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Live Blog: Auburn, LSU have tough schedules, says Les Miles
Dameyune Craig was a late but valuable hire for Gus Malzahn (Todd Van Emst photo)

SEC Media Days

SEC does Auburn, LSU no schedule favors, says Les Miles

11:53 a.m. LSU's Les Miles says schedules play a part in winning the SEC championships, and he gave a nod Thursday to Auburn and his Bengal Tigers for having to play some of the toughest league schedules around. 

Miles talked of LSU having to play SEC East rivals Florida and Georgia a lot rather than easier teams. He didn't stop there. 

"I'd have to say there's a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference based on tradition and traditional matchups," Miles said. "I'll give you an example. Auburn played Florida and Georgia 19 times since 2000. That makes a heck of a difference. Now, how many times has the West gone through each opponent?

"Don't pretend it's just a game."

Auburn's permanent East opponent is rival Georgia. LSU's permanent East opponent is Florida.

Auburn also plays East opponent Tennessee this year. LSU also plays Georgia. 

Miles responded to a question that highlighted the fact LSU's two East opponents were 14-2 last season while Alabama's East opponents were 1-15. 

Alabama coach Nick Saban later said, "There can never be an equal path to the championship...unless everybody plays everybody." Saban offered the league could go from an eight-game conference schedule to a nine-game conference schedule. But that falls short of the everybody-playing-everybody scenario.

Miles said the uneven schedule should be considered an issue.

"A key piece to every conference is that we'd be able to describe the path to a championship in an equal and direct manner," Miles said. "In fact, scheduling should not in any way decide championships repeatedly or throughout. 

"We play Georgia and Florida for the seventh time this year. I'd have to say there are some other schools that have not played Georgia and Florida in the same year in my entire time here or since 2000."

-- Charles Goldberg

Les Miles: LSU ready to go after player turnover

10:11 a.m. LSU's Les Miles lost a whole bunch of seniors and juniors from last year's 12-3 football team. Worried? Miles says he expects to win every game.

The Bengal Tigers' first SEC game is against Auburn on Sept. 21 in Baton Rouge, a year after LSU escaped Auburn 12-10. Check in on LSU, and what it hopes is a juiced-up offense, in our scouting report. It's here.

-- Charles Goldberg

Near-miss pushes Georgia toward season

10:03 a.m. Georgia coach was 5 yards from playing for a national championship last season. Head coach Mark Richt says that memory has driven players through spring and offseason workouts.

The Bulldogs lost 32-28 to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, running out of time at the Alabama 5-yard line.

"It was a tremendous season last year," Richt said. "We got a taste of how close you can get and not quite get it done. I think that will serve to motivate us. Once again, the goal is to get back to Atlanta. Once you get there, if you win that game you have a chance to play for a national championship."

-- Phillip Marshall

Freshmen defensive lineman could make major impact

8:54 a.m. Three 5-star freshmen defensive linemen have made a favorable impression in Auburn summer workouts. That was the word from three Auburn veteran players who dropped into SEC Media Days this week.

Impressing so far are D-linemen Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel. 

"I think they can make a big impact. Now, it's time to make fall camp a breeze for them," said veteran defensive end Dee Ford said. Auburn begins fall practice Aug. 2. But the players are already looking good.

Read more about newcomers, including quarterback Nick Marshall, in this story.

-- Charles Goldberg

Gus Malzahn faster than fast; endorses Rodney Garner, Dameyune Craig

5:34 p.m. Coach Gus Malzahn talked fast football at SEC Media Days on Wednesday, first with the Auburn beat writers and then in front of the mass media. 

Fittingly he said: "Our goal is to play faster than anybody in college football." 

Here's what Malzahn said early, including notes on Auburn's quarterback race.

Here are more notes: 

Malzahn on his first eight months at Auburn: "We've had no off-the-field issues. That's a tribute to our guys." 

On hiring former Auburn player and coach Rodney Garner

"He's one of the better defensive line coaches in all of college football," Malzahn said. "I believe the last two head coaches at Auburn tried to hire him. He's an excellent recruiter. He's an excellent coach on the field. I felt strong coming into this situation we went after successful former Auburn players who knew what it was to play Auburn football. Been there, done that." 

On hiring former Auburn quarterback Dameyune Craig: 

"When I first got the job I felt like it was important we got former Auburn players. And people who  understood what Auburn is about. 

"He's known as a great recruiter, which he is, but he's a big-time football coach." 

Craig was a late hire. 

"He was guy we went after early. We talked briefly. We didn't talk for abut two more weeks and we went back after him," Malzahn said. 

