Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel is at the mic now. At sixty — and he doesn’t look it — he shouldn’t have the jitters of a young coach. That said, the media group he’ll face today is larger than what he’s been used to at the Big 12′s media events.
* Pinkel opens by saying that he knows he and Mizzou will have to prove themselves as the new kids on the block.
* “I’d be a little disappointed if we were intimidated,” Pinkel said of joining the league.
* Pinkel’s talking pretty fast. Not knowing him, that may be the norm. He’s coming off as a bit defensive, but that might just be a product of following the uber-loose Steve Spurrier. Quick reaction: He seems to be taking a slightly adversarial role with the media. But, again, I could be misreading his normal character traits.
* The coach says what defines the SEC is the number of good teams that play big games week-in and week-out.
* Pinkel says he isn’t change the way he runs his program just because the Tigers are joining the SEC. He did say that recruiting will spread into Louisiana, Florida and Georgia.
* Pinkel joked that Nick Saban is older than him — by a year — and that he wanted to make that very clear. He also said that Saban helped him early in his career. The two were once teammates under Don James at Kent State. “Historically he’ll go down as one of the great coaches in college football… and he should.”
* Pinkel gets a brain/concussion/injury question. He says the rule changes for safety’s sake are “good, it’s good for college football” because the players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. “We’re doing the right things to help protect kids.”
* He says “The Zoo” is a great place to play college football. Now the SEC has “The Swamp” and “The Zoo.” Have to get used to that one. “To say our fans are excited about being in the SEC is an understatement. They’ve become fanatical.” (CORRECTION — That’s actually “The Zou,” not “The Zoo.”)
* Pinkel says he expects quarterback James Franklin to be 100% for the season. He says Franklin has the talent to become the fourth-straight Mizzou starter to wind up in the NFL.
* He says Franklin will need to be a bit smarter about when to run and when to hit the dirt.
* Pinkel says some people have acted like Missouri has been playing a bunch of high school teams. He’s quick to say that the SEC is darned good, but he’s not going to put down the Big 12, either.
* Unlike Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin who said reality hit when he walked into his first SEC coaches’ meeting, Pinkel said he was a Big 12 guy and he knew two-thirds of the coaches in the SEC already. Sumlin was coming from Conference USA. Sumlin is 47, Pinkel is 60. It’s not surprising Pinkel had less of a “wow” factor. That said, it’s also clear that between the two, you’d rather hang out with Sumlin than Pinkel. Sumlin seemed happy to be in the room and enjoyed his Q&A session. Pinkel looks like a guy who doesn’t want to be there and doesn’t trust the media. (Not that I wouldn’t feel the exact same way.)
* He was asked for a restaurant tip for Columbia and said he’d get in trouble if he pitched one or two. Sort of a silly question, and Pinkel wouldn’t go there. (From what I hear, Shakespeare’s Pizza is a must.) He did say Mizzou was looking forward to everyone from the SEC coming to Columbia. About as close to a smile and chuckle as Pinkel has given.
* The coach says Mizzou’s fans “go crazy” and that folks in Columbia and tied to MU will won’t to “prove they belong” in the SEC when Georgia comes to town on September 8th.
Our overall grade for Pinkel’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 3 on a 1-5 scale. Average. Sort of like an older Dan Mullen (minus the shots at Ole Miss). Kind of cocky. Rapid-fire speech pattern. Not exactly someone you’d pay to listen to or someone you’d picture on the motivational speaker tour. At the same time, there was nothing “jerkish” about his opening SEC remarks. Just average. Next year, no one will be beating down the door to get into Pinkel’s session, let’s put it that way.