HOOVER, Ala. -- The final day of SEC Media Days is in the books after Missouri, Arkansas and Auburn made the rounds inside of the Wynfrey Hotel on Thursday. The headliner, of course, is first-year Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, who came from Boise State to the Plains to take over for Gus Malzahn.
The college football world also got to see second-year coaches Eli Drinkwitz of Missouri and Sam Pittman of Arkansas -- two of the most entertaining personalities in the industry. We missed out on getting to know the two of them last year when Media Days were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the final day in Hoover.
Auburn isn't scared of Alabama
Malzahn beat Nick Saban and Alabama three times as the coach of the Tigers, including two straight inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The last of which was in 2019 when then-true freshman quarterback Bo Nix led the Tigers to a wild 48-45 win in one of the most entertaining games of the season. Nix doesn't think Auburn's attitude will change in Year One of the Harsin era. Graduate transfer defensive lineman Tony Fair told reporters last week that he came to Auburn to "take the head off the elephant," and Nix added on to the Bama trash talk.
"Tony, he transferred into us, and that quote, obviously it's a confident quote, but I hope he's coming to take the head off the elephant," Nix said. "I hope he's not coming to get the head taken off the Tiger. So that's really important. I think that actually I like the quote. I think it's important because we're not scared of Alabama. I know that a lot of people want us to be scared, but we're really not."
The Iron Bowl is slated for Nov. 27, but it never really takes a break inside the state of Alabama.
Connor Bazelak could bring Mizzou back
Drinkwitz threw quarterback Connor Bazelak into the fire during his true freshman season, and he quietly impressed the masses. He threw for 2,366 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games, including back-to-back 300-yard games vs. Vanderbilt and Arkansas. His ability to learn on the fly and ultimately succeed as an SEC quarterback has Drinkwitz excited about his future.
"He's a maverick," Drinkwitz said. "He went out there and went into really difficult situations and gave him an opportunity to play the game. Obviously, there's areas he needs to improve on, deep ball accuracy, red zone completion percentage, and touchdowns. Those are a direct coordination with me as the play caller and quarterbacks coach. I've got to give him more opportunities in the red zone to make plays. I've got to put more trust into him. He's got to put more trust into his players, into his teammates, and I think you'll see that growth. He spent a lot of time in the film room, at the Manning Passing Academy this past week. He's anxious to continue to improve. I think one of his strengths is his quest for a constant learner."
Drinkwitz is an offensive mastermind. He worked wonders on staffs at Boise State and NC State before leading Appalachian State to a 12-1 season in 2019 -- his only season as a head coach prior to arriving in Missouri. A normal offseason to work with his entrenched starter should make the Tigers a dangerous team in the SEC East.
Good luck, Arkansas
Pittman didn't receive any favors from the SEC last season when it altered its schedule due to the pandemic. The Razorbacks opened with Georgia and had a road trip to Florida, in addition to SEC West game that included trips to Auburn and Texas A&M.
That won't change this year as they will head to Georgia, LSU and Alabama, host Texas in a non-conference game and play Texas A&M in Arlington in a neutral-site rivalry.
"We are the defending National Champions of the hardest football schedule in college," Pittman said. "I look towards next year, and I think we're going to three-peat in that area next year. However, we're the University of Arkansas, in the (SEC) West, exactly where we belong, and we're excited about those challenges."
I'm not sure what Arkansas did to make the schedule-makers mad, but it has to run a gauntlet yet again.
How Harsin's deal was finalized
Auburn's coaching search following the dismissal of Gus Malzahn was a wild ride. Ex-defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had backing from several influential boosters, but internal and external pushback threw a wrench in the works and created a 10-day saga that resulted in athletic director Allen Greene making the call to Harsin. The two had a long-standing relationship that formed in a pool of all places.
"He said, 'Do you remember me?' I said, 'Hell, yeah, I do,' and he was at Auburn," Harsin said. "Right then and there, man, it piqued my interest more than any other place, and a lot because of him, a lot because of the creed, a lot because of this conference as well."
Greene's decision to hire Harsin sent shockwaves through the internal workings of the Auburn ecosystem, which has reduced the sphere of influence in a program that typically has multiple chefs in the kitchen. All it took was a meeting in a pool and a phone call to drastically shift the power within the program.
As the Texas and Oklahoma rumor turns
All three coaches were asked about the reports that Texas and Oklahoma are hoping to get invitations from the SEC, but only Drinkwitz had much to say on the topic. In fact, he might be in SEC commissioner Greg Sankey's dog house after what he did when he took the podium in the main press conference room.
"Hard-hitting questions coming out of yesterday," he said. "I think one of them was whether or not the 'horns down' is going to be 15-yard penalty in the SEC in the future. So I asked commissioner Sankey in the hallway, and he gave me a strong rebuttal by saying no comment."
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