Bielema criticizes up-tempo offenses

HOOVER, Ala. — New Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said criticism by other Southeastern Conference coaches that his style of up-tempo offense leads to more injuries is a joke.

New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema isn’t laughing.

“I’m not a comedian,” Bielema said Wednesday during Day 2 of Southeastern Conference football media days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel. Bielema favors a power running style of offense and has been openly critical of up-tempo attacks.

“There are times when an offensive player and a defensive player are out on the field for an extended amount of time without a break,” Bielema said, his tone clearly angry. “You cannot tell me that a player after play five is the same player that he is after play 15.

“It’s not a joke to me. It’s something that I really feel strongly about. It’s not rhetoric.”

Malzahn said his style of offense is the growing trend in college football.

“You see more and more teams using pace,” he said. “I think you’ll see it more and more at the next level (NFL) also.”

Malzahn complained that teams are purposely faking defensive injuries to slow down up-tempo offenses.

Bielema’s reply: “I can’t tell you how to tell a kid how to fake an injury.”

Auburn’s Nov. 2 game at Arkansas just got a lot more interesting.

Shaw gives Wing thanks

The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on LSU punter Brad Wing two years ago under college football’s stiffer taunting rule was controversial when the flag was thrown.

But SEC Coordinator of Football Officials Steve Shaw said the yellow hankie had a silver lining. He contends it ultimately helped clean up the college game by giving players an example of a line they couldn’t cross.

“The big conversation around here was about how it will take away touchdowns and ruin the game,” Shaw said.

“It was a tight call, but it really set a standard out there and probably helped clean up a lot of stuff as we went through the year.”

In an Oct. 8 game against Florida, Wing scored untouched on a 52-yard fake punt. As he neared the end zone, Wing extended his arms and briefly held the ball out toward a trailing Florida defender, drawing a penalty.

The touchdown was erased, and LSU eventually settled for a field goal but still won 41-11.

Wing, now preparing for his first training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles, said in a way he’s happy he did his part for college football.

“It will definitely be a play that I will never forget,” Wing said Wednesday. “It got a lot of coverage, so I guess I’m glad I could help get their point across.

“If they’re going to flag a punter, they’ll flag anyone.”

Handling adversity

Mississippi State charged to a 7-0 start last season, but after a 38-7 loss at Alabama dropped five of its last six and limped home with an 8-5 record.

State quarterback Tyler Russell said it’s imperative the Bulldogs do a better job of handling the adversity that will eventually come their way this fall.

“Losing one game should not define the rest of your season,” Russell said. “I’m trying my best to change that. If we lose one game, it isn’t the end of our season.”

Great expectations

An unexpected crowd of 50,000 fans at Kentucky’s spring game, and a strong start to the Wildcats’ first recruiting effort under new coach Mark Stoops have sent expectations soaring for UK, which has suffered through three straight losing seasons.

Bring ’em on, says Wildcats running back Raymond Sanders.

“I think they (Kentucky fans) should expect us to win,” said Sanders, UK’s top returning rusher with 669 yards and five touchdowns a year ago. “It’s up to us to go out and do the best we can.

“Fifty thousand fans at the spring game shows they want to support us. It’s up to us to keep them there.”

Record turnout

The hordes of reporters surrounding Johnny Manziel as he spoke on the ESPN set and in the main media room were telling signs there is a record media turnout this year for SEC Football Media Days.

SEC spokesman Chuck Dunlap said more than 1,200 credentials were issued as of Tuesday afternoon. Last year’s media days drew 1,085 credentialed reporters, Dunlap said, with the increase at least partially due to more ESPN programming from each session of media days.

The last word

SEC Football Media Days wrap up Thursday with a session featuring players and coaches from LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Vanderbilt.

The preseason All-SEC team and conference selections, as picked by members of the attending media, will also be released.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter at @RabalaisAdv.