2022 SEC Media Days takeaways: Alabama poised for revenge tour, South Carolina confident in Spencer Rattler

ATLANTA – Day 2 of SEC Media Days on Tuesday was headlined by the defending SEC champions and national runner-up Alabama. Coach Nick Saban made the rounds with the media, along with star quarterback Bryce Young, defensive end Will Anderson Jr. and defensive back Jordan Battle. The group addressed multiple topics, including the heartbreaking loss to Georgia in last season's College Football Playoff National Championship, what to expect this year and how the 2022 revenge tour will operate. 

Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and South Carolina all joined Alabama on Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame to preview their seasons as well. Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer was bombarded with questions about transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler, who could be one of the stars of the conference before all is said and done.

Let's break down the top takeaways from Day 2 of the SEC circus in Atlanta.

Bryce Young is ready for the encore

The star quarterback of the Crimson Tide is looking to become the second two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy after a sizzling 2021 campaign that saw him throw for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns. You couldn't tell by the way he handled himself on Tuesday, though. The rising junior strolled through media days with the humility and determination of a man who's ready to prove himself to the world, not somebody who has rested on his laurels and polished his trophies for seven months. That is a lesson that Saban has instilled in his star throughout the offseason.

"I think that one of the most important things for Bryce or any player who has success is to understand that success is not a continuum," Saban said. "You have to continue to -- success is momentary. So if you're going to continue to have success, you have to stay focused on the things you need to do to improve, to prepare, to lead, to impact and affect other people around you. Bryce has shown every indication that he's got a willingness to do all those things. He's a perfectionist in terms of what he wants to do and what he wants to accomplish."

The last thing that opposing defensive coordinators want to see is a superstar on a mission. Young will be just that in 2022. 

The journey of Spencer Rattler

Spencer Rattler transferred from Oklahoma this offseason after losing his starting quarterback gig to Caleb Williams last season. Rattler, who was the Heisman Trophy favorite this time last year, is looking to get back to that form in an offense that has five starters returning up front and eight veterans looking to contribute. That offense, however, finished next-to-last in passing last year and even had to turn to graduate assistant Zeb Noland under center early in the year. Rattler is a tremendous upgrade, and has settled in quite nicely, according to his new coach.

"I don't worry about Spencer," Beamer said. "There may be some outside pressure. With him, he has been through the fire before. We have to be great around Spencer ... players and coaches."

One of those players is veteran Swiss Army Knife Dakereon Joyner, who also made the rounds on Tuesday afternoon. Joyner is impressed with what he's seen from Rattler -- who has been in the spotlight since his days on the Netfilx documentary "QB1."

"I think everybody knows that the guy can spin the ball," Joyner said. "He can naturally throw the ball. Great leader on the field. He's a guy who we know can play well and, more importantly, need to play well for us ... He's a really great guy. I don't think that he gets enough credit for who he is off the field. His energy is very contagious."

Can Alabama solve its biggest problem?

The Crimson Tide's offensive line last year finished next-to-last in the conference in tackles for loss allowed per game (6.93) and 12th in sacks allowed per game (2.73). Saban understands that it's a major issue and has made changes to his roster and staff, including the addition of Vanderbilt transfer Tyler Steen and former Kentucky offensive line coach Eric Wolford.

"I think that one of the biggest challenges is the offensive line rebuild that we need to do," he said. "I'm excited about the coach that we have at that position. Coach Wolford has done a really good job with the players and relationship building, fundamental progress. We do have some new players that may contribute to that that weren't there in the spring. That's something that we'll have to sort of assess in fall camp".

It's a minor miracle that Young was able to have the kind of season he had last year considering the fact that he was running for his life more than any Crimson Tide quarterback in recent memory. He's confident with where his offensive line stands heading into fall camp, however.

"I'm super excited to watch them and to see this process," he said. "I feel like they have learned a lot. We had our three interior guys coming back, and we have some guys stepping up and starting to play."

The development of the offensive line could be what separates Alabama from the field if Wolford can figure things out.

Netflix, chill and watch Will work

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach not only rattled off his own binge-worthy television show recommendations in the main media room, but he also solicited some from the assembled members of the media. The full Leach experience took up part of his time, but then he got down to business talking about his actual football team.

