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SEC Media Days aren’t the same without Les Miles

HOOVER, Ala. — Bret Bielema tried. He really did.

Arkansas’ coach is making a serious run at being the most quotable football coach in the SEC, and his new parenthood gave him another reason to let them fly Monday. Bielema’s lengthy appearance in front of reporters at The Wynfrey Hotel to begin SEC Media Days included a story about how he butt-dialed SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey while at Chipotle on a Saturday meal run for his wife, Jen, who had just given birth to the couple’s first child.

Asked if being a father puts things into perspective for him, Bielema answered with literal honesty.

“I’m 48 hours into this baby,” he quipped with a smile. “I can’t say I’m well-versed.”

The questions eventually turned to football, which led to the rehashing of perhaps Bielema’s most infamous quote. During his Media Days appearance last year, the Razorbacks’ fifth-year coach called his team’s bowl win over Texas the previous season “borderline erotic,” which prompted a reporter to ask Bielema how he feels when Arkansas beats the team from Texas that’s actually in his conference, Texas A&M.

Again, Bielema was hysterically candid.

“I know you guys are all looking for quotes,” he answered. “I don’t think I can go much further than that one.”

So Bielema, who also joked with an Arkansas reporter about a baby-blue, button-down shirt he was wearing over a pair of jeans, made a heck of an effort, one that was far more engaging than the other two coaches who took their turn Monday, LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Tennessee’s Butch Jones. Orgeron spent nearly 10 minutes running through the Tigers’ entire depth chart while Jones sprinkled in his usual Butchisms while talking about his team.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, by the way. Talking football is why we’re here, and they all talked football much longer than they talked about anything else.

But I couldn’t go through the first day of this annual preseason event without thinking about how it’s just not the same knowing Les Miles won’t be walking through those main ballroom doors.

The longtime LSU coach was always the main attraction during this week, the one coach everybody looked forward to talking to the most because there’s no telling where the questions go at this thing, which means there’s no telling where Miles would take them with answers shaped by a quirky personality he fully embraced.

He fielded serious questions about his job security, recurring time-management issues and the seemingly constant quarterback uncertainty that didn’t make sense for a team as talented as LSU usually was under his watch, one of the things that ultimately did him in after 11-plus seasons in Baton Rouge. He also fielded silly questions, like why he eats grass (yeah, remember that?).

But in a move that became uniquely Les Miles, he routinely preceded the ballroom inquiries with unsolicited stories about his family, his summer vacations and sometimes his vacations with his family.

It was like he, I don’t know, had a life outside of football or something. It was refreshing to see someone not take himself so seriously in major college coaching, a million-dollar profession where acting like football is rocket science and being draped in secrecy is more the norm from people who are in it.

Bielema had his moments, and there will be other coaches throughout the week who keep things light at times. But none of them are Miles, and that’s kind of the point.

Davis Potter is the Ole Miss beat writer and college sports editor for the EAGLE. Contact him at davis.potter@oxfordeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DavisEPotter.