SEC Media Days Update – Tebow

Tim Tebow at the podium:

  • Feels this has been the best off-season in his time at Florida. Also does not know who did not vote him 1st-team All-SEC preseason team.
  • One of the main reasons he came back to UF was to be a good role model because of the platform his college prominence gives him (94 million people googled him about the eye-black stickers he wore in national title game).
  • On feedback from NFL … consulted only a few sources (mainly those known through Urban Meyer) and they had positive things to say, but their feedback was not a motivating factor in his decision.
  • On playing for any other SEC coach aside from Florida/Meyer … Tebow would have played at Alabama, primarily because he respected and liked then-Tide coach Mike Shula.
  • On guarding against complacency … be concerned about getting better not getting by. Tebow makes a good point of establishing a mindset that whatever you are doing right now should take precedence … not thinking that “just let me get through this so I can have free time” or something similar … a good philosophy for anyone not just football players.
  • On receiver being considered a potential weak spot on the Gators … returning receivers have a chip on their shoulders seeking to prove they have playmakers too.

OK- that’s it from 2009 media days … you can get transcripts of the meetings at the SEC website. I will not be here for Friday’s sessions with Tennessee, South Carolina, Auburn, and LSU.

Thanks for reading!

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SEC Media Days Update – Meyer

Urban Meyer on his way to print/internet podium:

  • The circus at SEC Media Days that always surrounds the Alabama head coach is matched by the attention given representatives of the defending national champ Florida Gators. Urban Meyer gets his share of cameras and handlers, but Tim Tebow attracts more notice than anybody else here. I nearly got trampled a couple minutes ago when I was looking down at my phone and a moving herd of about 20 camera people steamrolled me out of the way as Tebow was moving to another media room. Got to keep your head on a swivel like a linemen when the Gator QB is around.

  • With so many people expecting great things from Florida, I’m not sure the Gators can meet the hype. They’d have to win every game by double-digits and dominate every opponent. It’s asking a lot for this team not to slip up. Jay Barker, former Alabama QB turned sports talk radio host (and husband of singer Sara Evans), made a good point on his show this morning … he mentioned that so many of the Gators’ goals are product-oriented (undefeated season, another national title, setting various records on offense/defense), while winning teams usually focus on the process of getting ready for great things (off-season training, summer workouts, etc). It’s an interesting point and one the Gators will need to be wary of. If any team can navigate a 3rd national title run in four years it would be the fast, deep, and talented men from Gainesville. Having the best football player of the generation on your team doesn’t hurt either.

  • One other note while awaiting Meyer, the Gators better win every game because a 1-loss Florida team is unlikely to get voted into a national title game over an undefeated USC, Ohio State, Texas, or Oklahoma. The non-conference schedule is embarrasingly weak (Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International in addition to traditional rival FSU).

Meyer now at the podium:

  • Very concise comments before questions … Meyer says team has had excellent off-season and that he is looking forward to this season more than any in his career.

  • On keeping people happy with so much depth … competition and promoting unselfishness has been a key.

  • On knowing about Bear Bryant (although growing up in Ohio as a Woody Hayes fan), Meyer mentioned that he had general knowledge like most fans/coaches and that his mentor Earl Bruce spoke frequently of Bryant and his methods.

  • On Florida’s offensive play-calling process (with the departure of OC Dan Mullen to Miss State) … Meyer said the Gators are still working through that. No one single person calls plays at Florida (it is a collaborative effort between plays), and one of the issues is that Steve Addazio will be on the field (while Mullen was up in the press box during games). The process is not finalized heading into fall camp.

  • Interestingly (and true to his nature), Meyer does not back off the overwhelming praise his defense is receiving (all 22 players on the two-deep return from 2008) and believes it could be a historically great defense. Most coaches would downplay such expectations, but Meyer is nothing if not confident, noting the flexibility of the unit.

  • When asked about Tebow playing under center, Meyer said the tailback position will determine whether the offense gets out of the shotgun on occasion. To run a traditional offense, he believes a team must have a top-flight running back. Additionally, the defense typically has an extra defender against an “I” team (whereas against the spread the defense has to read the option … effectively eliminating one defender).

  • Tim Tebow will come to the main podium next

SEC Media Days Update- Nutt

Houston Nutt at the print/internet media podium:

