SEC Media Days: Tuesday

Spurrier has South Carolina Gamecocks near top of SEC heap

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) -- Steve Spurrier finally has South Carolina near the top of the Southeastern Conference heap.

He also believes he has the talent to keep the Gamecocks there.

One year after leading South Carolina to an 11-win season and the school's first postseason top-10 ranking, Spurrier said Tuesday that "we're getting a little bit of a name out there."

The 67-year-old Spurrier is entering his eighth season at South Carolina. After five mediocre seasons, he is 20-7 the last two years.

With that success has come some swagger that hasn't often been associated with the Gamecocks. The program has swept rivals Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee two years in a row.

"Once you get wins you start to get your confidence back," South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders said at SEC media days. "Coach Spurrier knows what kind of guys he has. That's why he's so confident. That's why I'm confident. I know I expect big things."

Spurrier said he expects junior quarterback Connor Shaw to be improved this fall after playing well late last season. He also expects star running back Marcus Lattimore to be completely healthy after a knee injury wiped out the last half of his 2011 season.

Spurrier — a former quarterback — has often clashed with his quarterbacks throughout the years. But he had nothing but praise for the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Shaw, who started nine games last season and led the Gamecocks to an 8-1 record.

Shaw said Spurrier is demanding, but also knows what he's talking about.

Pinkel defends Paterno at SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) -- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says he thinks it is "wrong" to place sole blame for the Penn State tragedy on former coach Joe Paterno.

Talking with reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days on Tuesday, Pinkel was quoted as saying "you can't take away the greatness of this man. He was a great man, and you can't, however you analyze this, all of a sudden erase all that this guy's done. You can't do that. Nobody can do that."

Pinkel said Paterno was a friend who he got to know professionally. He added that it was a "tragic situation ... involving children" and that "I'm sure maybe if (Paterno) could do it over again he would (have) followed up a few things."

Vandy's Franklin carries swagger into Year 2

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) -- Vanderbilt coach James Franklin isn't backing down going into Year 2.

He says "the sky's the limit" for the Commodores and that there's an abundance of fan excitement around the program. Franklin took the podium Tuesday at Southeastern Conference media days with a bold recruiting pitch.

His message for recruits: "If you're truly the best and the brightest where else would you go?"

Franklin led the Commodores to six wins and their second bowl appearance since 1982 in his debut season.

With 17 returning starters, they'll get a chance quickly to show how much ground they've made up in the SEC East.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says Franklin has the Commodores believing "they can beat everybody they play." Vandy opens the season against the Gamecocks.
Texas A&M's Sumlin ready to win in first season

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — First-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says his "realistic expectations are to win" despite being placed in the toughest division in college football.

The Aggies were the first team to take the podium at SEC Media Days, a three-day event that attracts more than 1,000 credentialed media members. The 47-year-old Sumlin was optimistic about Texas A&M's future but also said "we understand the challenges that are ahead of us."

Texas A&M joins the SEC Western Division, which is home of the last three BCS national champions. The Aggies and Missouri joined the SEC in July.

The Aggies return 14 starters from a team that finished 7-6 last season. They must find a replacement for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who left for the NFL.

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