Hoover, AL -- It wouldn't be SEC Media Days if Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democratic-Gazette didn't ask the first question. And yes, Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn was well aware of the tradition.
"He's a genius," said Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson of Malzahn. Well, a genius on the football field, of course -- but also a genius when it comes to the spotlight.
After an opening remark filled with stock comments on his Auburn Tigers, Malzahn personally called on Holt: "I'd like Bob Holt to ask the first question. He's earned it."
With the SEC Network set in the backdrop, 1,000-plus members of the media looked on as Malzahn answered the Razorbacks reporter's question on Johnson, the new face of the program.
"I'm very excited about Jeremy," Malzahn began, with a confident look on his face. "Even in high school -- I started recruiting him in ninth grade, and he ran a very similar offense. The fact this will be his third year in our system, even though he's been the backup, he's got a lot of reps with the ones in practice."
"I really appreciate the way that he responded to not being the starter the last couple of years. That has been really special."
Heading into his third year as head man of the team on the Plains, Malzahn knows this year is an important one. From a players perspective, a lot of his guys are his guys, so he's excited.
"This is the third year, and I think it's very important when you start talking about recruiting the type of person you want to fit your offense, defense and special teams," said Malzahn. "This the second year in a row that everybody qualified, so tells you a lot about the character and the type of players that we're bringing in."
A key topic for many was the hiring of Will Muschamp. It'll be Year One for him; what will he bring? How is he acting behind the scenes?
"His approach, his energy, his enthusiasm for the game. He just has that presence around him that he gives all the coaches confidence, and he's got the it factor," Malzahn said of Florida's former head man. "We're very blessed to combine his defense with an offense that we've been running. We think the future is very bright."
He also added this about his team's success: "We're going to have to play well and we're probably going to have to win some close games to have a chance to win the championship in our league."
Enlightening, I know.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn on SEC West: "If you're not in it, you don't understand it."— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) July 13, 2015
Coming off a the events of the last few weeks in Tallahassee, Malzahn was also asked about the domestic violence stance.
"I really believe most coaches wouldn't have a problem with [zero tolerance]."
On cost of attendance, Malzahn's answer was pretty dull. "I don't really think it's impacted (recruiting) too much." Auburn just states the facts "but I am glad we have it."
On the matchup with Louisville to open the season and his relationship with, his answer was also fairly bland.
"I really don't know [Petrino] well. I talked to him a handful of times. I respect him as a coach. We're going to have to play extremely well to have a chance to win that game."
But, on his offense's pace, he took what we'll call a subtle shot at Alabama football coach Nick Saban.
"I think the bottom line is winning games, and I think you, as successful coaches, no matter whether you're playing fast or slow, you've got to determine what's best for your time. You look now at pace. Just about everybody in our league has some type of tempo, even the teams that used to gripe about it are actually doing it now."
With Johnson, many are assuming that tempo to stay the course.
"We're going to have the same offensive philosophy and the foundation every year, but we are going to build the offense around the quarterback's strengths," Malzahn said. "[Jeremy] probably runs a 4.6. So he will allow us to call all of our offense."
The schedule is set, and Malzahn's typical bobbing-and-weaving of questions was finished, so it all came back to football.
"It's just a matter of surviving the grind, and the team that does that being able to have enough fuel and enough energy will finish the deal."