HOOVER, Ala. — Florida finished only 7-6 in 2011, salvaging a winning season with a Gator Bowl victory over Ohio State. But the Gators are confident going into a new season with a veteran defense and a new offensive coordinator.

- 79-65. New Arkansas head coach John L. Smith’s overall record as a head coach (Idaho, Utah St., Louisville, Michigan St.)- 30.8. Points per game Auburn allowed vs. SEC teams in 2011.- 24. Florida running back Mike Gillislee’s touchdown goal for 2012.- 10th. Kentucky’s SEC rank in points per game on both offense and defense in 2012.

“We can be as good as we want to be,” linebacker Jonathan Bostic said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. “We just have to keep creating turnovers and play smart.

“Last year is over. We’re ready to play football.”

Georgia is the defending SEC East champion.

South Carolina has two wins in a row over Florida.

But prognosticator Phil Steele has picked the Gators to win the division this year. Florida lost 17-12 at South Carolina last November, and 24-20 to Georgia in Jacksonville.

“It’s not just the South Carolina game,” Bostic said, “but a lot of close games.

“We just have to do the little things to change the outcome. We have worked on that this offseason.”

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease came from Boise State after Charlie Weis left to become head coach at Kansas. Running back Mike Gillislee says Pease has “a lot of shifts” in his formations.

“I can be in the slot when we line up and then in the backfield about to run the ball at the snap,” Gillislee said. “It’s exciting.”

Second-year head coach Will Muschamp has yet to pick a starting quarterback.

Competition between sophomores Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will continue into August, Muschamp said.

“I know we can win with both guys,” he said.

Muschamp said he isn’t much for summer predictions.

“I don’t worry about preseason anything,” he said. “Since 1996, the media has only gotten the (SEC) winner right twice.”

What hot seat?

Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips on his shaky job security: “I’m not sitting down right now so there’s nothing hot.”

Mike The Tiger

LSU head coach Les Miles stars in an EA Sports commercial with mascot Mike The Tiger.

It shows Mike playing a video game in which 2012 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III is LSU’s quarterback.

“I thought Mike The Tiger stole the show,” Miles joked. “We didn’t get along on the set.”

Miles added that the mascot “was difficult to work with.”

Arkansas adversity

Strange days in Fayetteville, where Arkansas head coach John L. Smith has a 10-month contract worth $850,000.

Smith was an Arkansas assistant the last three years before leaving in the off-season to become head coach at Weber State. He returned when Bobby Petrino was fired after a much-publicized motorcycle accident and revelations of an affair with a woman he hired as an assistant.

“The transition was as easy as it could be,” Smith said. “It wasn’t hard at all. … Our players believe in the system.”

Asked if he wants to remain head coach after the coming season, Smith bristled.

“Well, certainly,” he said. “Do I look stupid?”

Bullish Bulldog

Mississippi State has respectable losses to Alabama (24-7) and LSU (19-6) last year but has to play both teams on the road in 2012.

“We’re close. We’re right there with Alabama and LSU,” Bulldogs cornerback Jonathan Banks said.

“We just don’t quite have the depth.”

Still, Banks said, “We always expect to be in Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game).”

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff