Friday, June 22, 2018
Colleges

New SEC members Missouri and Texas A&M hit the ground running

Under normal circumstances, Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel would have spent the early part of the offseason examining film from the 2011 season, breaking down his team's performances then devising improvements.

But this isn't a normal offseason for the Tigers.

Instead of looking back at games against Baylor and Oklahoma, Pinkel has looked ahead to games against Georgia and Florida.

"We've looked at all the different schemes we're going to see, offensively and defensively, kicking," said Pinkel, who is entering his 12th season in Columbia. "It's like anything you do. You adjust. You get as much information as you can. You decide your plan, and you adjust accordingly."

Missouri and Texas A&M officially became the newest members of the SEC on July 1 (its first expansion in 20 years). But Pinkel and Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin have been preparing for the move from the Big 12 for six months — or since last season ended.

Sumlin also is adjusting to a new job. He was hired in December from Houston.

"Transition is tough for everybody," Sumlin said. "For me, it's all new, and the experiences that we're going to have are new to everybody; for our administration, our fans, me.

"In a way, it's kind of an advantage because (other SEC schools) don't know what's coming either. Because of that, there's a lot of excitement."

While the coaches have been preparing for life on the field, there have been intense preparations off it. The SEC assembled a transition team to visit each campus. Then administrative staff from both schools attended meetings at the league offices in Birmingham, Ala., to learn its bylaws. There were visits to SEC campuses to study gameday management.

Interest at both schools is at a fever pitch.

In June, the SEC hosted a pep rally for both schools in Atlanta that drew about 1,000 fans. Both held a flag-raising ceremony on July 2 to commemorate their entry. Billboards began going up in the spring in both states. (Missouri also put up billboards reading, "Proud to be SEC, Mizzou" throughout the South, including Tampa, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Birmingham and Memphis, as part of an advertising campaign.)

And logging onto Texas A&M's website (tamu.edu), one of the first things that jumps out is the slogan, "This Is SEC Country."

"Our fans are extremely excited, and I know our players are," Sumlin said.

"I think you can tell by season-ticket sales. Our place is sold out for every game. Everybody that I've been in contact with, from former students to current students to our players, are excited about joining the SEC and looking forward to this year."

That excitement has already carried over into other aspects of the athletic programs.

Missouri recently received a $30 million gift from the Kansas City Sports Trust to kick off a $200 million plan for facility improvements, which the school said is vital to its ability to be successful in the SEC. Plans include adding at least 6,000 seats to Faurot Field, the football stadium that currently is among the smallest in the league at 71,004. (Texas A&M has hired a firm to study renovations at Kyle Field, capacity 82,600.)

"We are moving into the nation's best and most competitive conference," Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said. "And by committing to this master plan, we feel this is a statement that Mizzou is going to be a factor on the conference and national levels."

Preparing to face the nation's best is why Sumlin's and Pinkel's offseason has been so busy.

"We've had to analyze every single SEC school we're going to play against; all the personnel and all the schemes," Pinkel said. "I have great respect for the SEC. The difference between the SEC and the Big 12 is that there are a lot more good teams in the SEC.

"It's been interesting. You're coaching in the Big 12. And then all of a sudden, you're in a new league. It's been good, but it's been a lot of work."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Read her blog at .tampabay.com/blogs/gators. Follow her on Twitter at @gatornews.

Comments
Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

OMAHA, Neb. — JJ Schwarz hit a two-run homer and Florida built enough cushion to survive Texas Tech's six-run outburst over the seventh and eighth innings to eliminate the Red Raiders from the College World Series with a 9-6 win Thursday night....
Published: 06/22/18
Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

For the first time in almost two decades, Florida and Florida State will open the men's basketball season against each other.The Seminoles will host UF on Nov. 6, both programs announced Wednesday morning. FSU has won four in a row in the series."Any...
Published: 06/20/18
With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

Florida State's primetime opener against Virginia Tech looks a little tougher now than it did a few days ago.Hokies starting quarterback Josh Jackson has had his academic eligibility resolved and remains on the team, the Roanoke Times reported Tuesda...
Published: 06/19/18
As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

USF's expanded partnership with Yuengling — including naming rights to the Sun Dome — is only the latest part in an evolving relationship between college sports and alcohol, as my colleague, Joey Knight, wrote on the front page ...
Published: 06/18/18
Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

OMAHA, Neb. — Florida pitcher Brady Singer has won the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's player of the year.Singer, who received the award Friday, carries a 12-1 record and 2.30 ERA into the College World Series, which begins Saturday. T...
Published: 06/15/18
Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rex Culpepper is back. The smile on his face said it all. The redshirt sophomore quarterback had his first full workout with Syracuse on Friday after overcoming testicular cancer. He said he broke down and cried when he was told he w...
Published: 06/15/18
Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

During his question-and-answer session with more than 500 Manatee-Sarasota boosters Monday evening, FSU's Willie Taggart was peppered with the normal inquiries about recruiting, offensive scheme and the Seminoles' quarterback derby.All well and good....
Published: 06/12/18
When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

It would have been easy — expected, even — for Willie Taggart to be nervous when he started in place of the injured Tommie Frazier as Manatee High's starting quarterback in 1991.Nope. Taggart wasn't, even though he was the first...
Published: 06/12/18
FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

SARASOTA — He slithered and scrambled his way into the local consciousness in the fall of 1991.Manatee High's Willie Taggart, 145 pounds in a sopping jersey, suddenly found himself with the keys to the Hurricanes' ruthlessly efficient opti...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Former West Virginia defensive lineman Adam Shuler announced Monday that he plans to join the Gators as a graduate transfer.Shuler, a 6-foot-4, 268-pound Longwood native, started 10 games for the Mountaineers last season. As a redshirt sophomore, he ...
Published: 06/11/18