ATLANTA — The Latest on SEC Media Days (all times local):
Tennessee sophomore offensive lineman Trey Smith has been cleared for fall practice after being held out of spring drills because of an undisclosed medical condition.
The return of Smith, a second-team All-SEC pick as a freshman in 2017, is big as Jeremy Pruitt prepares for his first season as the Vols coach. Pruitt said at the Southeastern Conference Media Days on Wednesday that he “can’t wait to get him back.”
Smith was one of 12 players held out of spring practice for medical reasons. With Smith and others back, Pruitt says, “I think we’ll get the best out of everybody.”
Pruitt, the former defensive coordinator at Alabama, Georgia and Florida State, was hired to rebuild the Tennessee program. The Vols finished 4-8 and 0-8 in the SEC last season.
Pruitt says he has found boosters, fans, players and the Tennessee administration “all running in the same direction and that’s all it takes.”
Welcome to the South, Joe Moorhead. And pass the bacon.
Moorhead, the new Mississippi State coach, is a Pittsburgh native who most recently was the Fordham coach from 2012-15 and the Penn State offensive coordinator the last two years. He’s adjusting to the Mississippi weather and food.
He says stepping out the front door means “being smacked in the face with humidity.” He’s also adjusting to having “everything wrapped in bacon.”
The Bulldogs finished 9-4 in 2017. Moorhead inherits nine returning starters on offense, including senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Defensive linemen Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons top the list of eight defensive returning starters.
It’s a good talent base, but Moorhead says he knows he’s taking over a program which has never won the SEC championship.
He wants to elevate the team, “which has a very good foundation, from good to great.”
The College Football Playoff is sticking with four teams, at least for now.
Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, says there has been no talk about expanding the event.
Hancock at Southeastern Conference Media Days that “there is no talk about expansion among the university presidents and college commissioners who sit on our boards.”
This season’s national championship game will be played Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, California. The semifinals on Dec. 29 at the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl.
Nick Saban should feel right at home at the College Football Hall of Fame, the facility hosting part of this week’s SEC Media Days.
The Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta is only a short walk from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where six months ago Saban’s Alabama team beat Georgia for his sixth national championship.
Even in a year Alabama wasn’t the SEC champion, the national championship win over Georgia strengthened Saban’s hold as the king of the league.
Alabama is still the team to beat as SEC teams gear up for another season. Wednesday will be day three of the four-day SEC Media Days.
The annual event brings together coaches and players from the league’s 14 schools. This year approximately 1,000 media credentials have been issued.