What was said Thursday at SEC Media Days

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Here’s some of what was said Thursday at SEC Media Days:

Ole Miss

Coach Lane Kiffin

On the current state of college football with NIL and the transfer portal

“I’ve always said that I think it’s phenomenal that players get a chance to get paid, which is great. I do think, which I’ve stood up here and said before when it first happened, that there’s going to be some major issues and we’re creating free agency with the portal.

“And with NIL, you’ve got a lot of pay-for-play going on and that is what it is. Those two things combining, there’s not a system in place. I don’t think there’s any other sports at any level that are like this, that really, you every year, can opt into free agency. Really, twice a year.

“I was just thinking on the plane ride over here. What if you had that in other sports? Tom Brady, A’Ja Wilson, Lionel Messi, LeBron James, what if every year those guys can opt to free agency, twice a year, really and they have no long-term contracts? Basically everybody is not even on a (one-year) contract because they can leave in two windows.

“It’s created a lot of issues and roster changes. I’m not complaining about it because we take advantage of free agency, but at the same time, I don’t think that’s really good for college football. These massive overhauls of rosters every year, really, is not in the best interest of college football.

“When you add the NIL at the same time, we have created, I’ve said it before, we’ve got different caps and no luxury taxes. So we’ve got professional sports, because that really is what we are, what’s been created now, and there’s no caps on what guys can make or what teams’ payrolls are.

“When this first came out, basically said, whatever programs have the most aggressive boosters with the most money are going to get the players. And now we are adding some states that you don’t have to follow the NCAA, and now the university can take their money and give it to the collective to give it to the players.

“So now we really have pay-for-play that the biggest schools with the most donors, most aggressive, and the school wants to spend the most money paying the players to play to come to their school, is where we are with that.

“So there’s kind of your state of the union of what all coaches are dealing with around the country. And really, a poor system that isn’t getting better is now going to get worse with this. Because again, now we just – look at recruiting rankings and you’re going to see that they are usually going to follow this donor base and what schools are going to decide to give the most money to the players.

“So it is what it is. We’ll deal with it like we do with everything else. But somehow, it’s got to get fixed because there’s no system around it.”

On the recent penalties brought upon Tennessee from the Jeremy Pruitt era

“Well, that didn’t take long (laughs). I got a lot of thoughts on that case and the case at USC and the case at Tennessee and the penalties and all that. I’m not really going to get into that. We’re here to talk about the Ole Miss team. You know, happy for coach (Josh) Heupel (at Tennessee). I read where he was ecstatic about the penalties and the $8 million fine. So that probably tells you about how severe the penalties are in their eyes. I’m happy for them that they don’t have to go through what we went through. So good for them.”

On Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC next season

“Texas, Oklahoma coming in is amazing. I already looked at our schedule, the one they put out to 2024, and I joked to (Texas coach) Steve Sarkisian yesterday, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know any coach that would want to go to the NFL. We are in it now.’ Our schedule is like playing in the NFL in the SEC now, especially adding those two.

“So hats off to the commissioner (Greg Sankey) for getting that done and making it the super conference of all-time. Really, the way it’s set up, it’s really kind of like everybody else and then that when you put together the competitiveness of the schedule compared to any other conference.”

Running back Quinshon Judkins

On how Kiffin recruited him to Ole Miss

“I think just as far as the situation that I was in, that he will put me in. As far as in high school, being recruited by a lot of schools, it’s hard to recruit a guy to a school and just have the situation that he wants at your school, your selling point. I think the selling point for me was how coach Kiffin could use me in the passing game, the run game, not being a basic running back. Expanding my game and showing the NFL and everybody what I can do as a player.”

On making a leap in his sophomore season

“Just continuing to work hard, remain humble, do what got me here. Keeping the main thing the main thing. I think as far as being the best you can, doing everything in your power to make your game better and perfect your craft. I think that’s the only thing that you can control.”

