find playmakers at tailback and at the wide receiver positions, where USC is lacking proven players. And as strong as the Gamecocks may be up front defensively with Clowney, USC has some holes at linebacker, where all three starters must be replaced. The schedule, however, is favorable. If the Gamecocks can win at Georgia on Sept. 7, they'll be the leading contender in the East to reach Atlanta.

Quotable: “I was hoping to be here eight to 10 (years). Now, I'm hoping to be here nine to 13, something like that. I've got an excellent coaching staff. It's not a stressful job for me. Burnout is not something I think I'm going to get.” — Steve Spurrier

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