Quarterback Will Rogers is the poster child of the Air Raid offense perfected by Leach. The rising junior threw for 4,739 yards and 36 touchdowns last season -- his first as the full-time starter in Starkville. The best could be yet to come for a player who could be a dark-horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

"Will stepped in and had great leadership qualities, wasn't afraid to talk to the locker room as a freshman, which I think is one of the more impressive, courageous things that he did," Leach said. "It allowed him to excel early. It allowed him to focus in on playing because he didn't have some of that stage fright that initial freshmen do. I think it allowed him to progress quicker. Also, I think it allowed the team to draw from him and kind of unify things. I think that was very impressive. I think Will's going to get better and better. The better he synchronizes with the other offensive players, the better everybody is."

A full offseason as the unquestioned starter should allow Rogers to continue his mastery of the Bulldogs offense and push for that coveted 5,000-yard mark. If Leach can find a semblance of a running game to complement Rogers' ability, they could be a tough out in the SEC West.

Vandy is set at quarterback

Ken Seals and Mike Wright both saw time with the first team offense last season with the Commodores, but there's no doubt who will be taking those snaps when toe meets leather against Hawaii in Week Zero. Coach Lea confirmed that Wright will be the starter heading into the season, due in part to his ability to make plays on the ground as well as through the air.

"It's all about moving the ball," Lea said. "One way to do that is with a mobile quarterback. Mike Wright is one of the best in the country in that respect. We want him to develop as a total quarterback, which he has. He's demonstrated leadership abilities, too. We're excited for him to enter the fall as our starting quarterback. He knows that he has to earn that every day. That's part of our covenant."

Wright is confident that despite last season's struggles, the confidence this team has due in part to the stability under center will help moving forward. 

"We went back and looked at film and looked on things that we can improve," he said. "That was the level of focus for us, and that's [what] the focus has been in the winter, spring and the summer. How can we get better? How can we keep improving as a team and as an organization. We had a hard time last year. It's no secret. But I think there's a level of determination, there's a different attitude, different mentality, in our organization and our football team. We're excited. We're ready to go."

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Shane Beamer on South Carolina's QB situation

With high-profile Oklahoma transfer Spencer Rattler in line to start and Luke Doty back for his third season in the program, the South Carolina QB situation is shaping up much differently than it did last season. "When I sat up here last year, I certainly didn't anticipate a month later having our graduate assistant be our starting quarterback," Beamer said. "I certainly didn't envision starting four different quarterbacks like we did throughout last season due to injuries. It certainly makes a difference. If anything, it's just the experience and depth that we now have in that room compared to last year."

July 19, 2022, 7:00 PM
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Leach on his QB

Will Rogers nearly topped the 5,000-yard mark as a sophomore last year, and could top it in 2022 now that he's had a full offseason in the air raid offense of Mike Leach. The affable coach of the Bulldogs is very impressed with how his star has evolved as a player both on the field and off of it.

"Will stepped in and had great leadership qualities, wasn't afraid to talk to the locker room as a freshman, which I think is one of the more impressive, courageous things that he did," Leach said. "It allowed him to excel early. It allowed him to focus in on playing because he didn't have some of that stage fright that initial freshmen do. I think it allowed him to progress quicker. Also, I think it allowed the team to draw from him and kind of unify things. I think that was very impressive. I think Will's going to get better and better. The better he synchronizes with the other offensive players, the better everybody is."

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Mike Leach's turn

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was third up after Nick Saban and Clark Lea in the main room at SEC Media Days. Instead of an opening statement -- some guys ramble on for 10 or 15 minutes -- Leach immediately jumped to, "any questions?" First one is if he would consider scheduling Jackson State. Says he wouldn't rule it out but that there's nothing in the works. Now, he's on to naming streaming recommendations. He is up to date on Better Call Saul and Yellowstone.

July 19, 2022, 5:06 PM
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Young on the Bama OL

Alabama finished next-to-last in the SEC tackles for loss allowed per game (6.93) and 12th in sacks allowed per game (2.73). That culminated in the four-overtime win over Auburn to close out the regular season when quarterback Bryce Young was sacked seven times. Young is excited to see what comes from that experience.

"I'm super excited to watch them and to see this process," he said. "I feel like they have learned a lot. We had our three interior guys coming back, and we have some guys stepping up and starting to play."

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