HOOVER, Ala. — Tennessee football coach Butch Jones had just arrived at the Hyatt Regency hotel, but he already seemed to understand how things worked during SEC Media Days.
“When the SEC does something, it’s a spectacle,” he said.
Yes, it is.
Fortunately for Jones and the Vols, most of the circus atmosphere on Wednesday involved Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel (in the morning) and the surprising Gus Malzahn-Bret Bielema coaches’ feud in the afternoon.
Tennessee’s midday shift was comparatively bland.
Jones stuck to many of the same themes he’s hammered home on the speaking circuit over the summer, while UT’s three student-athlete representatives drew praise for their poise, polish and thoughtful answers.
How did Jones fare?
The players get slightly less formal tables where they can sit during interviews, but coaches are sent to the big podium at the end of the banquet hall.
Every word spoken by coaches is typed up by professional stenographers. His time at the podium tallied 3,679 words, of which 891 (24 percent) came in the opening statement.
Jones and his players went straight to a hotel suite after landing in Birmingham.
Neatly arranged sub sandwiches were waiting for the crew. The sandwich labeled for “Butch” was the same size as the one with “Tiny” written on the wrapper. At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, Antonio “Tiny” Richardson might have needed another meal.
In the air
UT cameras seemingly film every step that Butch Jones takes, but Ja’Wuan James turned the tables during the flight to Birmingham on Wednesday. He whipped out his cellphone and posted a short video of the pilots in the cockpit.
James never took over the controls, which was probably for the best. Flying is enough of an ordeal for huge men like James and Richardson. Images from the flight showed the two players contorting their bodies uncomfortably to fit into the small private plane.
Defensive end Jacques Smith donned an orange blazer on Wednesday, giving him the loudest outfit of the Vols’ crew.
Jones said he might get one of his own. “I will. I think he looks great today.”
South Carolina star defensive Jadaveon Clowney praised Richardson as the best lineman he had faced in 2012. He also said Richardson holds more than any other lineman.
“That’s part of the game,” Richardson said.
James joked that Clowney had “never been to my side before” and he defended Richardson’s alleged holds.
“That’s our job. On every play there’s holding,” James said. “It’s just whether it gets called or not.”
When Jones returned to the airport to catch a flight home, he tweeted that the football season had officially begun.
If only. The Vols open practice on Aug. 1, meaning there’s still another long two weeks before real football begins.