Day 3 included remarks from the 2021 National Championship winning Georgia Bulldogs, Arkansas Razorbacks, Florida Gators, and Kentucky Wildcats. Coach Sam Pittman was able to display to all of the SEC that his program is going places. Good places. And Coach Kirby Smart was able to address many questions disrupting the minds of his fan base including NIL, injury reports, and his response to the hearsay regarding him stepping away from coaching.
First takeaway from Coach Sam Pittman was that he was just an overall, standup guy. A good man to have in this industry, and you can see it in the way he operates. Even with Arkansas’ significantly improved success during Pittman’s tenure, he still refuses to say that the Razorbacks have “arrived.” He understands that he’s bettered the program both internally and externally, especially Arkansas’ national reputation, but at the same time he knows this program still has a ways to go before they’re the top dawg in the SEC. He’s very aware of his situation and is doing a stellar job to keep pushing the Hogs forward, just check out their success in the last recruiting cycle both high school and transfer portal.
During interviews, super senior Bumper Poole was asked about the origin of his name. Poole shared anecdotes about situations where people wouldn’t believe him, and he’d have to take out his ID to prove it to them. “My dad said he was going to name his first kid ‘Bumper,’ and I was first,” Poole explained to the media. In terms of the Hog’s impressive transfer haul, Poole was excited for the additions of freakish linebackers Drew Sanders and Landon Jackson saying, “Those guys are extremely long. They can make some plays, just with their, you know, their size. They’re extremely fast, so I’m excited to be able to show the world what we have.”
Coach Smart said a lot of things yesterday, but what really stood out were the numbers. On Day 2 of SEC Media Days, Coach Saban said that his team as a whole had made $3 million dollars in NIL deals, but when asked to share about his players Coach Smart refused. He explained that revealing his team’s numbers wouldn’t be as productive as the media would want it to be and instead said, “Trust me. There’s a lot there.”
Smart said that Jordan Davis, Brock Bowers, and Kelee Ringo had more than likely made the most NIL money of anyone else in their respected positions. But rather than focus on individuals, Coach Smart shifted focus to his team as a whole making sure the media knew that 95 total players had some sort of NIL deal. He was particularly happy to share the stories of Dan Jackson, a walk-on player who’s grinded for his NIL deal and uses it to help pay for his education, and Micah Morris, who is able to send the money back home to his family to help pay for his father’s medical treatments.
Georgia presented to the media three players, Stetson Bennett, Nolan Smith, and Sedrick Van-Pran. While the 2021 National Championship MVP, Stetson Bennett, stole the show garnering most of the attention, that didn’t stop junior offensive lineman, Sedrick Van-Pran, from showing out on his own. For a player just entering his third year, the young man seems wise beyond his years. After winning the natty, he learned the importance of humility and focus to move past that great accomplishment and look forward to next season saying, “I think it is essential that we all understand that this is a completely different team, new season; none [referring to the natty win] of that matters… Honestly, I don’t think we have a choice but to move on.”
He definitely has a bright future ahead of him, and with that mindset properly applied to the field this season, it might just be with a different team at a different level sooner than we know it.
Being the newest head coach in the SEC, Coach Billy Napier, was berated with questions about how he was being received, how he was going about his approach, and such. Something that’ll definitely be different for Napier will be the recruiting scene.
The state of Florida has a known reputation for being home to a significant number of the nation’s top recruits, but schools in the state of Florida also have a reputation for failing to recruit that talent. When asked how Coach Napier would keep in-state players home and attending the University of Florida he responded saying, “I do think our philosophy is to take an inside-out approach in recruiting. I think it’s critical that you start at home base and work your way out.” The answer isn’t anything crazy, but time will tell whether or not he lives up to this philosophy.
On top of the whole head football coach gig that Mark Stoops has at the University of Kentucky apparently just stepped down from an illustrious basketball career. Stoops and his team were at a cookout playing a basketball game. “I happened to win,” Stoops said, “I bragged about it, then I quit playing. They tried to get me the next week, but I know better than that. I got fortunate one day and beat some talented guys. I’m going to retire that for the summer.”
The Wildcat’s star gunslinger, Will Levis, showed up to answer questions. With his projected draft position, he earned himself a good bit of attention having a small crowd of reporters surround his table. As well as Levis, Wildcat’s linebacker Deandre Square made an appearance. Over the course of SEC Media Days, Kentucky’s defense was mentioned and praised, so when asked what makes that defense so special, Square had this to say, “A lot of hungry guys, and we all go on one beat. Chemistry is really good. I feel like [the defense] is guys with a lot of stuff to prove, like all on the same mission…We’re also very physical.”
As expected, Coach Kirby Smart and company held a lot of today’s attention, but something to notice was the traction that Coach Pittman was able to get for Arkansas. That program is clearly on the rise with nothing that should lead anyone to believe that it would be stopping anytime soon. Two big takeaways from Day 3 of SEC Media Days: Georgia will not be complacent after their national title winning season, and Arkansas doesn’t believe it’s reached its fullest potential yet.