SEC Media Days: Day 2 capsules


Auburn coach Gus Malzahn talks to reporters at SEC Media Days on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

Texas A&M

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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn talks to reporters at SEC Media Days on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer

Coach: Kevin Sumlin, second season (46-19 overall, 11-2 at Texas A&M).

Last year's record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC (T-2nd in the West). Defeated Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

Fans' expectations: With Johnny Football running and passing opposing defenses dizzy, the Aggies are going to continue where they left off in 2012 and roll to the division title. A victory over Alabama in College Station on Sept. 14 will launch a championship season.

Realistic expectations: Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel does not seem to be handling his new-found fame well. But he'll get his focus back once he's on the field again and this Texas A&M offense will be close to unstoppable. Even if the defense is just OK, the Aggies will be in a position to supplant Alabama in the West.

Quotable: “At Texas A&M, the excitement level is really, really high. That's a good thing. What we have to do with our football team is separate ourselves from our fans, not from a closeness standpoint, but from a reality standpoint.” — Kevin Sumlin

Kentucky

Coach: Mark Stoops, first season.

Last year's record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 in the SEC (7th in the East).

Fans' expectations: There's a new excitement with the hiring of Mark Stoops. He's got a great coaching pedigree and he'll orchestrate a surprising turnaround season with a much-improved defense and an up-tempo offense.

Realistic expectations: A lot of positives have happened since Stoops' arrival in Lexington, but the bottom line is UK's talent level isn't anywhere near where it needs to be for the Wildcats to win more than three or four games. Stoops is facing a tough climb with this program.

Quotable: “We're working on being successful. We love the energy from our fans and from recruiting. We want the football culture to come to Kentucky.” — UK senior running back Raymond Sanders

Mississippi State

Coach: Dan Mullen, fifth season (29-22, 13-19 SEC)

Last year's record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 in the SEC (4th in the West). Lost to Northwestern 34-20 in the Gator Bowl.

Fans' expectations: The Bulldogs will finally break through in Mullen's fifth season and pose a serious challenge to Alabama and LSU in the West. The Bulldogs have an experienced QB in Tyler Russell and the defense will be good enough to keep MSU in most games.

Realistic expectations: Mullen has done a nice job turning the program around with three consecutive winning seasons. But the Bulldogs are coming off a humbling loss to arch-rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl that has left some questioning the direction of the program. This MSU team figures to remain in the Bulldogs' middle-of-the-pack rut in the division.

Quotable: “As you consistently win, at that point you're going to have the opportunity to go on and continue to take those next steps and go compete, which our ultimate goal is to find a way to get to Atlanta and compete for an SEC championship. Every year, that's our No. 1 goal, to try and get to Atlanta in December.” — Dan Mullen

Tennessee

Coach: Butch Jones, first season (50-27 overall).

Last year's record: 5-7 overall, 1-7 in the SEC (6th in the East).

Fans' expectations: The Vols will enjoy a surprising turnaround season in Butch Jones' first year, with UT becoming a contender again in the Eastern Division race. The offensive line is one of the best in the nation and Jones will find a quarterback capable of making his offense go. There's enough talent on defense, especially up front, to make UT competitive.

Realistic expectations: Jones has had great early success on the recruiting trail, which has helped ignite the fan base. But the momentum that's been building likely will stall out big time with early back-to-back games at Oregon and Florida. QB is a potential issue and the Vols are lacking playmakers on offense. The Vols will be better in Jones' first season, but not a whole lot better.

Quotable: “We've talked about building a championship culture, working to get Tennessee football back to its rightful place among the elite of college football. We've talked about doing it brick by brick.” — Butch Jones

Auburn

Coach: Gus Malzahn, first season (9-3 overall).

Last year's record: 3-9 overall, 0-8 in the SEC (7th in the West).

Fans' expectations: The last time Malzahn was at Auburn, the Tigers won the national championship, so this guy is going to turn things around in a hurry, maybe even this season. There's enough talent on offense to make the Tigers dangerous. If the defense holds up, this team has a chance to be a factor again in the West race this season.

Realistic expectations: The last time Malzahn was at Auburn, Cam Newton was one of his quarterbacks. There is no Cam Newton on this team, so Malzahn is facing a major overhaul with the Auburn offense. Malzahn has some talent to work with, but not enough for this AU offense to even remotely resemble the Newton-led crew of a few years ago. Malzahn enters the start of fall camp still undecided on a starting quarterback (there are four candidates). AU has a chance to climb out of the West basement, but it's not going to be easy.

Quotable: “I'm real excited about our players. We've asked a lot of them since they've been back. They really bought into the ‘New Day' theme, putting the past behind them.” — Gus Malzahn

Arkansas

Coach: Bret Bielema, first season (68-24 overall).

Last year's record: 4-8 overall, 2-6 in the SEC (6th in the West).

Fans' expectations: Bielema is a proven winner who will quickly get the program back close to where it was two years ago. He'll bring much-needed discipline and a toughness that will translate well in the rugged SEC. The Hogs will become bowl eligible in Bielema's first season.

Realistic expectations: Before Bobby Petrino went for that ill-fated motorcycle ride last year, the Razorbacks seemed close to pulling up alongside Alabama and LSU in the West. Now, they can't even see the elite programs in the division. Bielema has his work cut out for him. The Razorbacks don't have much in the way of playmakers on offense and the defense was a disaster a year ago. The over/under for wins is probably five or six.

Quotable: “We're going to be a team built from the bottom up. It starts with offensive line and defensive line play. It's something I've emphasized from day one. Fortunately, at Arkansas one of our best players is a center, Travis Swanson. I've been taught that if you build a team from the inside out on both sides of the ball you have a chance to be pretty good.” — Bret Bielema.

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