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Ole Miss’ head coach gives Coach Leach his due

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach is a big personality.

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ATLANTA, GA — During a press conference, Mississippi State coach Lane Kiffin reminded a reporter that he and Jackson State’s Deion Sanders, a former Florida State star and NFL hall of famer, are “the two big personalities in Mississippi.”

As Kiffin put it, “Well, we’ve got another personality in Mike Leach,” he was the understatement of SEC Media Days thus far. “(So) I would say that there are three distinct personalities in the state,” he continues.

Kiffin can cite Leach, the former Texas Tech coach, as an example of a successful coach in Mississippi early in their careers. About half of the people in the state are excited about Kiffin’s 2-0 record against Leach in the Egg Bowl.

It means a lot to us, and especially to Mississippians, Kiffin said. I used to watch these rivalries on TV or hear about them on Thanksgiving, but you don’t know how important they are until you go to a place like Mississippi and see what it means to people until you get into those unique rivalries.” These people aren’t joking when they say that the next 364 days will be difficult for them…

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After a 31-21 victory over Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., last year, Ole Miss finished the season with a 10-3 record under Kiffin, the former Tennessee and Southern Cal coach.

On Tuesday, Leach, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina are all participating in media days. Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M will be the final coach to take the podium on Thursday afternoon.

Kelly from LSU enjoys the pageantry of media days.

For the first time since his final season as head coach at Cincinnati in 2009, new LSU coach Brian Kelly has attended a league media day. Of course, the Fighting Irish are an independent team.

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“For me, (media days) kind of signify college football’s return,” said Kelly, the first of 14 SEC coaches to speak at the conference’s press conference. Is there anything else I should be looking at?

Kelly was also drawn to the South by the prospect of coaching in the country’s most prestigious football league, he explained.

Notre Dame head coach Joe Kelly says he’s looking forward to the “challenges” and “opportunities” that come with being a member of the Southeastern Conference and playing against “great schools,” as he put it. There are a lot of venues I haven’t been to yet. This year, I’ll be able to play at Auburn, Kyle Field, and ‘The Swamp’ (Florida). “Those will be exciting opportunities, something I’ve never experienced in my career of 32 years,” says the head coach of Auburn.

brent.zwerneman@chron.com

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