Missouri, Texas A&M coaches take different views on new SEC home
HOOVER, Ala. — Two teams, two attitudes about joining the Southeastern Conference.
Newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri took their places at SEC Media Days on Tuesday and displayed differing viewpoints about their new home.
Gary Pinkel of Missouri, entering his 12th season, bristles at the notion that his Tigers might be in for a rough welcome.
“People act like we’ve been playing a bunch of high school teams,” said Pinkel, whose team joined A&M in bolting from the Big 12. “We’ve played in a pretty big league.”
Meanwhile, the Aggies’ first-year coach, Kevin Sumlin, approaches the SEC with reverence.
“It’s a pretty damn hard league,” Sumlin said. “How’s that? That’s my assessment.”
Perhaps the two mindsets are a product of vantage point.
In a move of geographical gymnastics, Mizzou will join the East Division, where the marquee programs lie dormant compared to their past powerhouse selves.
A&M, on the other hand, falls into a West Division with the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU — and thanks to a visit from Florida in their first conference game, the Aggies will face the winners of the past six combined national titles.
Sumlin said he knew all of that when he moved from Houston to the Aggies this offseason, but it won’t make the task any easier. Asked what offensive adjustments his team may need to make for SEC defenses, he gives this response: “We need to be bigger and faster.”
Sumlin was chuckling as he delivered both lines, but it’s clear that he and his players know this is no laughing matter.
He assumed that the trip to Hoover meant skipping an offseason workout for tackle Luke Joeckel, linebacker Sean Porter and receiver Ryan Swope, who accompanied him to media days.
Instead, the trio woke up at 5 a.m. to lift weights, run and hurdle.
“We just didn’t want to miss a day,” Swope said. “We can’t afford to miss a day right now. We’re asleep and other people are working.”
Swope, who set school records last season for catches (89) and receiving yards (1,207) — both of which would have led the SEC — is the top returning playmaker on an offense that will have to cope with the loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
His counterpart at Missouri, T.J. Moe, will look to get back to his 1,000-plus-yard form of 2010 alongside junior quarterback James Franklin.
The quotable Moe lit up interview sessions with his wit, and he didn’t stray far from Pinkel’s line of thinking. Moe said he’s been to six weddings this summer, and at every one, he was constantly asked about the SEC.
“Inside the football program, we don’t say a word about it. It’s still football,” he said. “I’m still going to be (in) the slot, and I’m still going to run the same routes. Now the difference may be that I’m running against a 260-pound linebacker instead of a 180-pound dime. It could be a little different look for me, and hopefully a little bit easier.”
While Pinkel and Missouri don’t feel they need to alter their game plan to succeed in the SEC, Sumlin is more cautious. Asked about LSU coach Les Miles’ statement this summer that the new kids on the block would have to “strap it up,” Sumlin agrees.
“I don’t see that as derogatory at all,” Sumlin said. “I think that’s a fair statement. I think he says that to about everybody he plays, as a matter of fact.”