SEC Notebook: Pinkel proud Mizzou supported Sam


Missouri coach Gary Pinkel fields questions at SEC Media Days on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 5:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 6:44 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he's proud of the way the school's football program and athletic department handled the sensitive Michael Sam situation.

Sam, a Mizzou defensive end, is the first openly gay player in the NFL. He came out before the NFL draft in the spring.

“I think we talk about respect all the time for people,” Pinkel said. “A number of things we do internally gave us an opportunity to be able to handle something like that. It also says a lot for the closeness of the team.

“The next morning after he came out, I was on 'Mike and Mike' (on ESPN). When I did that interview, I knew that interview was going to be different than any I'd ever done before. It was going to be bigger than football or Mizzou … the societal influence.

“I'm very proud of everybody, how we handled it. I hope five years from now, there's no discussions about this, that we've moved on, we respect people for what they are and what they do.”

Miles high on Tigers

LSU coach Les Miles said he doesn't care where the media picks the Tigers to finish this season in the SEC race.

“Who's pick? I would be willing to bet that not many picked Auburn a year ago,” Miles said. “So, what generally seems to me to be our position is, 'Don't bother us, we don't care. We just want to work, we want to improve, we want to play one game at a time, we want to point at that next opponent.'

“We understand that doesn't mean we're in the immediate talk (about winning the SEC title), but if we continue to do the things we've done in the past, we'll earn our way.

“I like us. I like us in every game.”

Star LSU freshman

There's been a lot of excitement in Baton Rouge over the arrival of true freshman tailback Leonard Fournette this summer. There will be even more after LSU fans hear what starting tailback Terrence Magee had to say about Fournette at SEC Media Days.

“The only guy you could compare him to is Adrian Peterson (the All-Pro running back with the Minnesota Vikings),” Magee said. “Every running back wants three things — speed, power and vision. I have only two. He's got all three.”

Miles said Fournette also is a humble star.

“Leonard Fournette is doing exactly what he should be doing,” Miles said. “He's getting in the weight room, running, getting in great shape, pursuing the classroom, where he has good grades. He's quiet. He's not assuming. He's humble in his approach.

“I think he has a quiet confidence there that will benefit him.”

Don't mess with Texas

Miles opened his time at the podium talking about a family vacation earlier this summer in Austin, Texas, where his daughter attends the University of Texas.

“I went to Austin, took my three children on that campus. It was miserable. I hated it,” he said. “But it was great fun. I mean, it was not a beach, it was not sand, but it was my family, and that was the best.”

Late in the interview session, Miles asked by a writer from Austin why he hated Austin.

“I loved it. My daughter is doing wonderfully there. I enjoy the experience she's having,” Miles said. “But it was not a beach. There was no hotel that I walked out and jumped into the surf.”

Passing of a rivalry

When they were both in the Big 12, Missouri and Texas A&M were fierce rivals. Now that they're in the SEC, they don't play each other anymore. The Aggies and Tigers will not play again until 2021.

“We played them for a long, long time. Great respect for that school, that program,” Pinkel said. “Initially, I thought that might be our rival game (from the opposite division). Now our rival game is Arkansas, which is going to be a good fit for us also.

“But, you know, when you make this transition, things are going to happen until it settles down. The conference thought this was the best direction to go. We certainly support it.”

Turnover kings

Pinkel said he isn't quite sure why the Tigers are so good at producing turnovers. They forced a remarkable 32 last season, a huge factor in Mizzou winning the Eastern Division.

“Everybody works hard on it,” he said. “We have a huge emphasis on it at Mizzou. I think we made a lot of progress there.

“If I had the answers for that, I'd be in a high rise in New York City with a phone talking to every coach in America. Getting that turnover margin on your side is huge.”

Mizzou developing players

Although Missouri's recruiting classes are rarely ranked among the best in the nation (or SEC), the Tigers have been pumping out their share of NFL players.

“I think in the last five years, we've been in the top five in first-round picks,” Pinkel said. “We talk about the NFL all the time.

“If you took our recruiting, our so-called rating, I'd say we're between 28 and 32 average (in the nation). I think our recruiting process is different. We have a system we believe in.

“I think our player development program is second to none. We call it 'Mizzou Made.' How many stars a guy has next to him, we never looked at it once in recruiting. We have a system in place.”

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