UF quarterback John Brantley talks at SEC Media Days
HOOVER, Ala. — SEC football has come a long way since it went to divisional play. And if you are strictly tracking the East, you could say that it has come full circle.
Look at what coach has the most playmakers. Steve Spurrier.
Look whose team is the most popular pick to win the division. Spurrier's.
Does that make you nostalgic for the 1990s?
Don't get the wrong idea. This isn't a 1990s rerun.
Nobody is suggesting Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks are as loaded as his Florida teams that dominated the conference a couple of decades ago.
Spurrier is different, too. The Older Ball Coach is more restrained than the Ol' Ball Coach, who was almost as adept at needling opposing coaches as he was at calling plays.
And he rarely bothered downplaying his team's capabilities.
The Older Ball Coach said at Wednesday's SEC Football Media Days: "We're not patting ourselves on the back too much. We've got a long way to go."
Not as far as the rest of the division.
The Gamecocks might not have the dazzling array of talent as Spurrier's Gators once did. But they're sufficiently armed to win back-to-back divisional titles and clearly look superior to the current Gators.
South Carolina has the best corps of receivers, the best running back, the best pass rushers and the best cornerback in the division.
It also has the most enigmatic quarterback. But no one close to the program believes Stephen Garcia's myriad off-the-field mishaps will prevent him from being South Carolina's quarterback this fall.
As Spurrier is quick to point out, it's not as though Garcia has physically harmed someone.
"I guess we just won't kick him (off the team) for being stupid," Spurrier said. "Basically, we do believe he's a good person."
That doesn't make him Danny Wuerffel. But Garcia is solid enough to help the Gamecocks win a depleted division.
You could have made that assessment as soon as last season ended. You can make it with more conviction this summer.
South Carolina has gained ground on its primary divisional competition since February and not just because it signed high school star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
While you were reading that last sentence, I'm guessing Georgia lost another running back. It has been that kind of off-season for the Bulldogs, who have kicked their two most experienced running backs off the team and suspended another one for the season opener.
Florida also suffered a significant loss when all-conference cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from school.
South Carolina has something else going for it: head-coaching. Spurrier has more head-coaching experience than the rest of the division coaches combined.
He has been coaching long enough that in a media get-together of this magnitude, he's sure to be asked how much longer he will do it.
"I always say 'four or five more years,' " he said. "Health-wise, I feel about like I did 10 years ago. And we've got the best players since I've been here. Our program, I believe, is headed in the right direction.
"If it was going bad and we were getting beat, I'd be gone."
Instead, he's going for back-to-back divisional titles — just like in his Florida heyday.