[caption id="attachment_360048" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] (Jimmie Mitchell/SEC)
You can't have a talking season without some talking.
This past week, SEC Media Days provided an opportunity for the media to speak with all 14 head football coaches in the Southeastern Conference. Some shined, and some flopped. After four wild days in Hoover, KSR has studied the tape and examined the quotes.
Now it is time to get into the ranking season. Here is how the coaches graded out in their performance on the big stage at The Wynfrey Hotel.
1.) Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
The second-year head coach brought the goods on Tuesday afternoon. The 46-year-old lightning rod has been a media treasure throughout his coaching career, and we got the full package from Kiffin in his first SEC Media Days since 2009. The offensive savant went into detail about his view on analytics
, gave us a funny Urban Meyer/Tim Tebow story, and also went on about former boss Nick Saban and why he is the best. His top moment might have been the sheer shock on his face when he found out that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is reportedly receiving NIL offers near $1 million. Kiffin takes home the crown this season.
2.) Eliah Drinkwitz, Missouri
Another second-year coach made his SEC Media Days debut, but Drinkwitz had to wait until Thursday morning to take the stage. The 38-year-old took a dig at media members who left early and also took a shot at Texas. Meanwhile, the former Appalachian State head coach took a jab at rival Arkansas and went after Pete Thamel on Twitter. The Gus Malzahn protege showed off some charisma as he has the Mizzou program pointed in the right direction.
3.) Nick Saban, Alabama
The best to ever do it put on a show at SEC Media Days. The 7-time national champion took KSR on a ride on Wednesday morning before giving a very good schematic answer to some of the ebbs and flows in college football. Meanwhile, Saban kept it light and thanked the media multiple times for the jobs they do to promote college football. The 69-year-old looked relaxed and happy to be at the podium. The G.O.A.T. is feeling loose.
4.) Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Fisher is fresh off a one-loss season that ended with a New Year's Six win -- no wonder the former Florida State head coach is feeling good. The Aggies look to be the clear third-best team in the league in 2021 as some high-level recruiting is starting to pay off. Meanwhile, Fisher took a playful jab at both Oklahoma and Texas while claiming the SEC to be "the best league in ball". We agree, Jimbo.
5.) Shane Beamer, South Carolina
All signs point to this being a rough season in Columbia, but you wouldn't know that after hearing the 44-year-old Beamer talk. The son of legendary Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, the fresh face took questions about his dad in stride while also selling his program non-stop during his time at the podium. Beamer left Hoover having people talk positively about the Gamecocks' future. He accomplished the ultimate mission.
6.) Mark Stoops, Kentucky
The head football coach in Lexington is now in year nine in the SEC and looks really comfortable. Stoops gave a blunt answer about how he doesn't want a nine-game conference schedule while also saying he feels really good about the state of his team and program. The head coach let us know that the defense could go more subpackage-heavy to take advantage of depth while also stating that he feels confident in new offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Kentucky's head coach looked upbeat throughout Tuesday afternoon.
7.) Mike Leach, Mississippi State
Another debut happened on Wednesday afternoon when second-year Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach took the stand. The Air Raid master told a great Tennessee story, shot down a COVID-19 vaccine question, and was his normal odd self. About what you expected from the former Texas Tech and Washington State head coach.
8.) Sam Pittman, Arkansas
The former offensive line coach looked nervous on the podium but was still a treasure. Pittman cracked a joke about getting an 18 on his ACT while also genuinely sharing how proud he is to be the head football coach at Arkansas. He thanked Kirby Smart for helping him develop as a coach while also claiming that the Hogs have the toughest schedule
in college football. He was not lying.
9.) Ed Orgeron, LSU
This is a very big season for LSU football, and Coach O knows that. Orgeron was very open about what went wrong for the Tigers last season while admitting that he made some mistakes. The former defensive line coach believes those have been fixed and has confidence in his team this season.
10.) Kirby Smart, Georgia
Everyone knows the elephant in the room -- Georgia needs to win a national championship. Kirby Smart recognizes this and is doing his best job to deflect to not put more pressure on his team. Smart told stories, dropped that he has a relationship with Quavo, and gave a quote saying he's too busy to worry about expectations. The Bulldogs got out of Hoover without giving a soundbite and that was the ultimate goal for UGA.
11.) Josh Heupel, Tennessee
The former UCF head coach inherits quite a mess in Knoxville, and Heupel knows that. The new leader of the Big Orange addressed the portal issue that Tennessee is having while also spreading the brand that the University of Tennessee has. Heupel knows this is going to be a tough climb but has the utmost belief in his no-huddle, vertical spread offense.
12.) Clark Lea, Vanderbilt
In his SEC Media Days debut, Lea sounded like a Vanderbilt alum. The former Notre Dame defensive coordinator gave calculated answers and put together well-constructed sentences that showed off his impressive vocabulary. Lea knows what lies ahead and that Vanderbilt must do things differently. This is a coaching staff that is ready for a tough assignment.
13.) Dan Mullen, Florida
Where do we even start? Mullen would not pick a favorite Star Wars movie, deflected the defensive questions as best as possible, and avoided the recruiting subject when pressed on why Alabama is dominating blue-chip wide receiver recruiting in South Florida. He then gave a terrible idea on a potential nine-game conference schedule -- four home games, four road games, one neutral site matchup. There's a big season brewing in Gainesville and time will tell if the Gators are ready to deliver.
14.) Bryan Harsin, Auburn
A 16-minute filibuster followed by just three questions answered in the remaining 14 minutes -- Harsin literally gave us nothing about what Auburn could look like this season. A strange fit felt even more strange after leaving Hoover. Fascinated to see how this relationship develops on the Plains.