Speculations abound as SEC Media Days wrap up
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07
As Texas A&M enters the so-called ‘Conference of Champions’, the Aggies will realize quickly whether or not they are up to the task for the escalation in competition and increase in athleticism.
Several SEC coaches, many of which possess experience in the Big 12, opined their thoughts on A&M’s ability to compete in its new league Tuesday and Wednesday at the SEC media days.
The SEC of course, known for its winning football, lays claim to six straight national titles since 2006 – a daunting statistic. The Aggies haven’t beaten an SEC opponent since running back Leeland McElroy donned the maroon and white, and haven’t had a 10-win season since their Big 12 title-winning team in 1998.
Still, some familiar with the program see A&M football’s chance for an upward trajectory. They see the facilities, the recruiting ground, the fan base and the monetary resources necessary to compete at the highest level in any conference. They also see A&M’s opportunity for increased exposure and recruiting benefits as the University represents Texas in the nation’s mightiest athletic conference.
The SEC coaches, too, see the potential of A&M in its new conference.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, perhaps the most iconic SEC coach still in a coaching position, understands what it takes to succeed in A&M’s new home. Spurrier, who won a national title at Florida before awakening the Gamecocks, said he expects the SEC newcomers to make some noise.
“Yeah I think Texas A&M and Missouri are going to be extremely competitive. I think they’re going to win a bunch of games,” Spurrier said. “[It] wouldn’t surprise me if they were in the hunt to win a division.”
If the Aggies legitimately want to make noise, however, they will get their chance when they welcome the Florida Gators – A&M’s debut SEC game – in September at Kyle Field. This matchup stands as a tone-setter capable of swinging momentum in either team’s favor for the remainder of the season.
Coaching the Gators will be a name familiar to many Aggies. Head coach Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator at Texas from 2008-10, makes his return to Kyle Field for the first time since escaping with a 49-39 victory with the Longhorns in 2009.
Muschamp said he respects what A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin brings to the table for the Aggies.
“Kevin [Sumlin] did a great job at Houston. Now moving to Texas A&M, I won’t see anything different,” Muschamp said. “They’ll be able to recruit well, great recruiting base in College Station. I think [Missouri and A&M] will do very well and blend very well for our conference.”
Yet, perhaps the most pointed admirer of the leagues two new teams is a coach with a background not far misplaced from Muschamp. After stints as Texas’ defensive coordinator and head coach at Iowa State, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik – along with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton – would lead the Tigers to their first national championship since 1957.
Chizik’s comments, especially taken in context with other coaches’ statements, indicate the SEC isn’t taking A&M and Missouri’s inauguration lightly.
“I’ll tell you what, I don’t think a lot of people are giving Texas A&M and Missouri the credit they deserve. I will say that standing up here because I played in that league,” Chizik said. “These are two dang good football teams with dang good football coaches. They’ve got players. They’ve got coaches. They’ve got great venues. They’ve got great backing. It’s a perfect fit for our league.”