-- Charles Goldberg

Auburn's Chris Davis likes speed and athleticism of the new defense

5:05 p.m. Auburn's Chris Davis likes the idea of new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense. Why? It puts more defensive backs on the field. So? So Chris Davis is a defensive back.

"Players picked up on Coach Ellis' defense very fast," Davis said at SEC Media Days on Wednesday.

Davis says the new defense puts more speed and athleticism on the field.

Davis talked of last year's defensive troubles under the former defensive coordiantor, and how the players welcome the change in leadership for 2013. 

Playmakers? "Hopefully, the whole defense," Davis says in this story.

--Charles Goldberg

Jay Prosch says Tigers have talent, will to win

3:20 Fullback>Jay Prosch said Wednesday he expects his final college season to be a happy one, much happier than the 3-9 record of2012.

"We have very talented players," Prosch saiud. "We have the abuility to have a great team. Guys at all different positions have stepped up. It's like 'Never again.' We've decided as a team that we are going to give all we have every game and every practice. If we do that, we'll have a good year. There's no reason why we shouldn't."

-- Phillip Marshall

Let the quarterback race resume: Tigers start fall practice Aug. 2

2:01 p.m. Gus Malzahn says he hopes "somebody will establish himself early" in the race to be Auburn's starting quarterback, but, until then, "we've got four guys and we're going into this thing with a very open mind." 

Malzahn was not close to naming a starting quarterback as he arrived for his turn at SEC Media Days. 

"We'll be very upfront with our guys," Malzahn said.

More news?

Auburn players will report as a team Aug. 1 and begin practice Aug. 2.

**Malzahn said the "summer as been good. Our players have gotten stronger, and, of course, they needed to."

More news?

Malzahn said he's seen a lot of support from Auburn fans since taking the job.

"It's been overwhelming for me. We have the best fans in college football, and they've showed that. There's a lot of excitement when you go speak at places. It's a real special feeling. 

"True families have a way of rallying, and that's what you saw. It really gave our players and coaches a shot in the arm."

There are more quick notes from Malzahn in this story.

Mississippi State looks for fourth straight bowl game

12:06 p.m. Mississippi State lost five of its last six games last season, all by 14 points or more. But fifth-year head coach Dan Mullen is undaunted.

He points to three consecutive bowl games and a 7-0 start.

"Three consecutive bowl games is not something that has been done very often in Starkville," Mullen said. "I'm proud of our team and how they've embraced the program we are trying to build and how we are trying to build it.

"We only have 10 seniors. There are going to be a lot of opportunities for young guys to step up. How fast these young guys step into not just playing roles but into leadership roles.

-- Phillip Marshall

Big job ahead for Mark Stoops at Kentucky

10:17 a.m. It wasn't by accident that Kentucky was 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the SEC last season. First-year head coach Mark Stoops saw that in spring practice. And the climb back began.

"I'm not sure all the dynamics that were in play last year," Stoops said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. "Obviously, it wasn't the year anybody wanted. It's our job to improve from there. From what I've seen in 15 days of spring practice, we have to improve. We have to get better in all areas. But it's our job to develop the players we have, put them in position to be successful and go out every week and compete. That's what we plan to do."

10:15 a.m. Stoops' first game as a head coach will be an in-state battle against Western Kentucky and first-year head coach Bobby Petrino. Western Kentucky shocked the Wildcats 32-31 in overtime.

"I really do not know Coach Petrino very well, but I expect a very good team," Stoops said. "He's a very good offensive mind and had some great success. I'm sure they are going to be excited, but we are as well. It's the first game for this new program, and we have a lot on the line. We can't just show up. We have to play very well and play to the best of our ability."

-- Phillip Marshall

Coordinator of officials says targeting rule a major change

9:30 a.m. Steve Shaw, the SEC's coorinator of officials, says the new targeting rule is the most significant cahnge he has seen in college football. He officialted in the SEC for 15 years and in the Gulf South Conference for three years. He is in his third year as coordinator of officials.

A player called for targeting a defenseless player, hitting him above the shoulders, will result in ejection and a 15-yard penalty.

"It has an impact on the game and is very, very important," Shaw said.

Read more about the new rule here.

-- Phillip Marshall

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin says Johnny Football has made mistakes

9:05 a.m. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has been better on the field than off of it. 

Sumlin and occasional bad-boy quarterback Johnny Manziel were the early stars Wednesday at SEC Media Days. They're scheduled to face Auburn on Oct. 19 in College Station. 

