HOOVER, Ala. – Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn might have started a cottage T-shirt industry Monday when he called the SEC West “a man’s league” during his SEC Media Days address.
“If you’re not in it,” Malzahn said, “you don’t understand it.”
Jim McElwain isn’t in the SEC West, but he gets it. The new Florida head coach served as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-2011. Facilities make a big SEC West/SEC East difference, McElwain said Monday.
“They’ve really invested in facilities,” McElwain said. “They got ahead of the curve a little bit.”
Which is why Florida is scrambling, right along with South Carolina.
Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will draw attention early and often. The former NFL quarterback worked with McElwain on Nick Saban’s Alabama staff but got lots of criticism as Michigan’s offensive coordinator last season.
The Wolverines ranked 14th – last – in the Big Ten in total offense.
That’s a shaky foundation for a Florida offense that ranked 12th in the SEC in total offense in 2014, the biggest reason why Will Muschamp was fired.
The Gators will lean hard on junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, one of the several best players in the SEC. He’s good enough to take away a prime wide receiver threat, as he did with South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper last season (two catches for nine yards).
Hargreaves said the Gators’ defense will benefit from new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins maintaining most of Will Muschamp’s aggressive approach on defense.
“It’s pretty much all the same stuff,” Hargreaves said. “I give a lot of credit to Coach Collins for that. He didn’t come in and try to change all the stuff we did. He sat us down and asked us what we wanted to keep, then he added his stuff.”
Best player not here: Georgia sophomore running back Nick Chubb is a Heisman Trophy candidate but the Bulldogs will be represented Thursday by linebacker Jordan Jenkins, wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell and tackle John Theus, all seniors.
Four sophomores are on the SEC Media Days roster: LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell and two Vanderbilt players, running back Ralph Webb and linebacker Nigel Bowden.
Elliott Fry will join teammates Skai Moore and Pharoh Cooper as the South Carolina player representatives Tuesday and is the first Gamecock kicker to appear at SEC Media Days.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff