Are you for armed guards at schools?|
Story Archives: Ready for SEC Media Days
|Ready for SEC Media Days|
It's less than three months until SEC Media Days.
We had a family trip to Hoover last July and as part of that trip Jake and I attended our first SEC Media Days.
It's pretty much the circus they make it out to be.
But it was also quite enlightening.
Even more so almost a year later.
Not surprisingly, the most entertaining coach was Steve Spurrier. Also, not surprising, the least entertaining was Gene Chizik.
The most entertaining subject, the billboards Mississippi State put up across the state and the reaction of Dan Mullen and, especially, Houston Nutt. Gonna miss that guy this year. It will be interesting to see if Hugh Freeze brushes off Mullen's antics in the same way.
Another coach will be missing. Arkansas' Bobby Petrino was very upbeat last year, one of the few coaches to use an optimistic tone throughout his entire session.
Interestingly enough, Petrino's probably last SEC Media Days started off with a tribute to his wife, Becky.
"It's good to be here in Birmingham again for Media Days," Petrino said. "I always wonder when I say that how to keep a straight face, but more so this year really because today is actually my anniversary. So the first thing I have to do is wish my wife Becky a happy anniversary. It's our 26th anniversary.
Doesn't seem like that long ago when we were driving down the highway to go on our honeymoon singing 'Put me in, coach.' Got that out of the way, means I can get back in the house tonight (laughter)."
That was then. I'm not sure if Petrino has been able to get back in the house since his accident with a certain Arkansas employee on his motorcycle.
Petrino's optimism was well warranted. The Razorbacks finished 11-2, beating Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas' only losses were to No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU.
"I like a lot of things about this team coming back," said Petrino, who would lose top running back Knile Davis to an injury during the summer. "Certainly three areas that I feel like will really help us, give us an opportunity to be a good football team. Number one, would be our experience and depth I really feel like we're a fast football team. The speed we have at our skilled positions, particularly on offense, at wide receiver and running back, give us an opportunity to be a special offense. Defensively, our speed on the edges at defensive end and linebacker and in the secondary is where it needs to be."
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was asked what lessons he's learned since taking the Bulldog head coaching job
"I think the lessons that you learn are what makes you who you are today," Mullen said. "So, you know, I couldn't be who I am today, I couldn't improve the way I was improved unless I actually lived those lessons. I'm a big believer in that. You're going to make mistakes in life. I've made a ton of mistakes since I've been at Mississippi State in every aspect of the program. But if I hadn't made those mistakes, I don't know if I'd be as good a coach as I am today. If someone just told me about it, you don't get as much, you know, reading about it or being told about it as you get in the experience of physically doing it. That is what has been important.
"I don't know if I'd change a thing because I think I needed making all the mistakes and making the good decisions that I've made," Mullen added. "I've needed those to help develop me to become a better football coach. Hopefully the mistakes I make this season will help me be a better coach next year, and the following year after that and in the future. That's it."
State had a disappointing season, finishing 7-6, 2-6 in the SEC, but did beat Wake Forest 23-17 in the Music CIty Bowl.
Still, a big difference from Mullen's expectations last July.
"You know, I really don't have a timetable," he said. "That's our goal going into each year. What happens each year is kind of its own year. This year's team is going to have its own personality. For us, that is our goal going into the season. You look at the schedule, the games we have to win. We have some tough games we have to win at home. I've always believed you have to win your home games if you want to win in the Southeastern Conference. If we can win all our home games this year, find a way to win a couple tough road games, you're going to find yourself in Atlanta.
"I think we have the talent to do it," Mullen said. "The question is, Are we that team that this year is going to come together, that is going to gel, work a little bit harder, believe in themselves, believe in each other a little bit more than everybody elseout there and reach our potential to be the best that we can be?"
And I loved this part from Mullen.
"You know, too many people want to just get to the top of the mountain to see the view, but they don't understand the journey of that hike and climb to the top of the mountain, that's the life experience of what it's all about," he said. "It's not just about seeing the quick view. If you just want to see the view, you can open the book and see the picture of a view from the top of a mountain. You can turn on Everest, watch on TV. That's what it looks like from the peak of Mt. Everest. I can tell you what, the people that climbed the mountain, the journey along the way, that's what makes your life and develops and defines who you are as a person. It's not the arrival spot, it's the journey. I don't know if I'd change a thing because it wouldn't make me who I am today."
Will Muschamp was the new kid on the block. Muschamp will no doubt be talking about the stories of how much turmoil the team was under when Urban Meyer was head coach.