  • Before even starting his presentation, Nutt announces that he voted for Tim Tebow as the first-team all-SEC quarterback on the preseason team. That leaves Lane Kiffin and Steve Spurrier as the primary suspects in this year’s mystery vote (Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead got the only non-Tebow vote).
  • Houston Nutt is always one of the most personable coaches … he often calls media members by their first name (unusual among the coaches).
  • Asked the keys to beating Florida, Nutt responded 1) win the tunover battle, and 2) limit the number of Gator big plays on offense, realizing they will make some.
  • In response to the fairly common criticism that his teams play better when not much is expected of them (and conversely, underachieve when much is expected), Nutt reflected that injuries had often played a significant part in earlier disappointments.
  • Discussing the newly passed SEC rule limiting recruiting classes to 28 signees each year (only 25 can actually enroll) which was widely believed implemented as a result of Nutt and Ole Miss signing 39 last spring … Nutt explained he knew many of the signees would not qualify and that his staff signed so many for two reasons: 1) to make the players part of the Ole Miss “family” which will eventually pay dividends, and 2) to establish good relations with the state’s numerous junior college coaches.
  • Coach Nutt had a nice response when asked about preseason expectations … he told his players that last year the “experts” picked the team at the bottom and they finished high … this year the same “experts” are picking the Rebels highly … so … preseason prognostications mean nothing.
  • Should Ole Miss have a great 2009 season, the start of it will certainly be well-chronicled. The documentary Gridiron U will follow the Rebs from preseason camp in August through the team’s opener against Memphis. The series, reminiscent of MTV’s Two a Days (that featured Hoover High School), will air on TruTV on dates to be determined.
  • The print/internet media room is freeeezzzinnnng … but the free Dr. Pepper and Golden Flake snacks are terrific.

SEC Media Days Update – Saban

Nick Saban at the print media podium:

  • The room is packed with about 300 people for Saban, largest crowd so far.
  • You will not listen to Saban speak for long without hearing the word “process” … as in the necessity of following a “process” in preparing to win. It is a common theme for the Bama head coach.
  • This is not news to Tide fans, but the development of the offensive line will be critical for this team. Saban links the play of new QB Greg McElroy to the play of the line.
  • For the 2nd consecutive season, Bama opens the season at the Georgia Dome against a highly touted team (this time Virginia Tech). Last season’s thumping of Clemson kick-started an undefeated regular season run for the Tide. Saban saw two benefits from such an opener … first, it helped the team prepare over the summer because the first game was so significant … next, winning a big-time game in such an atmosphere gave the 08 team confidence for the rest of the slate.
  • The depth of the SEC West will be interesting to follow. Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU are all picked by various prognosticators, but Arkansas is expected to be improved (and was pretty good by the end of 2008). Auburn and Miss State also should not just be dismissed … Auburn is not so far removed from being a top-tier division team and Miss State was a bowl winner just a couple years ago.
  • A recurring question asked of every coach so far concerns the all-conference quarterback. One coach did not vote for Tim Tebow as the preseason all-SEC QB, and the media are determined to find out who it was. All coaches so far have laughed the question off (after acknowledging they voted for Tebow), although Saban expounded on the right coaches have to cast votes how they see fit (his comment that people have fought and died for that right … or something to that effect … was overstated but his overall point was valid).
  • Saban’s only prickly moment (not angry but more animated than the rest of the time) came when a media person asked about the number of players who have left the Bama program or are planning to leave. The coach commented on how demanding the program is … not football so much as personal development requirements … a good, solid explanation.
  • From an all-around perspective, Saban is perhaps the most impressive of the SEC coaches … dress, demeanor, attitude, confidence, speaking abilities … (and that would put him at the head of an impressive group). You can tell he is a big-time college football coach.

SEC Media Days Update

Notes on SEC Football Media Days 2009:

  • For those unfamiliar with the format of media days, the Wyfrey Hotel (in Hoover) hosts the event. The compact Wynfrey lobby has an escalator that leads to a second floor of meeting rooms, and a fairly long hallway connecting the hotel to a large mall. During media days, the upstairs area hosts print/internet and television media (the print/internet area is by far the largest room), while the hallway downstairs becomes “radio row” with various tables set up for shows from across the South (28 radio stations are broadcasting live from media days in 2009).
  • The hotel lobby is often the most enjoyable place to people watch. Fans gather to catch a glimpse of the coaches or players, and their numbers swell when a Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, or Tim Tebow is scheduled.
  • Each school is represented by the head coach and two players, and four schools are scheduled for each of the three days (the schools are paired together for two hours of media time). While coaches and players from one school visit with print/internet media, the other school reps meet with television media. The head coach makes general comments then takes questions. Players are made available after the respective coaches finish.
  • The 2009 event kicked off Wednesday with the focus on four teams expected to finish in the lower halves of their divisions. BobbyPetrino (Arkansas), Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt), Dan Mullen (Miss State), and Rich Brooks (Kentucky) and their players spoke to assembled media. As usual, there was little news made from coaches or players. All of them are typically so media savvy that their answers are plain and non-controversial.
  • You can always tell new coaches … they talk significantly more than the veterans. Dan Mullen of Miss State followed Petrino and Johnson to the print media podium. Each of those two made about a minute’s worth of an introduction, then took questions. Mullen, who seems a personable fellow, talked about his background, his welcome to the state of Mississippi, his offense, defense, coaching staff, strength staff, the spread offense, and more … about 20 minutes before taking questions. Next year, I expect he’ll go about a minute then take questions (I enjoy the coaches talking longer because there is a slim chance they’ll slip and say something of real substance instead of boilerplate “coach speak”).
  • Thursday’s session (underway as I type) is the most star-studded in several years … Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Ole Miss are arguably the SEC’s glamor teams for 2009 (LSU could be included too) and the session is far more highly attended than yesterday.
  • Nick Saban has been the star the past couple of media days gatherings, but Tim Tebow challenged him last year and surpassed him this season. The big Florida QB will go down as a conference cultural hero the likes of Archie Manning, Herschel Walker, and Bo Jackson. I doubt most fans and media realize how much the league will miss him when he’s gone (I know fans of Florida’s competitors will be glad he’s gone, but every true fan will miss him … we won’t see his like again for a while – if ever). He also draws crowds (and groupies) and needs what I guess would be called body-guards to lead him from session to session. Last year I rode down the escalator behind Urban Meyer. The Gator coach was alone and unnoticed (at least for a minute or two) while at the bottom Tebow was surrounded by a horde of fans and media. I enjoyed seeing that.
  • I’m a Georgia grad, so Mark Richt always makes me proud. He handles himself humbly, answers questions thoughtfully, and is the kind of guy you’d like your son to play for … now, if he could just get that defense fixed this season.
  • The coaches most enjoyable to listen to? Easy … Steve Spurrier is my favorite by far (he’ll be in on Friday). Bobby Johnson is funny and self-deprecating; Saban is interesting and a bit more relaxed than one might expect; Meyer pretty much bristles with intensity all the time, but gives pretty good answers. Houston Nutt is always upbeat although sometimes prone to rote answers. I miss Tommy Tuberville … he was smooth with his responses so didn’t give you much, but was also insightful and smart. He could be an outstanding announcer/analyst in my opinion.
  • For anyone interested, all sessions are carried on ESPN-U. The sessions they show are from the print/internet room.

Urban Meyer … Never. Ever.

After much prodding, the time has come for a final announcement.

I will not accept the position of head football coach at the University of Florida.

Ever.

Print it. Blog it. Tweet it. Facebook it. Put it in your pipe and smoke it. No Gators.

Whew … feels good to get that off my chest.

Of course, Jeremy Foley and Bernie Machen have not actually offered me the position, and Florida currently has a pretty good coach under contract in Urban Meyer so they may not really be looking for a new hire anytime soon.

Still.

Just in case Paul Finebaum tries to stir up something with another rambling, ranting, semi-coherent column in order to trigger more phone calls to his radio program, I want to get out front of the fuss and say I plan to stay at my present position as long as they will have me. Finebaum’s folly (loosely claiming Meyer might leave Gainesville for the Notre Dame job after this season) caused the Urban legend to blow a fuse at a golf tournament in the Sunshine State and announce he would never accept the head coaching position at Notre Dame.

Ever.

Never – ever – mind the fact Notre Dame has not offered him the position (in at least four years anyway).

Since Urban and I each preemptively turned down a job this month that had not been offered to us, I am joining him (without his permission) in listing other positions we are refusing to accept.

Ever.

Note: These are limited to the SEC … Urban and I want to leave our options open for the rest of the country. Except ND of course (actually … I’d take that job – sorry Urban).

Alabama: The guy that makes those Bear Bryant hats (too much work).

Arkansas: A pig farmer … what kind of true Razorback would eat its own?

Auburn: The folks who clean up all that toilet paper on Toomer’s Corner.

Florida: A sports talk radio host who questions anything the football Gators do.

Georgia: The fellow who gets to put the ice under UGA the Bulldog Mascot.

Kentucky: The usher trying to restrain the crowd when basketball season starts.

LSU: A designated driver on a football Saturday night in Baton Rouge … you’d be so lonely.

Ole Miss: The tailor who makes those old outlawed Colonel Rebel mascot outfits.

Miss State: The guy waiting to take over for announcer Jack Cristil (going strong since 1953).

South Carolina: The manager who has to retrieve Steve Spurrier’s visor every time he throws it.

Tennessee: Lane Kiffin’s PR guy (too much work).

Vanderbilt: The NCAA rules compliance officer (not enough work).

Off to SEC Media Days … perhaps Urban will want to sit down to lunch and discuss other jobs he and I could turn down before they are even offered to us.

Never. Ever.

Countdown to 2009 Kickoff

Welcome back to The Campus Game.

With Independence Day celebrations over, the countdown to kickoff of the 2009 college football season will soon be upon us. Enjoy these precious weeks of summer … and if you want to track the exact amount of time left until the opening Saturday of the football season, click on our “countdown clock” to the right.

Speaking of kickoff, I’d like to recommend The Kickoff: College Football 2009 Yearbook (see cover image below).

The good folks at The Kickoff (based in Chattanooga) have been around for decades with an informative weekly publication, and this year expanded to offer their very first preseason yearbook. It was my privilege to write the Southeastern Conference previews for their new venture and I do believe the publication is one of the best of its type. If you are interested in ordering a copy, visit either of the sites highlighted above.

Please visit The Campus Game again soon (I’ll be at SEC Media Days in mid-July, but may post a few times prior to those dates).