SEC media days notebook: Florida players ignore Tennessee hype

SEC media days began on Monday in Hoover, Alabama. Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

HOOVER, Ala. -- The media predictions for the SEC won't come out until later in the week, but that hasn't stopped people from talking up Tennessee this offseason. The Vols return 19 starters from a team that won nine games last season, and they were one fourth-down stop from potentially winning the East.

But don't tell Florida that. The Gators were quick to remind everybody at Day 1 of SEC media days that they're the reigning division champs.

"You see it," Florida safety Marcus Maye said Monday. "You hear it all the time, every year. It is what it is. I guess they feel like we lost a lot of pieces, but I feel like we're just as talented with the guys that are stepping in for them. We're always going to be the Gators, and they're always going to be Tennessee, so what you see is what you get."

Florida offensive lineman David Sharpe offered his take.

"It's a head shaker for me," Sharpe said. "We're just ready to play. I think it's going to be a great game this year. We can't wait to go there."

Tennessee has come close to taking down its rival, losing by one point in each of the past two games, but Florida has won 11 straight in the series -- a streak that isn't lost on the Gators.

"The streak is something," Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis said. "Just looking at all the history behind it, you don't want to let it slip. You don't want to let it fall out of your hands, because those guys put in the hours, the blood, the sweat and the time to put themselves in position to win that game as many times as they have.

"It's all of our responsibility to win that game one more time. Each and every year, just win it one more time. Keep adding to that record, keep adding to it."

Burks trying to change stereotypes

Vanderbilt safety/outside linebacker Oren Burks is looking to change common negative stereotypes about black males on college campuses with his involvement in Vandy's Revitalizing & Empowering Vanderbilt's African-American Male Population (REVAMP) program.

The junior is the co-founder of REVAMP, which he and friend Damon Cole created last spring. The group has spent the past year organizing events, including panels; engaging in different forms of community service projects; and having weekly sit-downs with black male students to discuss ongoing issues on campus, in the community and nationwide that are affecting the black community.

"In this day and age, student-athletes are more involved and more outspoken about what's on their plates, and we can't ignore them. We have to empower them," Vandy coach Derek Mason said. "A guy like Oren understands every bit of that. He's been proactive. I've encouraged him and others to figure out exactly where their voice is."

In the wake of last week's two fatal shootings of black men by police officers caught on camera and the shooting in Dallas that resulted in the death of five police officers, Burks said his group has been brainstorming ways to increase positive, constructive conversation on Vanderbilt's campus about how these issues are affecting the community -- especially the black community -- on campus.

"It's terrible to see what's going on with innocent people being killed, whether that's cops or African-Americans [civilians]," Burks said. "It doesn't make sense, and it shouldn't be done."

-- Edward Aschoff

Alabama fan trolls Malzahn

Typically, when Gus Malzahn arrives at SEC media days, there's a contingent of Auburn fans waiting to see him in the hotel lobby. That was the case again this year, though the number might have been smaller than in years past.

However, there was also one Alabama fan, better known as the "ring head guy," who greeted Malzahn with a "Roll Tide."

Socks optional for McElwain

Does Jim McElwain even own socks? The second-year Florida coach is frequently seen without them, and he opted to go without them again on Monday for media days. The big question will be whether or not he wears them for his daughter's wedding this weekend.

Best dressed on Day 1

Coach Mason set the bar high on Monday with his suit that had a Commodores player printed on the inside.

Best quotes from Day 1

--"It takes teamwork to make the dream work," said Derek Mason, channeling his inner Don King when talking about sports as a way to unite the country.

--"It was a participation award. You don't want to be praised for showing up and losing. If you're second, you're the first loser. If you want a ring for being a loser, then that's cool," said Jarrad Davis on Florida turning down rings for winning the East last season.

--"Pat [Summit] was a pillar of the Southeastern Conference. She's on par with many of the great names, may have set the standard for all of the great names that are a part of this conference. Her impact is felt every day in the lives of the young people she mentored. Their ongoing success is living proof of Pat's influence and truly positive impact of intercollegiate athletics," said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey of the late coach Pat Summit.

--"I know this. I was excited to see he was able to buckle his chinstrap. That was awesome. And to see that happen, you know what, that's a step in the right direction. Obviously, he's got a very strong leg, talking about Eddy," said Jim McElwain of Florida freshman kicker Eddy Pineiro.

--"It doesn't hurt my feelings that he's moved on," said Gus Malzahn when asked about Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott.