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July 17, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. -- It's not customary for a football player to get an ovation after answering 10 minutes of questions at SEC Media Days. It's also not customary to have a player put on the show Missouri senior wide receiver T.J. Moe did Tuesday.
From the time he took to the microphone, Moe was confident - maybe too confident for his own good - and quick with a joke. It started a little brash, when Moe grew a bit tired of everyone talking about SEC defenses and how tough of a transition changing conference would be for Missouri.
"I don't think we're 5-year-old kids running around without a helmet. I think we can compete," Moe said. "You've got quarterbacks who are always up for Heisman in the Big 12, and that's not always true about the SEC. Part of that is due to the fact that SEC defenses are better. It's also due to the fact that Big 12 offenses are quite a bit better."
Moe said he feels that SEC schools put their best athletes on defense, while the Big 12 puts its best players on offense.
"That's a fact," Moe said. "If you look at them, their fastest players and their guys who are the strongest, some of them could be playing receiver and making the same kind of plays. ... (former Missouri wide receiver) Jeremy Maclin probably could have been a real good defensive back, but now he's All-Pro playing receiver."
Missouri defensive back E.J. Gaines laughed off a question later in the day when he was fronted with Moe's claim that the best Big 12 athletes were put on offense.
In a scenario where players are typically very rehearsed and guarded, Moe shot verbal bullets. He said everyone in the country has to hear about how much better SEC defenses are, but Missouri actually gets to try and do something about it. On the contrary, he said Kansas and Oregon will never get a chance, Oregon because of geography.
"The Southeastern Conference isn't really southeastern," Moe said. "We're about as Midwestern as it gets. We're the gateway to the west and we're hanging out in the Southeast somewhere. This is like the bottom-right fourth conference. That's what it is when you draw a line. ? People get confused with directions."
Missouri's injury problems are notable heading into the inaugural 14-team SEC season. Moe had a fairly simple solution: "We're doing a lot of praying, really."
A more humble newcomer: Before Moe unleashed, Texas A&M was a bit more stoic. The other new addition to the SEC had to play opposite SEC East favorite South Carolina in the first session of the day.
After a .500 season, new head coach Kevin Sumlin admitted his team has some work to do before it can worry too much about its new conference competition. Citing some "internal issues" Sumlin talked openly about youth at quarterback - where the Aggies are trying to replace first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill - and a lack of depth along the defensive line as well as a lack of size on the line.
"We can't go out and trade for them, OK?" Sumlin said. "We can't go sign a bunch of guys. I can't get them here before Aug. 3."
He smiled and said it'd be "stupid of me" to talk about how he would sort the problems out since Texas A&M has to play Florida Sept. 8.
Sumlin was also quick to include the fact that his players have to realize they "wear the same patch" as every other team in the SEC. He said if players don't realize that before their first game, they'll be in trouble.
Senior linebacker Sean Porter didn't sound like that'd be too big of a concern.
"I don't think we'll be shell-shocked or anything," Porter said. "It's football. We come from Texas, and we're always playing football."
Vanderbilt continues to grow: If a Vanderbilt team showed up to SEC Media Days a few years ago and talked repeatedly about being a potential top program, people would have laughed. People might still be smiling, but quarterback Jordan Rodgers doesn't mind.
"I'm so fine with everyone not thinking (Vanderbilt is a contender in the SEC East)," Rodgers said. "I'm fine with flying under the radar. That's fine with me. We surprised some people last year. We're more on people's radar this year, but we're still going to surprise people. I really think so. Within our locker room, we have 100 percent confidence that we are going to compete for the SEC title. If you don't, you shouldn't be playing the game. ? If people want to think it's a two-team race, that's fine, but we're going to surprise some people."
VU head coach James Franklin talked a lot about the change in attitude and recruiting around Vanderbilt, saying he's not sure why this has not happened before. The Commodores will be attempting to make back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history this season.
With a straight and stern face, Franklin said Vanderbilt can beat out any school in the country for any recruit it wants if the athlete is from the right family and has the right goals. He said the school has more to offer than any other in the nation in way of academics and the city of Nashville.
He also touched on a brutal reality when talking about the school's past and how it has affected the present.
"We're probably 60 years behind in a lot of areas," Franklin said. "We've been here 18 months. We were able to build a top-25 recruiting class. We were able to go to a bowl game in our first year. We're getting a brand new jumbotron, brand new lights, brand new field turf. We've got new meeting rooms and we're about to break ground on a $31 million indoor. I don't know if there's a program in the country that's been able to do what we've done in 18 months."
South Carolina hunting a title: Steve Spurrier is done with counting the years left in his head coaching career. Tuesday the 67-year-old said that he feels 40 and has a stress-free job. He wants to win an SEC title at South Carolina before he leaves.
He knows that won't be easy.
"It's easier to win a national championship than it is to win the SEC," Spurrier joked. "Just ask Nick Saban."
The Gamecocks finished just short of an SEC East title in 2011 and did so without the services of star running back Marcus Lattimore, who tore his ACL during the season. Spurrier and wide receiver Ace Sanders both said Lattimore will be back to 100 percent when the season begins. Sanders went as far to say that right now he looks as good as he did before the ACL injury.
"At the end of the workout that's what we say: Who's going to win the SEC?" Sanders said. "We say South Carolina."
Stay tuned to Inside the Gators on Wednesday as Will Muschamp, Jon Bostic, Larentee McCray and Mike Gillislee meet with the media in Hoover
(Deal ends July 20, 2012)