On advice he’d give young players about earning early playing time in the SEC

“I think as far as playing early in the SEC, which is the hardest conference to play in, I think as far as a player, you have to prepare well. Really that’s probably the biggest thing, prepare well. Just coming out of high school, it’s really hard for a guy to do that.”

Defensive lineman Cedric Johnson

On building team chemistry in the current landscape

“I feel like it’s easier building a team with transfers. I feel like transfers coming in, they know how college works, they know the system of how we do things. Usually system of practicing, playing, how everything moves. I feel like the only thing you just got to add in is meshing them within the brotherhood. When you get a freshman, you got to get them to know the system, mesh them throughout our whole system, teaching them how hard we work, about how we go on top of meshing them into the brotherhood. I feel like getting transfers in is a lot easier than a freshman.”

On playing for Kiffin

“He’s not what he seems. Like on Twitter, he seems like he’s constantly talking, joking around 24/7. He’s really a low-key guy, sits back. He doesn’t even usually talk much. Compared to Twitter, you’d think he’s a completely different person.”

South Carolina

Coach Shane Beamer

On defeating three of the five national championship-winning coaches over the past two seasons (Mack Brown, Jimbo Fisher, Dabo Swinney)

“My kids read that to me last night, and they made sure I realized that Kirby (Smart) won a national championship, and I ain’t beaten Kirby as well. So they do a good job of keeping me humble as well. Great people. Those great wins that we had over those fantastic Hall of Fame coaches that you’re referring to took all three phases and everybody in our program as well. So for us, it’s going to be to continue to can recruit great players and bring great people into our program.

“In those games, North Carolina, Texas A&M and Clemson are the three you’re referring to, you look at it, I mean, we had impactful plays in all those games on special teams, defense and offense. That’s what it takes to beat a great team like that, great coaches and great programs. There are so many Hall of Fame coaches already in this league and future Hall of Fame coaches as well. That’s what it’s going to be. It’s continuing to recruit great players and continue to develop the culture that we have at our place.”

On what he remembered of Rattler at Oklahoma that made him a transfer target last offseason

“I think the biggest thing, one, is forget about what he did on the field. I knew what kind of person Spencer is. It wasn’t like I was bringing in a guy to play quarterback that I didn’t know. I spent two years with him at Oklahoma, a little bit longer if you count the recruiting process as well. He was committed when I got there, but I was with him in those two seasons. So I knew what kind of person he was. You guys will remember this because you covered Oklahoma, but he had dealt with adversity before at Oklahoma. It wasn’t like all of a sudden this year or last season, we had some tough losses and that was the first time he went through stuff or that 2021 was the first time he went through stuff.

“You guys also remember his first two games as a starting quarterback in the Big 12 as Oklahoma, we lost to Kansas State and Iowa State. You are not supposed to lose two conference games at Oklahoma. That doesn’t happen, not to mention two games to start the season when you are replacing Kyler Murray – or Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts as the quarterback. So seeing Spencer handle Jalen Hurts, see him get benched in the Texas game in 2021 and come back in the second half and lead us to a four-overtime win, I believe, told me everything I needed to know about Spencer as far as a competitor, leader, kind of person he was. He’s made us better on and off the field. I saw enough. Forget about his talent level on the field because that speaks for itself, but the way he handled himself off the field during my two seasons there was really good for me to see. Not to mention his first year there was Jalen Hurts as the quarterback. So he got to see Jalen Hurts come in as a transfer quarterback. I don’t want to speak for Spencer, but I would imagine that helped him seeing that when he made the transition to Columbia.”

Quarterback Spencer Rattler

On playing in the SEC after being in the Big 12

“This conference, definitely the physicality. You can tell a difference. You’re playing the best players every single week. This is the closest thing to the NFL, and that’s why I wanted to come here, to compete with the best and prove myself as a player.”

