Welcome to talkin’ season, everybody.
Monday marked the first day of preseason Media Days for both the Big 12 and SEC. That means the college football season is right around the corner, and that’s something to get excited about.
For all of the glitz and glamor of these events, they usually don’t produce much substance, so we watched the news conferences for you.
Here’s what we learned from the SEC.
Ed Orgeron: I made a mistake hiring Matt Canada at LSU
Ed Orgeron said it more bluntly than we’re used to hearing from college head coaches.
“Here’s the deal,” he began. “It’s tough when you make a mistake, but it’s even tougher not to admit you made a mistake and it’s just not a good fit. And I had to do the best what I thought was for the LSU program, and that’s why I did it.”
The LSU head coach was referencing his decision to hire Matt Canada as offensive coordinator after he had the interim tag lifted. Canada was coming off a hugely successful season at Pittsburgh, and LSU paid him a whopping $1.5 million annually to implement the same explosive offense that put up big numbers for the Panthers.
But as Orgeron indicated, it just never was a fit. He moved on from Canada (now at Maryland) after just one season and promoted assistant Steve Ensminger back to coordinator, the role he held during Orgeron’s time as interim head coach.
“Circumstances were different when I got the job,” Orgeron said. “I went out and tried to get the best coordinator in the league and possible for our football team. It didn’t work. And all the while I was saying: ‘You know what? Steve Ensminger is the guy, and if I have a chance, I’m going to hire him.’
“I have complete confidence in the direction that he’s going to lead this offense. He and I are on the same page.”
Canada’s system is reliant on an array of shifts and side-to-side motions that never jibed with Orgeron. He stepped in and decided to simplify some things ahead of the Sept. 30 game against Troy. It backfired in a big way as the Tigers lost 24-21 at home. Multiple reports pointed to friction between From there, Orgeron and Canada even as the team rebounded by winning six of its last seven regular season games.
Orgeron is “more comfortable” with Ensminger, who he has known since their time together at McNeese State in the 80’s.
“Going through last year, some of the things that we went through, I felt that Steve and I would be on the same page. The players respect Steve. He runs more of the offense that I’m used to, an offense that we won championships with in the past,” Orgeron said.
The SEC scheduling format won’t change any time soon
The SEC’s 6-1-1 scheduling format means a team in the SEC West could go many years without seeing certain teams in the SEC East, and vice versa. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the league’s scheduling philosophies, and how it could potentially change in the coming years.
Of course, straying from eight conference games won’t be in the cards. And why would the SEC do that? The early years show of the College Football Playoff show that what it’s doing is working just fine.
“I’ve seen observations that we should use the nine-game schedule. One of those conversations that we’ve had with the College Football Playoff selection committee chair is about the conference schedule piece,” Sankey said.
“What they’ve said is, ‘We look at the entire schedule.’ That’s the issue that our schools have to be mindful of is the entirety of their schedule needs to be robust. Now, we know that the level of play in this league is uniquely robust, not simply in our opinion, but what has been reflected over time. That’s a factor in this conversation.”
The pluses and minuses of the conference’s divisional format, scheduling included, come up in conversation among league decision makers on a consistent basis, Sankey said.
“I think the divisional structure has supported a number of really healthy, really important rivalries. And when you start developing different formats, we work through a lot. You end up interrupting some things. That right now is not a priority for us. We want to maintain those types of scheduling rivalries,” Sankey said.
“Could that change? That’s why we have conversations every year. But those rivalries are really healthy and I think really unique, particularly in the number of those that exist in this conference.”
Jimbo Fisher makes his SEC Media Days debut
It was pretty surreal seeing Jimbo Fisher at SEC Media Days. A little more than a year ago, Fisher, then the Florida State coach and now Texas A&M’s $75 million man, was touting the ACC as the “premier conference in college football.” Fisher did not back down from that assessment exactly, but managed to deftly circle it back to the SEC, where he cut his teeth as the quarterbacks coach at Auburn and later the offensive coordinator at LSU.
“I think the ACC’s progression to where it has become in football is because of the SEC,” he said. “When I was at in Florida State, we were surrounded by Florida, by Georgia, by Alabama, by Auburn. That was the closest schools to us. That’s who our big recruiting battles occurred against. I think in the South, in general, because you’re so close, I think it enhanced the ACC’s ability to compete and rise its level of ball because of the recruiting competition, and then, once you get better players, you play better.”
When Fisher became head coach at Florida State, it was part of a succession plan with Bobby Bowden. That makes this transition to A&M a little different for Fisher.
“I think the biggest thing was the evaluation of your players, evaluation of personnel within the building and structure of the university of how it operated to get things done in the timetables it had. I think those are challenging when you first go in,” Fisher said. “As I say, you have a plan, but that plan has to have a little flexibility until you figure out how things are done. Knowing the administration, that helped tremendously.”
Mark Stoops: Benny Snell is one of the most underrated players
Kentucky may not be one of the SEC’s marquee teams, but it has one of the league’s marquee players. Wildcats running back Benny Snell compiled 1,333 yards and a whopping 19 touchdowns last season.
UK head coach Mark Stoops thinks Snell is one of the most underrated players in the country.
“He has been a big focus for us, and he’s been a workhorse. You have to admire his ability to go back day after day and run after run in his consistency. He gets tough yards. You know how tough they are in this league. And Benny’s been extremely consistent,” Stoops said.
Stoops isn’t sure who will hand the ball to Snell when the season begins. Gunnar Hoak and Terry Wilson, a junior college transfer who started his career at Oregon, are the main contenders for the starting QB gig.
No matter who wins that job, Snell will make things much easier.
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