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Ex-Big 12 members Missouri, Texas A&M not intimidated by level of competition in SEC

HOOVER, Ala. — By the time Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and three of his players arrived in the main media room midway through Tuesday's opening of SEC media days, one could sense they were a little tired of answering questions about how well the Tigers, and former Big 12 mate Texas A&M, will make the transition to the SEC.

"You get a lot of, 'You're playing in the SEC now, this great league,' " Pinkel said. "I've got a place down in Florida, go down there sometimes, people act like we've been playing a bunch of high school teams. We've played in a pretty big league."

The Tigers and Aggies players said they are eager to begin SEC play to silence the talk about whether they are ready to compete.

"We don't want anyone marking us as a win right now," Texas A&M LB Sean Porter said. "We're not training to be a bottom-level team in the SEC."

Missouri WR T.J. Moe took it one step further, saying he's excited about joining the league but questioning what gives the SEC the right to feel superior to the Big 12.

"Recently the SEC has been dominant, that's true," Moe said. "But again, it's not all 12 teams that are dominating, it's one or two guys that are steamrolling through everybody and everybody else is kind of average."

PEACE OF MIND: For the first since he arrived at South Carolina in 2005, coach Steve Spurrier brought a Gamecocks QB with him to media day. Junior Connor Shaw is the undisputed starter heading into fall camp, and the man who's known for playing as many as three quarterbacks at a time said there's comfort in having just Shaw.

"Yeah, it is a little bit of peace of mind," Spurrier said. "We've struggled with just one quarterback a little bit here and there. At times, (former Jefferson standout) Stephen Garcia played very well. At times, Blake Mitchell, Chris Smelley, all those guys played pretty well. But we didn't have a real consistent game-after-game type quarterbacking. … He's (Shaw) a reliable guy. I think the players around him really enjoy playing with him."

Shaw, who was 123-of-188 for 1,448 yards, 14 TDs and six interceptions last season, is also a running threat, rushing for 525 yards and eight touchdowns.

"It's a privilege to play for him and an honor to be here," Shaw said.

South Carolina opens with a Thursday night game against up-and-coming Vanderbilt (Sept. 1). Gamecocks RB Marcus Lattimore is expected to be fully healthy after tearing his ACL last season. He rushed for 818 yards and 10 TDs before the midseason injury.

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Ex-Big 12 members Missouri, Texas A&M not intimidated by level of competition in SEC 07/17/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 9:18pm]
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