On new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains

“I’ve loved everything we’ve done. Dowell is a great guy, obviously coached quarterbacks for his whole career in the NFL. He’s taught me a lot already in these few months. I’m excited to get into camp with him in two weeks.”

On advice to top quarterback recruits trying to avoid pitfalls

“Everybody’s journey is different. I don’t control this. God does. God has me here for a reason. I’m blessed to be here. Grateful to be here. Everyone’s journey is different. Keep working hard. We’re obviously all doing that and trying to achieve the same mission. We all have our certain situations but we just have to get through them.”

On the opening game against North Carolina and its quarterback Drake Maye

“I’m excited for the game. I haven’t met Drake yet. He kind of blew up on the scene last year, had a great season. Credit to him. I’m excited to get to compete versus them. It will be a fun game. Hopefully we’ll put on a show.”

Defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway

On which team South Carolina should play annually when SEC schedule changes

“Conference game? I definitely probably say that Georgia game. I feel like even the fans love that game. It’s always a good turnout. Not that far from South Carolina, so …”

On Rattler winning over his teammates

“I feel like just his competitive ability. That’s what it is. He going to compete. I feel like everyone loves that. He throws with the guys every now and then. That’s what you got to do to be a quarterback, show that he want to win.”

On playing for Beamer

“I feel he’s taken it to new heights. Playing for him is like you got – you do everything for him. You try to win. You hate making him feel down. Coach Beamer, you want to play your heart out for him, like give him your all.”


Coach Josh Heupel

On quarterback Joe Milton’s development

“I think one of the great stories in college football in the era of the transfer portal is his trust and ability to recognize areas that he can continue to grow in and trust the people around him; that we have his best interests at heart. Understand that within our scheme, he’s going to have an opportunity to do everything he wants to, which is be one of the best players in college football.

“Through that process over the last, you know, 18 to 24 months, he’s continued to grow in his comfort of who he is, what he’s about and how he wants to attack and approach every single day and how he wants to grow as a football player, meaning fundamentally at the quarterback position, along with understanding offensive and defensive schemes so that he can puts his eyes in the right spot, get his body in the right spot to be consistently accurate with the football, and then how he wants to impact his teammates.

“Nobody inside our program was surprised by the success that he had when he got his opportunity last year as a starter. He played extremely well when he got into football games throughout the course of the season. But his preparation, his urgency, how he practiced, all those things led himself and everybody inside our building to believing that he was going to play at that type of level. And he’s got a lot more out there. He’s had a great offseason for 15 practices in spring ball. Did a great job of working, navigating the pocket, and being extremely accurate with the football. I’m really excited to get back on the grass with him during the course of training camp. I believe he’s poised to have a great ‘23 season.”

On whether the win over Florida was a catalyst for his team last season

“Catalyst, yes, at that point in the season, but every season there’s steps that you have to take and in some ways, there’s benchmarks, but there’s opportunities for growth. I thought throughout the course of the football season last year, we continued to get better a majority of the season and that’s what good teams do. The Florida win was a big one, absolutely, for our fan base as much as anything. Meaning many recent years, we had not had the same amount of success as we would have liked to. But for our players, there was great confidence going into it, and, yes, great confidence coming out of it as well.”

On tampering and how to address it

“Well, how big of an issue it is, I don’t know. I think there’s so many people that are involved in the recruitment of players. Could be high school coaches. Could be workout facilities. Seven-on-seven coaches, whatever. There’s so many different dynamics that go into it, I don’t know how you stop the communication completely at any one point. So I don’t have a silver bullet for that issue. Similar to a lot of other issues that maybe we are trying to navigate inside of college football, but there’s a lot of smart people that are working on finding answers to those things.”

On who’s the “real” UT with Texas joining the SEC in 2024

“There’s only one real UT, one right shade of orange.”

On his goal at Tennessee

“Standard at Tennessee is to win championships. It’s pretty clear. You know, I think we are top 10 in the history of college football in wins, first-round draft picks, bowls, bowl wins. The standard is to compete at the highest level and win championships. For us, that starts in the Eastern Division, which everybody knows that there’s a lot of good football that’s played in that division.”

Quarterback Joe Milton

On his relationship with Hendon Hooker and what he learned from him

“Becoming a pro is one of them. I feel like that’s the main thing I could take from Hendon, is becoming a pro. Obviously he’s older than me. I never had no one that actually treated me like I would say a little brother. You know (laughter)? I never had nobody treat me like a little brother, and that’s what he did. I wouldn’t say it was under the wing because we was going head-to-head. It was a 1-2 punch no matter what. If he needed anything, I was there. If he came to the sideline about a play or coverage, I was there no matter what. It can be anything. I can be anybody. I was there to help first. I feel like that’s one thing that he led, contributed as a teammate and as a big brother. It was great.”

On balancing positivity with holding teammates accountable

“Most definitely. I think that’s where the backup quarterback role came into play. You get to understand guys more. Hendon was busy last year, right? It was just how it was this offseason. I’m here and I wasn’t just taking the trips. Last year he came here, right? I mean, same thing for Nico. Nico is at school right now working out with the guys. There’s an opportunity to build as a backup, however you may name it. It’s an opportunity to build amongst the team. For me, my best way to get connection with guys is handshakes. As a man, as a quarterback, I got handshakes with guys that barely even played, but that makes them feel special. That’s what I’m willing to do. I want guys to feel special on the team. Doesn’t matter if they play or not, right? They contribute on the team, so they matter.”

On the farthest he’s thrown a ball

“I actually don’t know the farthest I can throw the ball. I kind of just let it go. It’s a mindset thing. As a quarterback, once you feel like somebody’s too far, then they going to be too far from you, right? I kind of just let it go no matter where they at.”

On how a transfer quarterback can win over his teammates

“Being able to understand the guys in the locker room, I feel like once you understand the guys in the locker room and what the team wants, what the coaches want, if you have new coaches or old coaches, doesn’t matter, just understand what they want inside the playbook, understand your playbook. I feel like the playbook is the main thing. Once you know that, then the guys around you are kind of rallied to you to get your help, see how you see it. I mean, every mind in here thinks different. Just being able to see that and process that, it will be fine.”

Tight end Jacob Warren

On Milton

“The one thing that built my respect for Joe the most was the fact that he stayed, man. He had every – maybe not every right, but everyone could understand why he would leave, want to go play, because he’s obviously a great talent, a really big weapon for us. But the fact that he stayed, he just learned from Hendon and also helped Hendon out in a lot of different areas of the game, has truly showed me he’s committed to this place, he’s committed to being great here. He really likes being here. He loves all the guys on the team. He’ll tell you that, too. He gets along super well with pretty much everybody on the team. Definitely super excited to see him take that leadership into this season and perform the way we all know he can.”

On how Heupel turned around the Volunteers and why he stuck with program

“I think the answer to both of the questions is just the culture. I think it’s the culture. That’s kind of a buzzword; I don’t like using that word. My friendships on the team, right? How close we are with each other. Just the fact that, man, we love competing with each other. I think when you love that guy next to you, you love the people that are leading you, we love coach Heup, all of our position coordinators, you’ll go the extra mile to make sure you’ll go out and execute your assignment, right? I think it kind of starts with that. That’s how we’ve had so much success. He came in, changed the culture. He made it known that we are loved, expected, valued, and we are really good football players at the same time. You add all those things, and you have a lot of success. My decision to stay, my decision to be here, is the same answer. I truly enjoy being around all my friends, all my teammates. This university has given me a lot. I have two degrees from the university now. Just that alone, having education, being able to set myself up for my future, is super big. It’s also allowed me to make connections, build up my self-confidence. I talked about earlier, the leader and man I’ve become has definitely been maybe not just because, but this coaching staff and coach Heup has had a lot to do with that.”