HOOVER, Ala. — Missouri wasn’t the only new kid on the block at the Southeastern Conference Media Days on Tuesday. Texas A&M, also formerly of the Big 12, was getting its first real taste of life in the SEC as well.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
And just like Missouri, the Aggies’ players and coaches admitted their experience at the Wynfrey Hotel on Tuesday was unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. While Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines chose the word “crazy” to describe the horde of cameras and reporters that swarmed the Wynfrey, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter had another word in mind.
“It’s intense,” Porter said. “There’s a lot of people out there, and you all are asking a lot of different questions. It’s different. I’ve never done anything like this before. There’s been a lot of weird questions asked of me. I’m just trying to get used to all the excitement.”
But the media coverage isn’t the only thing that figures to change this season for Texas A&M and Missouri. Players from both schools were peppered with questions about how they plan to adjust on the field to what is widely regarded as the nation’s most competitive — and physical — conference.
And to a man, the Aggies said they expect the speed of opponents, particularly on defense, to be the biggest thing they have to adjust for in the SEC. Considering new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is bringing his fast-paced, prolific passing offense to College Station, this could make for an intriguing showdown on a week-to-week basis.
“We’ll see speed every week,” said offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. “In the Big 12, we saw speed, but the SEC has great defenses every single week.”
Receiver Ryan Swope agreed.
“The defenses are very fast,” Swope said. “The front four is very big, and they’ve got speed. I think that’s a huge adjustment.”
And all indications are the Aggies have been training like it. Swope praised A&M’s new strength coach, Larry Jackson, for getting them ready to play in Sumlin’s high-paced offense.
“Coach Jackson has us in the best shape that we’ve ever been in,” Swope said. “They’ve pushed us in practice — I’ve never run as much in my life as in Coach Sumlin’s offense. “We just run, run, run. It’s going to be interesting to see how those SEC defenses react to this different kind of scheme that we run.”
That comment would surely warm the heart of Sumlin, who brought Jackson along from Houston to do just what Swope said he’s doing.
“The demands he’s putting on them right now, through the spring, through the summer, will pay off,” Sumlin said. “We’ve been together a long time. Our teams have been in excellent condition, particularly for what we do offensively.”
Porter, however, cautioned that there will surely be an adjustment period for both sides of the ball, and particularly on defense.
“These guys like to run the ball a whole lot, and they use fullbacks and big, bruising linemen,” he said. “We haven’t seen that so much in the Big 12 over the past few years that I’ve been playing, so there will be a bit of an adjustment. But we’re ready for it.”