Nine things we learned Tuesday from SEC Media Days

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HOOVER, Ala. -- Mike Matthews has been a regular on the Aggies' offensive line for three years now, but the Texas A&M center still talks like a player hungry to learn more about offensive line play.

And when you have a Pro Football Hall of Famer for a father, good advice is never farther than a phone call away.

"I still call him to this day. In terms of experience, who better to call than your dad? I'll have practice, I'll come home and give him a call, talk him through what happened and he'll coach me up and tell me what I need to know," Matthews said of his father, Bruce, who had a 19-year NFL career. "He's very knowledgeable and helps me out a lot."

Matthews was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list last week as a candidate for the award that goes to the nation's top center, and with an older brother in Jake Matthews who was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft, the younger Matthews isn't short on name recognition.

So how does Matthews weigh advice from his father against what he's learning from the Aggies' new offensive line coach, Dave Christensen?

"For me, it's whatever works. Obviously you want to listen to your line coach, but I think he understands that if he teaches you one way and you do it a better way, it's alright as long as you get the job done," Matthews said. "I listen to both of them. ... My dad did it for so long, I trust him."



Here are eight more things we learned Tuesday at SEC Media Days:

*2. More on Matthews.The Aggies center identified Atlanta Falcons center *Joe Hawley as his favorite pro at the position. "I'll turn some NFL tape of a guy like Joe Hawley for the Falcons, who I really look up to," Matthews said.

"He's a similar style center as me, a little undersized, like 6-2, 290-kind of guy, same as me. But what he doesn't have in size he makes up for in technique."

3. Cooper 2.0. Last year, Amari Cooper was the top receiver in the SEC, and this year it will be another: South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper (no relation). The Gamecocks star said Tuesday that he patterns his game after three NFL receivers, two of whom played in the SEC as well -- Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers/Kentucky), Percy Harvin (Buffalo Bills/Florida) and Golden Tate (Detroit Lions/Notre Dame).

"They mainly play in the slot, where I play," Cooper said. "Randall is smooth, Percy is really explosive, and Golden Tate, the way he runs after the catch and breaks tackles, he gets a lot of YAC yards."

Coming off a 1,136-yard season, the junior will be faced with the decision of whether to turn pro early at season's end. And while Cooper declined to answer what his plans in that regard are, he said he wouldn't be affected by whether coach Steve Spurrier, now 70, returns or retires.

"It won't (matter). It depends on this year right here," Cooper said.

4. Ifedi's got next. Texas A&M offensive lineman Germain Ifedi is a good bet to take over as the Aggies' next left tackle, following three consecutive first-round picks at the position: Luke Joeckel, Jake MatthewsandCedric Ogbuehi. And while Ifedi said the chance to be the next Texas A&M left tackle didn't factor in his decision to return to A&M rather than enter the NFL draft, he's nevertheless got a chance to make a lot more money, according to Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin.

"We sit down with our guys and say, 'Here's where you are draft-wise, and you can play your way into this.' That happened with Jake, who played himself into the top 10, and probably made somewhere between nine and 14 million (more) dollars by coming back," Sumlin said. "Germain is a bona fide, longtime player in the NFL, for sure at guard. We're working him at tackle. He's more of a right tackle than a left tackle at the next level. Can he play left tackle? Definitely."

Sumlin said Ifedi would have had a late-second or third-round grade for the draft had he chosen to leave school early.

"He decided to come back and try to move up," Sumlin said. "My experience is, if he moves up into the first round that means he's played very well for us and that's a win-win for everybody."

5. Concussion safeguard added. SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw said a new experimental rule in the league this year will create a new safeguard against concussions. A medical observer trained to spot concussion-related symptoms will watch the game in the instant-replay booth, will have the capability to rewind and review a play, and will have the power to stop play and have a player removed if there are concussion-related concerns. As with any injury that stops the game, the player will have sit out at least one play and be cleared by the team medical staff on the sideline to re-enter.

6. High praise for McKinney. Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, the SEC's top returning quarterback, had this to say about Houston Texans rookie Benardrick McKinney, a second-round pick (No. 43 overall): "Big, fast, athletic guy. He's completely a freak from a physical standpoint. They're getting a guy who loves football, loves to play, and will be around the facility to get better."

7. Smart enough. Hands down, the smartest player at SEC Media Days is Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs, an aerospace engineering major who is blazing through a ridiculously challenging curriculum along with directing the Vols' offense. He's also good at simplifying things for the rest of us. Asked to explain thermodynamics, a class he took last fall, he said "thermodynamics is the heat flow and heat transfer, so any type of process where heat has been transferred from one source to the next, that's the study of thermodynamics."

Thanks, Josh. We'll take your word for it.

8. 30 for '15? Tennessee defensive ends Curt MaggittandDerek Barnett combined for 21 sacks last season, the SEC's second-highest total for a tandem behind Missouri's Shane RayandMarkus Golden. This year, Maggitt said the pair is aiming for 30 -- 15 apiece -- and sees them as the league's top returning pass rush duo.

9. "Swagged up." We learned a little something about Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen's footwear -- but we're not sure we want to remember it. Asked about his choice of shoes for SEC Media Days, Mullen offered "I try to be swagged up."

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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