Monday, August 3, 2009

Getting Started Getting Started: Media Day

The trick to getting going for real is sometimes just getting that process itself under way...that's part of what Media Days are all about: don't know when to start your countdown to the season or when it's okay to be thinking about it? Let's make it official: NOW is the time.

Preseason polls and all-conference teams from across the country pour in, magazines hit the newsstands, and the multimedia machine throws itself into gear. The amusing subtext this year of course comes courtesy of the SEC, where the somewhat fabricated nature of predicting preseason performance--of teams and even individual players--was revealed to be exactly what everyone knows it is, yet implicitly agrees not to say. It's all about marketing and promotion: here's something to talk about, here are the suggested topics to get things going as we move toward the season itself. That's all, folks. "Tebow-gate" in Birmingham and the subsequent Spurrier comments regarding never voting on those things himself lay the subject somewhat bare. Yet somehow it doesn't remove the fun inherent in this--because that's just one MORE thing to talk about...

If that stuff carried real weight, they wouldn't need to play the actual games, would they? We'd already know all the answers...but of course, we don't. These are just talking points and fun times to get all these people together in one place to formally start the ball rolling...so let's review what Friday was all about for the Big South: 2009 Football Media Day!

We'll have more football preview material coming in the weeks ahead, but here are the quick hits to go on for now:

Charleston Southern--lots of defensive player turnover, so the new crew will need to step up, but several offensive playmakers are there for the Bucs...CSU has the highest-profile opener, taking on defending FBS Champ Florida in the fabled Swamp of Gainesville's Florida Field--Coach Jay Mills had great perspective on that, pointing out that lots of folks have to talk about the returning champs, and when they talk about that team opening the season, they have to mention Charleston Southern--and that's more national conversation about CSU football than ever before.

Coastal Carolina--close finishes turned out badly most of the time for the Chants in 2008, so winning the tight ones will be critical for CCU this year...Coach Bennett (as always) had some amusing perspectives and colorful points on his football team--noting that they gave up virtually the same points as they scored, hence the 6-6 mark that he directly labeled as "mediocre"...Bennett added that their recognition for good pass defense was deceptive, because teams were "running the ball all over the place on us" instead...the classic moment may have been when asked about playing Clemson in Death Valley on Halloween, Bennett intoned "TRICK OR TREAT!"

Gardner-Webb--Coach Steve Patton has a lot to smile about this year, and if you're looking for a dark horse, you could be looking for GWU. The defense gets Mario Brown, last year's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, back from injury to play alongside THIS year's PDPOY, Jeffery Williams, at linebacker. Add in the most All-Conference players of any Big South team and Runnin' Bulldog fans could be feeling some confidence for a good season. Philip Steele's magazine actually marked Gardner-Webb as the favorite to win, rather than our next entry...

Liberty--losing playmakers all over the field is usually not a recipe for repeat success, but the voters are giving Coach Danny Rocco and his Flames the benefit of the doubt despite the exodus...Rocco, in fact, says he's more eager about this season than any he can remember--a dangerous thought for the opposition given that LU will be trying to lock down its third straight Conference title...and hey, if you're harboring any curiosity about Liberty not making the playoffs last year, you're not alone--Rocco made it clear they "should've gotten in" with an at-large berth and that although they try not to look back, they are using the snub as "motivation" this season.

Presbyterian--still in transition, and now with a new coach in PC alum Harold Nichols...even the coach is not sure what to expect from 2009, candidly saying as much to the group at Media Day...but one thing that seems clear, at least going in, is that you should not expect the mad throwing offense of the past to continue in the upcoming campaign. The Blue Hose have pulled off some big wins before, and have enough experience to do it again, but may not yet have the horses to do it with enough frequency to flip expectations...we'll see...

Stony Brook--Cuttino/Gowins/Cuttino/Gowins/etc. Best tandem of backs for scores and yards you're going to discover out there, so everybody in their way better have all run defense questions answered or the game will be one of Chase, rather than Tackle, Football. Coach Priore knows his team has been improving, and he's not going to be shy about competing for the title--this team can do damage, particularly if it's defense can catch up to its offensive level.

VMI--speaking of stellar backs, how about Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Tim Maypray? One runs out of superlative adjectives to describe his performance, so I'll stop short of gushing here (or try to), but suffice to say that VMI's fortunes will turn on what #28 does--and even when defenses know that, it's not enough to stop him. Coach Sparky Woods recognizes what he's got in Maypray, and that's why he put the star under center: might as well let him touch the ball as often as possible, right?

The Big South teams face a record eight FBS schools this season, demonstrating how the Conference teams are being taken more seriously as opponents. You'll find Florida, West Virginia, Clemson, NC State, South Florida, and others on the schedule this year. Bravo for the aggressive scheduling--the games are typically tough ones, but the money and publicity generated are tremendous.

It was fun to see the coaches rib each other good-naturedly at the event. At this stage, everyone's undefeated and smiles are acceptable and understood...they'll be opponents soon enough, but the mutual respect shared among the group is obvious--and nice to see.


To see the interviews of coaches and players from our video streaming sessions, go to BigSouthSports.com--and look in this preseason announcement. You can also view the season preview video there...or find it RIGHT HERE (how about that):

video
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter, find us on Facebook, and look for more from us on YouTube in the days and weeks ahead!
That's enough for a Monday, don't you think? More to come...and that's SHOUT--out!

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