5 things learned on Day 1 of SEC Spring Meetings

Kalen DeBoer, the football coach who succeeded Nick Saban at Alabama, address reporters at the SEC Spring Meetings at the Sandestin Hilton Resort in Miramar Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Photo by Chip Towers/ctowers@ajc.com)

Credit: Chip Towers

Credit: Chip Towers

Kalen DeBoer, the football coach who succeeded Nick Saban at Alabama, address reporters at the SEC Spring Meetings at the Sandestin Hilton Resort in Miramar Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Photo by Chip Towers/ctowers@ajc.com)

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. — Soon after arriving in the Destin, Florida, area for the SEC Spring Meetings, Georgia coach Kirby Smart found himself in front of cameras and lights and answering questions about the many big-picture issues currently hovering over college athletics. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of other places he would have rather been.

Athens, for instance.

Back at UGA, football players this week were checking into East Campus dormitories and reporting for summer semester and offseason workouts. Among those players were a handful who were joining the Bulldogs for the very first time.

Those included freshman signees who were not among the 24 early enrollees and seven transfers that came in January. Among the new arrivals were freshmen Justin Greene, Marcus Harrison, Nasir Johnson, Drew Miller and Dwight Phillips. Also joining the Bulldogs was transfer tight end Ben Yurosek from Stanford. The All-Pac-12 player remained on the West Coast for graduation, a requirement since he’s coming to UGA as a graduate transfer.

Notably still absent is highly touted running back signee Nate Frazier. Not to worry, Bulldogs fans. A Compton, California native, Frazier simply had a later graduation date from Mater Dei High. Frazier is expected in town next week.

Following are five more things we learned during the first day of the SEC meetings:

OU, Texas presence felt

Everybody spoke glowingly of the SEC’s newest members, Oklahoma and Texas. The former Big 12 schools officially won’t be sworn in contractually until, but both programs have full contingents attending the SEC Spring Meetings for the first time this week.

Even the Texas A&M Aggies – bitter rivals of both – are excited about it.

“We should play them,” Aggies first-year coach Mike Elko said of the Longhorns specifically. “When you have two programs like that two hours away in the same state, they should play every year, and it should mean a lot.”

Said Texas coach Steve Sarkisian: “For us, we gained two rivals back. We’re playing Arkansas and Texas A&M again. We’re looking forward to it. I’m sure they are, too.”

Every previously existing team will play either Oklahoma or Texas this year, then the opposite in 2025. The Georgia Bulldogs drew the Longhorns on the road in Austin.

“Yeah, it’s extremely tough, the fact that they’re in our conference, they’re further away, they’re a powerful football team, they’ve got a great state to recruit in, both their coaching staffs are really good,” Smart said. “Both Sark and (Oklahoma coach) Brent (Venables) have SEC-kind of experience … so they both know the climate they’re jumping into. We think it makes our conference better, you know? Our brand extends further west. Two tremendous programs. But when you add those two in, it makes the schedule much tougher.”

Alabama’s Kalen ‘DeBoring’

Who knew that there already was a nickname for new Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer? Some of the beat writers who cover the Crimson Tide’s program have taken to calling him Coach “DeBoring” because he rarely has anything substantive to share with them.

The former Washington Huskies coach who succeeded Nick Saban after this past season certainly didn’t say anything controversial or really headline worthy during his first appearance at an all-SEC event. But boring would be too strong of a characterization.

Some of his remarks included:

On whether he favored an eight- or nine-game conference schedule: “I can hear both ends of it. You have to make adjustments to your non-conference schedule depending on which way you go. Ten Power Five games is probably a good number. If it was eight, maybe add one or two. I’m up in the air, honestly.”

On the possibility of roster-size limitations: “It comes down to health and safety and the efficiency of having a successful practice that you want to execute each and every day. I’ve operated with 110, 120 and a few more than that. "

On availability reports: “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t really know how I feel about all that. I want to listen to all the reasons for and against. I understand why having consistency is important.”

On replacing the ever-present of Nick Saban, who remains very visible in and around Tuscaloosa: “I, of course, have got to be who I am and be true to that and put a staff around me that complements myself. … Coach Saban knows he’s always got an open door to the program. I referred to it a few different times, ‘this is our program.’ He’s been a part of it for many years.”

Muschamp still around

It wasn’t clear if Will Muschamp was going to bolt town after resigning his position as co-defensive coordinator at the conclusion of this past season. Muschamp did so reportedly to more closely follow the career of his youngest son, Whit, a Vanderbilt football signee. Muschamp and his wife even sold their Athens-area house.

But Smart clarified Tuesday that Muschamp very much is still around. And that, Smart emphasized, is very good thing as the Bulldogs’ defensive backfield will be under the guidance of new coaches in Travaris Robinson and Donte Williams.

“Yeah, really excited about that,” Smart said. ”Both Donte and T-Rob have been tremendous in terms of energy and enthusiasm. And it’s great having Will there to kind of coach the coaches. So, it’s like you get your cake and eat it to. You’ve got coach Muschamp there for all the value he brings in terms of wealth of knowledge, relationships, knows our team, helps me. I didn’t lose any of that. But I gained these two guys that are now on the team and do a tremendous job and they get to go out and go recruiting. And Will gets to be around his son more, which I think is really important, too.”

Another player for Mike White?

Georgia basketball coach Mike White also is attending this week’s meetings and took some time out of his schedule to talk to a few reporters. Turns out he was holding a secret that he was reluctant to share.

The Bulldogs are expected to sign another player Wednesday. Technically, they already have as UGA apparently is in possession of this players’ signed paperwork. But the recruit has not made his announcement yet, and White didn’t want to steal the kid’s moment.

“We’ll let the young man we’re referring to make his public announcement tomorrow,” White said Tuesday morning before the basketball coaches met. “Hopefully, then we’ll have another announcement pretty soon.”

Georgia already has seven new players joining the 2024-25 squad, which also includes three returning starters and two walk-ons. Both the high school signees and transfer class were ranked among the nation’s top 10.

“We’re really excited about these guys,” White said. “Veteran guards with ball skills that give us versatility in the backcourt with athleticism and length and defensive and rebounding prowess up front with those 4s and 5s we signed.”

Somto Cyril expected in Athens

One of the main pieces of Georgia’s 2024 basketball recruiting class is Somto Cyril, a 6-foot-10, 252-pound center out of Overtime Elite. But one of the conditions of signing the 4-star, top-50 recruit was that Cyril be allowed to explore the NBA draft, as current rules allow.

White reported that Cyril has been working out for NBA teams, as planned, but said that the Bulldogs expect him to be with them when summer workouts begin in the next couple of weeks.

“We understood he wanted to explore his options. He’s done so and we’re getting close to his ultimate decision,” White said. “We expect him to be at Georgia, but obviously support any decision he makes.”

Having Cyril on the roster could be a big deal for the Bulldogs. Along with RJ Godfrey, a 6-8, 228-pound transfer from Clemson, Justin Abson, a 6-9, 235-pound transfer from Appalachian State, and Asa Newell, a 6-10, 215-pound 5-star-prospect from Destin, Georgia is expected to be both bigger and more athletic in the low post next season.