Muschamp heaped bunches of praise on Meyer last year.
"It's an exciting time to be a football coach," Muschamp said. "We're all undefeated right now. Haven't made any poor decisions on third down. But it's an exciting time. Being hired in December, having the opportunity which Urban Meyer allowed me to come to bowl practice, watch our football team work and practice, very appreciative of him and the insight he's given me.
"My email is full of suggestions from the Gator Nation. I've chose to listen to Urban a little bit more than anybody else. He's really been good in this transition. I appreciate him. He's really first class."
Hmmm. be interesting to hear those same quotes again.
Florida went 7-6, defeating Ohio State 24-17 in the Gator Bowl.
"The fun is in winning," Meyer said last year. "Football is a tough, hard game. We certainly understand the expectation of Florida and what's been established before us. The last thing is to hopefully have that opportunity to play in the NFL. I didn't want any projections coming out of our scheme. I wanted guys to see themselves playing in that scheme and certainly transferring to Sunday if that were made available."
And, of course, Muschamp was asked about working with Nick Saban at LSU.
"I had a great working relationship with Nick," Muschamp said. " He's very smart, detail oriented, very organized in what he wants to do, the vision he sees for his program.That'sa credit to him.
We had an outstanding staff at LSU. I think it's pretty obvious. You see the Jimbo Fisher's and the Derek Dooley's of the world doing very well in their head coaching jobs."
Spurrier was his charismatic self, although a little subdued at times because of the number of questions he knew he would get about oft-troubled quarterback Stephen Garcia.
"I guess we don't want to kick him out for stupidity," Spurrier replied to a question about his unlimited patience with Garcia. "Basically we believe he is a good person. He's not done anything to get arrested or thrown in jail. If he'd been a tight end, yeah, we'd probably try to save him, uh-huh, try to help him."
As for being picked first in the SEC East?
"You know we lost our last two games last year, so we're not sitting around patting each other on the back too much," Spurrier said. "We got clobbered in the SEC game by Auburn and didn't play when the game was on the line against FSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. We've got a long way to go."
South Carolina finished 11-2, defeating Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, the first 11-win season for the Gamecocks, while also breaking a three-game bowl losing streak.
I was very impressed with first-year Vanderbilt coach James Frankiln. He was very sure of himself, very uplifting person who doesn't want to talk about past struggles at Vandy.
Vanderbilt was the surprise of college football early before finishing 6-7, falling to Cincinnati 31-24 in the Liberty Bowl.
"My recruiting philosophy, my philosophy in general is about relationships," Franklin said. "Obviously now being here since December 17th, we've had more of an opportunity. That first recruiting class was a challenge getting in with the last minute and hustling."The way I look at it is we have an opportunity to do something really special at Vanderbilt," Franklin said. "We have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. I really believe there's very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can.
"You can come to Vanderbilt and get a world class education, so for the next 40 years of your life you have a degree that matters. When you walk into a job interview, and they get to know you, and they ask you where you went to school, you'll demand respect from everybody in that room right away."
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley knew he was going to have to deal with the LSU game from 2010, as well as the bowl game against North Carolina where the Vols had both games won but lost them on peculiar penalties.
"I almost got out of here," Dooley said with a laugh when the question came up late "I told everybody I was 8-7 in post-game handshakes last year. It was a remarkable feat. You know, that whole deal, it happens to you. They say that's never happened in college football and it will never happen again. I was agreeing with them. You're right, it will never happen again. And it did.
"There's lessons in everything," Dooley said. " You live, you learn, you move on. I'm glad those things happened my first year. I hope they don't happen as we get deeper into the experience So they asked me "Hey, what was your greatest moment last year?" I said, Well, there were two of them. They just only lasted about 30 seconds. So that's the way it is. That's the nature of sport. We put in a new rule that hopefully will prevent that from happening to another coach again. We live, we learn and we move on"
Tennessee finished 5-7, losing to LSU 38-7. No worries about talking about that game this year.
I was also impressed with Kentucky coach Joker Phillips.
I asked him about the mental aspect of the game, especially at a place like Kentucky were basketball is king.
"We talk about 95 percent of the game is mental," Phillips said. "Sometimes you have to play mind games. You have to put them in situations that might come up in a game. I watch games. People say, Why do you watch college football when that's what you do? I watch games so I might see a situation that we might not have practiced. It's hard to come up with all the situations that might come up. So you have to be mentally ready for those things when they come.
"I like the fact we play a lot of night games," Phillips said. "Jerry Claiborne used to do this with us when I played, Did you see what happened to Such-and-Such today? We got to be sound in the kicking game. Here is the reason why. Understand what happened to this team.
So I like watching games also throughout the day to try to put myself as a head coach into situations, Should I use a timeout here or wouldn't I? I think that's a huge part of being a college football coach.
The classiest coach of the week had to be Georgia's Mark Richt. A very sincere, humble, and just all-around great guy.
It was only fitting that Les Miles and Nick Saban spoke on the final day.
My son, Jake, asked Miles about the development of Anthony Johnson on the defensive line and what his expectations were for the freshmen.
Johnson did not make the immediate impact most people, including Miles thought, But others did as the Tigers went undefeated during the regular season before losing to Alabama 21-0 in the BCS title game.
"I think there's a number of freshmen that will come in and play," Miles said. "I think we've always made it a point that guys like Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu, really any number of guys, Jordan Jefferson played as a freshman. I think playing as a freshman is not an age issue; it is a skill and ability, ability to learn issue. Anthony Johnson is an example of that. Anthony came in in January, really a very good student. He can sing, he has real personality, and he's practiced an entire spring and summer in our weight room. So I think he's really ready to kind of step forward and play in games as an example of how we play freshmen.
"Our football team's had a great summer. They're very ambitious. They've got a wonderful mindset. They're involved in pursuing a conditioning regimen that will allow them to come into these two-a-days ready to play a real quality opponent in Oregon."
They were for sure. But that was without Jordan Jefferson, who would not join the team until the fifth game of the season against Kentucky after some off the field problems.
"Jefferson is in his final campaign and really is at the best position that he has been in in listening and taking in coaching," Miles said "So he's been well-coached.
But there's another way to say it, another way to describe it, it might get it out of his hand. It might give him the ability to anticipate the throw better. It appears to me that that's happening. He also has a want to make this his team, to show leadership. I think, again, it's making a difference."
I'll leave it at that.
Except for the fact Russell Shepard was supposed to be one of the Tiger players to appear, but because of compliance issues, was replaced by Jefferson. Shepard sat out the Oregon game.
"I don't know exactly the specifics of that," Miles said when asked about the compliance issues, "The only thing I can tell you is this was an issue where there were some things that he had to handle in his personal life that needed an immediate resolution, so...
That's why he's not with us."
Good ol' Les.
And, finally, the man himself, Nick Saban, who loves talking to the press about as much as most people enjoy root canal.
Saban would go on to win his second title at Alabama in three years.
"How is everybody?," Saban asked. "I hope y'all had a fantastic summer. It's great to be here. I think y'all know that this is one of my favorite days of the year. This is actually my 10th SEC Media Day, which I guess Steve Spurrier and I would like to get some kind of an award or recognition if y'all could come up with something."
Yes, Saban said all that in pure jest.
You know, we're excited about the challenges of the season," a more serious Saban said. "We're excited about the standard that we've been able to sort of develop our program to at the University of Alabama I personally feel like our players and our program are our greatest asset. Very pleased with the progress that they're making. We feel like we've done a decent job of developing football players. The guys in our program have won 36 games in the last three years, which is a standard, a very high standard of excellence that we have, very challenging to maintain, certainly the challenge that we look forward to next season."
Saban had to downplay the intensified rivalry with Auburn and Chizik
"First of all, let me say that I think we have two great institutions. I think we have a lot of wonderful people, a lot of wonderful people who support those institutions in a very positive way.
I think our state is very, very important. I think the respect that we have for each other is very, very important, and in no way should affect the competitive rivalry we have with each other.
But I also think that some of the things that have been negatives are not really good. And I think there's just a small number of people who probably create this - on both sides. This is not a criticism of one or the other. I would like to see our fans show class in terms of how we represent our institution and our state and our athletic programs. That would be really, really appreciated."
Alabama 42, Auburn 14.
Saban was asked about Alabama being picked to win the SEC last year.
"Let me first say that you all are a lot smarter than we are as coaches because I could never pick who is going to win the SEC. Let's start with that," Saban said. "From a logical standpoint, I know there's a couple other teams in our division - forget about the league - that have just as many returners starting, and their quarterback. So even though I have a tremendous amount of respect for the intelligence level and your ability to prognosticate, which we really can't do, I'm not capable of doing, I don't understand how you come to the decisions that you come to.
But in all honesty, you know, these kinds of things are not something that we can do. We have question marks on our team. How we respond, how we address these questions marks on our team are going to certainly determine the consistency that our team can play with throughout the season."
Saban called that one.
Too bad he wasn't asked about the folks who picked the Tide to win the national championship.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|