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Newest SEC members confident in first year

The coaches and players at Missouri and Texas A&M have said repeatedly they're proud to be the newest members of the Southeastern Conference.
FOX16's Tim Kelchner is on the scene. You can watch the SEC press conferences live on FOX16.com by following this link.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

1st session (approx. 8:30 - 11:20 a.m.) - Florida, Mississippi State
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.) - Arkansas, Kentucky
3rd session (approx. 2:30 - 5 p.m.) - Auburn, LSU

Thursday, July 19, 2012
1st session (approx. 8:30 - 11:20 a.m.) - Alabama, Tennessee
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.) - Ole Miss, Georgia

Missouri and Texas A&M

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) - The coaches and players at Missouri and Texas A&M have said repeatedly they're proud to be the newest members of the Southeastern Conference.

They also mentioned being excited, honored and appreciative.

But one thing they are not is intimidated.

The two newest members of the Southeastern Conference made their debut at the league's media days on Tuesday, a three-day event that hosts more than 1,000 credentialed reporters. Neither program seemed particularly bothered by the carnival-like atmosphere, instead relishing the challenge of joining a league that produced the past six BCS national champions.

"We don't want to be overlooked," Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope said. "We're here to win football games."

Both Texas A&M and Missouri officially joined the SEC in July, leaving many of their traditional rivalries in the Big 12. Swope said there was some disappointment in not playing heated games against schools like Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but there was also excitement about replacing them with the likes of Alabama, Florida and LSU.

"We're very anxious to get this thing started," Swope said. "We just can't wait for kickoff."

Texas A&M's schedule during its first year in the SEC is particularly brutal.

The Aggies were thrown into the SEC Western Division, which includes the last three national champions. First-year coach Kevin Sumlin returns 14 starters from a team that finished 7-6 last season, but must find a replacement for Ryan Tannehill, who was a first-round pick by the NFL's Miami Dolphins in April.

But Sumlin wasn't making any excuses, saying his "realistic expectations are to win" despite acknowledging the difficult task ahead. Sumlin comes to Texas A&M after leading Houston to a 13-1 record in 2011.

"You can argue all you want, but there are some of the best coaches in the country in the SEC," Sumlin said. "Combine that with big, fast guys, some of the best players in the country and it doesn't get any better than that."

Missouri appears to have a slightly easier schedule this year. The Tigers are in the Eastern Division, where there's no obvious favorite. They're coming off an 8-5 season, including an Independence Bowl victory over North Carolina.

Missouri offensive lineman Elvis Fisher said the Tigers are aware of the talent in the SEC - and called it a "great opportunity" - but said the difficulty of the transition was slightly overblown.

"Nothing's really changed from the standpoint of a player," Fisher said. "You've got better competition to go against, but you've still got to go out there and play football."

The Tigers return 15 starters, including junior quarterback James Franklin, who accounted for 3,846 total yards and 36 total touchdowns last season and bring in the nation's top recruit in receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

Franklin had shoulder surgery in March. Pinkel says his trainer said a couple of weeks ago that the dual-threat quarterback is expected to be 100 percent.

Pinkel said his program's experience in the Big 12 was plenty of preparation for the SEC.

"People act like we've been playing a bunch of high school teams," Pinkel said. "We've played in a pretty big league."

But the 60-year-old, who is entering his 12th season at Missouri, said he understands why people are speculating. He's just ready to get on the field and figure out some tangible results.

"Bottom line, you got to go out and prove yourself," Pinkel said. "I'm fine with it. I have no problem with it. I'm not going to make any predictions. Never have, never will. You have to go out and compete and earn respect and win."

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Muschamp: Florida's sack leader will play in 2012

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) - Florida coach Will Muschamp said defensive end Ronald Powell will play this season and tight end A.C. Leonard will play elsewhere.

That's part of what the Gators know, who will play quarterback remains an open question going into preseason camp. There is apparently a dead heat for the job between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. It could be both, maybe at once.

"Both guys are very talented," Muschamp said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days.

"Both guys are certainly qualified for the position. If you saw the spring game, you saw what I saw for 14 practices: Two guys that are very even in that competition. They're even going into fall camp and they'll get equal reps. I'd like to name a starter before the season but I'm not going to put a timetable on that. If we need to play both of them, that's what we're going to do. We'll do what we need to do to win football games.

"There's a possibility you could see both in the game at the same time."

Perhaps the best news for Gator fans Wednesday is that Muschamp believes Powell will make it back this season. The starting end and team sack leader tore a knee ligament in the spring game, leaving his status a big question mark.

Muschamp said Powell has been cleared for all weight-room work, including squats, and straight-ahead running.

"He'll play for us this year," the coach said. "When that will be, I don't know yet. There's nobody that's worked harder or handled the situation better or more mature than Ronald has. He's grown up through the summer."

Leonard, meanwhile, is leaving the program in what Muschamp described as a mutual decision. He was arrested on domestic violence charges in February. Muschamp said he met with Leonard Tuesday and they "decided it would be better off for him to transfer."

"It was shocking but it wasn't as shocking knowing where he's come from and what he's been dealing with since he's been at Florida," Gators defensive end Lerentee McCray said.

Muschamp said backup cornerback Jeremy Brown was undergoing surgery Wednesday morning to repair a fractured wrist but should be back for the opener with Bowling Green. Brown has already missed three seasons with injuries.

As for the quarterbacks, McCray said it was a win-win situation. Brissett and Driskel combined for just two touchdowns and were intercepted six times last season, filling in when starter John Brantley was injured.

"That's going to be a tough decision for coach Muschamp and the offensive staff because both of them look really good right now," McCray said. "We feel like we can win with either one of them. "

Whoever's at quarterback, Muschamp is emphasizing two big areas for improvement. The Gators ranked 113th nationally in turnover margin, which he says makes it "a minor miracle" that his first team managed to win seven games. He called that debut season "very frustrating, disappointing."

Then there was the fourth quarter problems in SEC games. League opponents outscored Florida 72-22 in the final quarter, and Muschamp called his team soft after the regular-season finale with Florida State.

"That's one of our main things going into this year," linebacker Jon Bostic said. "We've got to to finish in the fourth quarter. If we don't finish in the fourth, the year will turn out the same as last year."

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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