Sumlin said Manziel has "done an exceptional job" on the field. 

Off of it?

"Off the field, there's no question he's made some mistakes," Sumlin said. "Today will be a great experience for him. 

"He has made mistakes. We've had discussions about that." 

Sumlin said Manziel has done a lot of good things, but "unfortunately the poor decisions are the ones that are publicized." 

"Is he perfect? No. I think he's done some things he's not very proud of. He's made some poor decisions." 

Sumlin said he's had talks with Manziel about a variety of topics. Manziel doesn't tweet anymore, for example. 

Auburn remembers Manziel's Heisman Trophy season. Johnny Football threw for 260 yards and a touchdown and ran for 90 yards and three more scores in the Aggies' 63-21 win.

Read what Manziel said Wednesday in this story.

-- Charles Goldberg


Auburn to take center stage

7:50 p.m. Wednesday is Auburn's day at Southeastern Conference Media Days, but first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, cornerback Chris Davis, H-back Jay Prosch and defensive end Dee Ford will have to wait. They are scheduled to appear in the main interview room at 2:20 p.m. It will be Malzahn's first Media Days appearance.

Texas A&M is up first Wednesday morning, and that means Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be called to answer questions about his turbulent summer.

Senior Writers Phillip Marshall and Charles Goldberg will be on hand for it all with stories, notes and more, especially when the Auburn arrives. Phillip will shadow Prosch as he and other players spend some four hours doing interviews with various outlets.

Check back early and often Wednesday.

--Phillip Marshall

More Steve Spurrierisms

7:45 p.m. Asked if he thought Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson could match what he did as South Carolina's defensive coordinator, it was difficult to tell if Spurrier was praising him, criticizing him, neither or both.

"If he's got the players that we had, certainly he's got a chance to do it," Spurrier said. "Melvin Ingram first-round pick at San Diego, Stephon Gilmore, first -round pick, Buffalo Bills. We've had a lot of good players at South Carolina. If he's got that kind of talent, he can be pretty good. I'll put it that way."

7:43 p.m. Spurrier has built the Gamecocks from an also-ran into a contender, but he badly wants to take the last step and win a championship.

"Well, the last three years, we've been sort of up there in the hunt," Spurrier said. "We got there (SEC Championship Game) three years ago, fell flat on our face against Auburn (in a 56-17 loss). Then the last two years, we were one game away maybe from getting into the SEC game.

"So we're sort of knocking at the door. But we need to win those crucial games and see what happens."

7:40 p.m. At last year's Media Days, Spurrier jokingly said he'd rather have Ole Miss on the schedule than Georgia. He was asked Tuesday about that statement.

"Well, last year at this time Ole Miss was 2-10," Spurrier said. "That's why I made that statement (laughter). They had a good year. Hugh Freeze has done an excellent job there. Hugh and I have a lot in common. We both play golf. We both wear visors. We call the plays. How could you not like a guy like Hugh Freeze?"

--Phillip Marshall

Spurrier has his say about money for players, Notre Dame and schedules

5:35 p.m. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has never been shy with his opinions. He wasn't at Florida and he hasn't been at South Carolina. And he wasn't Tuesday at SEC Media Days. Spurrier wanted to get things off his chest, things he said league coaches unanimously want.

-- "We came up with a proposal that we would like for our college football and basketball players that bring in an enormous amount of money. We should provide some expense money so their parents can go to games. The players over the course of the year would have $3600, #3900, depending on how many games we played just to have a little pocket money and parents would have money to the games.

"This is tiny compared to the amount of money that is coming in now. I think we all know that. I'm going to keep fighting for our guys. I'm going to keep fighting for our guys. This is not pay for play. This is just expense money."

-- "Another thing that came up. We were talking about the new four-team playoff. Mr. Hancock, who was on the committee, tried to tell us how it was all going to work out. We were trying to figure out how the AD at Notre Dame was equal with all the commissioners. Nobody had a good answer. The coaches all thought Notre Dame should join the ACC and play football like the rest of us.

-- "There was a suggestion that your division games would count for the division winner unless there was a tie, then you would go to the out-of-division games. I don't know how far that will go. That's the way we would like to do it as coaches.

Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace on the mend

4:21 p.m. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says the Rebels' 7-6 record was based on good play and a little luck. 

"We had some fortune go our way," he says. 

Mostly, Freeze said at SEC Media Days, the Rebels had good luck with injuries, starting the same five offensive linemen and the same receivers all year. He said his defensive line stayed healthy, too. 

He'll be looking for more of the same this season, including an Oct. 5 visit to Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

The Rebels made it through 2012 in good shape, but quarterback Bo Wallace is coming back from offseason shoulder surgery after playing with pain last season. 

"He played nine games last year with that torn-up shoulder," Freeze said. 

Wallace still managed to pass for 3,000 yards. 

But now, Freeze said, Wallace "feels very good about where he's at in his progress. Last week he started throwing full go. Everything seems to be moving along very nicely." 

Freeze says he wears a visor because Steve Spurrier does. 

"When I was a high school coach I wanted to be like Steve Spurrier," Freeze said. "Steve and I have become good friends. He calls me his visor guy."

Freeze also talked about managing rising expectations around Ole Miss. That's in our scouting report on the Rebels. 

--Charles Goldberg

Pinkel: A line of scrimmage league

2:30 p.m. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he knew what he was getting into last season, the Tigers' first in the SEC.

"It's a line of scrimmage league," Pinkel said, "and I knew that coming in."

Missouri, Pinkel said, is working to become more of a line of scrimmage team.

"In any league, the line of scrimmage is where you win," Pinkel said. "The best teams are always strong on the line of scrimmage. There are just more of them in this league."

2:40 p.m. Quarterback James Franklin, beseiged by injuries, had a disappointing season in 2012. He missed three games and didn't finish three others. Pinkel said Franklin is ready to make amends.

Pinkel said Franklin has had a "great offseason" and is ready to bounce back.

-- Phillip Marshall

Florida's Will Muschamp talks Gators, takes shots

1:28 p.m. Florida coach Will Muschamp was talking a mile a minute at Media Days, and it sounded as if was pleased with last season's improvement with the Gators. He also likes the makeup of his team after enforcing new rules.

"The roster in our locker room is much better. Eight come-from-behind wins in a season says a lot where you are as a program," said Muschamp after last season's 11-2 record. 

Muschamp, the one-time Auburn defensive coordinator, talked up his offense for 2013. 

"I think we have chance to be better at all positions" except maybe tight end, Muschamp said. 

Muschamp said the Gators should be "really good at running back position." 

Muschamp didn't stray too far from his defensive roots, either. 

"Defensively, I'm young but old fashion. You better be strong up the middle," he said. 

Before addressing the mass media, Muschamp didn't miss a chance to take a shot at Ohio State, where former Florida coach Urban Meyer now works. Meyer may or may not have turned in Florida for violations in the offseason. 

"We appreciate our friends from Ohio making sure we are compliant with NCAA rules. They certainly know a little bit about that," Muschamp said, according to CBS Sports.

Muschamp was Auburn's defensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007. Alas, the Gators don't play Auburn this season.

-- Charles Goldberg

SEC commissioner Mike Slive's take on league, NCAA

12:45 p.m.: Commissioner Mike Slive gave a qualified vote of support to the NCAA while saying that changes need to be made.

"Our challenges are complex," Slive said. "They always have been and always will be. With that said, we have supported and continue to support the NCAA as the appropriate governing organization. At the same time, however, we will continue to push for changes we believe are in the best interests of our student-athletes."

12:36 p.m.: Commissioner Mike Slive says he sees movement in the effort to provide athletes with full cost of attendance scholarships.

12:35 p.m.: Slive says the "vast majority" of student-athletes do things the right way, but he said he is troubled by those who don't.

"It is a crushing disappointment when, despite all of these efforts, a young person throws away an opportunity for a promising future," Slive said as he kicked off SEC Media Days. "We are not naïve enough to think we can put an end to unacceptable behavior, but that doesn't mean we won't continue to try, try, try."

-- Phillip Marshall

Auburn begins under the lights

12:01 p.m.: Auburn will begin the football season under the lights, and stay there for at least the three weeks of the season. 

Auburn will open the season against Washington State at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Then the Tigers will play Arkansas State at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7. Auburn will open its SEC schedule against Mississippi State at 6 p.m. in Jordan-Hare. 

The Washington State game will be televised by ESPNU. The Arkansas State game will be on FSN. The Mississippi State game will be on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

The SEC announced the starting times for the first three weeks of the season for all league teams Tuesday at Media Days.

Season and select single-game tickets for the 2013 Auburn football season are now available to the general public through the Auburn Athletics Department Ticket Office. All tickets can be purchased online at For more information or questions regarding tickets, contact the ticket office by email at or by phone at 1-855-AUB-2010, ext. 1.

All the SEC games and TV times for the first three weeks of the season are on the conference's website here.

-- Charles Goldberg

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