With coaches like Steve Spurrier and Les Miles no longer in the conference, SEC Media Days can be a bit of a bore now. Yes, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and new LSU head coach Ed Orgeron can provide some funny headlines. But the trash talking from Spurrier and others is much less frequent now.
But Georgia head coach Kirby Smart tried to bring back that trash talking tradition a little with a slight jab at Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on Tuesday.
Smart’s shade towards Jones wasn’t anything huge, but it’s more than fans have become accustomed to with how many coaches stick to coach speak nowadays. Smart was asked about the amount of returning starters he had on the roster for this year when a reporter claimed the Bulldogs have 21 returning starters in 2017.
“Twenty-one starters returning? Wow, that is a new one for me,” Smart replied. “I can’t figure that out. I think we had three senior offensive lineman (last year). So that math don’t work there.”
But Smart’s focus quickly went from the question at hand to an exchange he had with a coach last season.
“Last year, we had a coach tell us that we had the best talent,” Smart said. “And he had six players taken in the first four rounds after he said we had better talent than he did. And we had one player drafted.
“Sometimes I don’t know where those messages come from.”
That coach is, presumably, Butch Jones. The Vols had six players drafted in the first 135 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, and Jones is known for talking up all of Tennessee’s opponents. The little shot towards Jones isn’t on the same level of Spurrier’s “You can’t spell ‘Citrus’ without UT” in the 1990s or even Muschamp’s “It’s great to see all these people out here getting disappointed” statement in 2014. But hearing Smart throw some shade towards Jones is still a nice twist in an already heated rivalry.
The Vols fell short of winning the SEC East last season, but Vol fans will never forget Tennessee’s victory over the Bulldogs last year thanks to Jauan Jennings’ Hail Mary grab with no time left on the clock. Tennessee now owns a two-game winning streak over Georgia after last season’s dramatic victory and their come-from-behind win in 2015.
Smart is coming off his first season as a head coach in his career. He helped guide the Bulldogs to an 8-5 record last season and a third place finish in the SEC East. The Bulldogs do return several starters on both sides of the ball and will have plenty of talent on offense. They will likely be picked as the favorites to win the East at SEC Media Days this year.