Jul. 23—HOOVER, Ala. — Let's get this out of the way first.
Here's a few things that weren't surprising when it comes to SEC Media Days: a flight delay at Dallas Fort Worth, a craving for Chick-fil-A during that delay only to remember it's Sunday and Ed Orgeron ending his press conference with "Go Tigers."
But as a recent Indiana University graduate, there was plenty more that surprised me.
Let's go inside the walls of the Hyatt Regency Birmingham — Wynfrey Hotel with Mississippi State.
MSU isn't talking vaccines
The SEC expects teams to get vaccinated. If they don't, they might forfeit games.
The nation's top football conference is preaching the need for vaccines in a language its members best understand, and that is by providing a competitive edge.
Mike Leach says his team doesn't discuss the topic and leaves the decisions up to the doctors. Leach also didn't disclose his personal vaccination status.
That's the program's choice, and it's a respectable one. But that undisclosed information will be easy to pick out when players and coaches are missing from the sideline. Or worse, when MSU is forced to lose a game it never played.
Mike Leach is focused on winning
Stand alone, that sentence isn't too surprising. Leach has won and won big at the highest level.
He's a college football coach, so winning matters.
But when most, including myself, sat up in their chair as Leach stepped up in front of a microphone, there was an anticipation of a stand-up act of sorts.
Instead — except for a few one-liners — Leach remained focused on his QB battle, his expectation of an offensive system he's finally had a full offseason to implement and the next step for his defense.
First-year coaches impress
I'll leave Auburn's Bryan Harsin out of this. If you're coming to your first Media Days and answering just three questions in the main media session, you didn't impress.
I'm talking about South Carolina's Shane Beamer, Vanderbilt's Clark Lea and Tennessee's Josh Heupel.
All three are coming into uniquely difficult situations, but all three showed a perfect feel for the pulse of their programs.
Heupel expressed a need for a connection to exist between his staff and his players. Lea knew it was time to build from scratch. Beamer showed a level of confidence that seemed to be lacking in various games for South Carolina last season.
To fix what's on the surface, these coaches clearly know how to find the root.