BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-The eyes of the college football world were on Hoover, Alabama on Monday, as the SEC kicked off their annual SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel.
The event has been known as the "unofficial" start to the college football season, as well as the peak of the "talking season," as former Florida and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier put it years ago.
The four-day event features all 14 of the league’s coaches and three players from each school to discuss the upcoming season. On Monday, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and three coaches took the stage, two of which Tennessee will face during the 2019 season in Missouri’s Barry Odom and Florida’s Dan Mullen.
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt, along with junior quarterback Jarrett Gurarantano and senior linebackers Daniel Bituli and Darrell Taylor are slated to speak with the media on Tuesday.
Missouri Head Coach Barry Odom
Following an 8-5 campaign in 2018, the Tigers said goodbye to record-setting quarterback Drew Lock. It didn’t take long for Odom and company to find their replacement, scooping up Clemson transfer QB Kelly Bryant in the offseason.
On Monday, Odom discussed the addition of Bryant and what went into his decision to designate Columbia, MO as his landing spot for his final season of eligibility.
“When Kelly stepped on campus for his official visit, I saw an interaction between him and our team,” Odom said. “It was a natural fit. He’s a very selfless person, low ego. And one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around.
“That fit with who we are as a program and as an organization. We need ten guys around him to play really well.”
Bryant will be under the tutelage of second-year offensive coordinator Derek Dooley. The former Tennessee head coach, who lead the Vols from 2010-2012 and compiled a 15-21 record, spent some time as an assistant in the NFL before finding his way back to the SEC last season.
Under Dooley, Missouri’s offense averaged more than 480 yards and 37 points per game in 2018. Odom talked about Dooley’s impact and what he has learned since his time in Knoxville.
“(Dooley) was a great fit for us,” Odom said. “He was able to put together a scheme that allowed our kids to use their skills and also play with confidence. I’ve been able to bounce ideas off him and ask. He’s been very open about his answers, and things he had success with, things that if he had a chance to do it again, how he would approach it differently. That’s been good for us.”
Missouri will host Tennessee at Farout Field on Nov. 23.
Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen
Before Dan Mullen took the Florida job ahead of the 2018 season, he was no stranger to the SEC, having spent four seasons as an offensive coordinator at Florida and another nine years as head coach at Mississippi State.
That experience paid off, as Mullen took a Gators team that finished 4-8 in 2017 to a 10-3 finish and a New Year’s Six Bowl win over Michigan in 2018.
Because of that quick success, Florida is facing big expectations in 2019 and Mullen also took to the podium on Monday to discuss the new standard and how his team can live up to those expectations.
"We've had a great off-season," Mullen said. "The strides our guys took coming, getting ready for year two. We need to take a huge step forward this year.
"I think we had a lot of success last year, but our consistency of performance is something I want to see change."
Consistency is an area where the Gators struggled in 2018. Despite wins over LSU, Florida State and Mississippi State, Florida's offense sputtered in losses to Kentucky and Missouri.
The key to that success will rest in the hands of Junior quarterback Feliepe Franks, who made major strides in year one in Mullen's system.
According to Mullen, finding confidence is what allowed Franks to hit his stride in the latter half of the season.
"I think as the year went on, (Franks) understood what his abilities were," Mullen said. "I think a light came on and I think he started to block outside noise, all the other opinions."
Tennessee travels to Gainesville to face Florida on Sept. 21.