BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — There were marquee names like Alabama Coach Nick Saban and Louisiana State's Les Miles on the schedule.
But on the final day of the Southeastern Conference Media Day, the new coach at Vanderbilt more than held his own. James Franklin even suggested that the Commodores might be able to compete in recruiting one day with the likes of LSU and Alabama.
Franklin, a 39-year-old former offensive coordinator at Maryland, said Vanderbilt has many recruiting advantages (like its stellar educational opportunities) if it uses them properly.
The pitch worked in his first go-around when Franklin signed a class that featured two four-star recruits.
Franklin said he has been "blown away by the commitment that our players have made" in the off-season. But it doesn't surprise him.
"These kids are very, very hungry, as you can imagine," he said of the Commodores, who have gone 2-10 in each of the last two seasons. "You're talking about kids that have been highly successful in everything they've done their entire life. They want to get back to that."
The players believe they can get there behind Franklin.
"Coach Franklin's main thing is a lot of confidence," cornerback Casey Hayward said. "If you don't have any confidence, you aren't going to play with confidence and you're losing off the bat. That's what he's brought to the program, is confidence."
Confidence was the key word for Vanderbilt.
"The mind-set is completely different than it's been in the past," quarterback Larry Smith said. "We're out there working out with more confidence and more competition."
Hayward hopes that confidence will translate into wins on the field, maybe even against a few SEC powers.
"We have enough players to compete now. I think he's right; we have a lot of returning starters on offense and defense," he said. "I feel like we can surprise a lot of people; not surprise ourselves because we know what we're capable of."
Cats picked to SEC teams
As it did in the coaches' pre-season voting a week ago, Kentucky placed three players on the media's All-SEC team, which came out Friday morning.
Offensive lineman Larry Warford made the first team, as did linebacker Danny Trevathan, who led the league in tackles last season with 144. He averaged 11.5 tackles a game in SEC play.
Punter Ryan Tydlacka was selected to the third team for specialists.
UK picked fifth in East
Kentucky was picked to finish fifth in the East Division in an annual vote by the media covering the Southeastern Conference's Media Days. UK was picked just ahead of Vanderbilt. The Cats did receive one first-place vote in the final tally.
Coach Steve Spurrier's South Carolina was picked to defend its East title, followed by Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.
Alabama, picked to be the overall SEC champ with 16 returning starters (nine on defense and seven on offense), took first place in the West followed by Louisiana State, Arkansas, Mississippi State, defending national champion Auburn and Ole Miss.
'I hate Auburn'
The venom that is the Auburn-Alabama football series has spilled over onto the national stage thanks to events like tree poisonings.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban and Auburn Coach Gene Chizik both called for a kinder, gentler sort of rivalry for the two schools.
Saban, who always brings out the paparazzi and tidal wave of fans at the hotel, was asked about one fan's T-shirt in particular. It simply stated: "I hate Auburn."
Saban noticed it, too.
"I would tell him it's not personal, that it really isn't personal," Saban said of the rivalry. "That is not really the way that we should respect the opponents that we have. That's what I was talking about before in terms of all of our fans sort of having a level and a standard of class in terms of how we represent our institution and our state."
The SEC reported that there were 1,050 media credentialed for this season's SEC Media Days in Birmingham. It easily broke the previous record of 923 media members from 2009.
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