SEC Media Days Report:

Saban not ready to annoy wife

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2018
NCAA college football head coach Nick Saban of Alabama speaks during the Southeastern Conference Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (AP Photo/John Amis)
NCAA college football head coach Nick Saban of Alabama speaks during the Southeastern Conference Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA -- There's some bad news for 13 SEC head football coaches.

Nick Saban, the 66-year-old Alabama coach who has won five national championships in his 11 years with the Crimson Tide, has no plans to retire any time soon.

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Asked whether he might become only the second 70-year-old SEC head coach behind Steve Spurrier, or whether his wife, Terry, might have other ideas, Saban went for the punchline first.

"Well, let me say this," Saban said Wednesday during SEC football media days. "Mrs. Terry doesn't want me at home. I can tell you that. She doesn't care if I'm 60, 70 or 80. So she's looking for something for me to do."

Then Saban launched into the heart of the matter.

"Now, I really enjoy what I'm doing right now, and as long as I'm healthy and I can do it, I'm going to continue to do it and not worry about any numbers or what my age is or anything like that," he said. "But I would not want to be in the position where I ever rode the program down because I wasn't capable of making a contribution that would be positive to the success of the program.

"So I'm going to continue to do this for as long as I feel like I can make a positive contribution and as long as I feel healthy enough to do it. And, you know, our noon-time basketball team was undefeated again this year, so that's always an indicator to me that I can make it through another season."

QB 'controversy'

Alabama Coach Nick Saban tried to blunt questions about his quarterback situation before they began in the main media room Wednesday of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Jalen Hurts started all 14 games and passed for 2,081 yards, 17 touchdowns and 1 interception while rushing for 855 yards and 8 touchdowns last year. But he was replaced after halftime in the College Football Playoff championship game by Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Tide back from a 13-0 deficit for a 26-23 victory in overtime.

"I think the number one thing that you'll want to talk about is the quarterback controversy that you'd love to create, that you've already created, that you will continue to create," Saban said. "And I will tell you the same thing exists there. It's still to be determined as to who is going to play quarterback for Alabama. So you can ask all of the questions about it, but it's still to be determined."

Crockett healthy

Missouri Coach Barry Odom said running back Damarea Crockett, a junior from Little Rock Christian, is fully recovered from surgery on his right shoulder that caused him to miss the final seven games.

"From the time he came back -- going through winter conditioning, spring practice, and now his summer development -- he's as good as I've seen Damarea look," Odom said. "He's really healthy. He's gained an extra step.

"To me, quickness and being able to put his foot on the ground and get north and south, the vision part of it is coming together with some power and explosiveness."

Crockett rushed 153 times for 1,062 as a freshman. He had 80 carries for 481 yards in the first seven games last year before the injury.

Larry Roundtree, now a sophomore, became Missouri's leading rusher in Crockett's absence with 126 carries for 703 yards.

"We have two backs who we'll have a chance to be able to draw up some things that we think can be an advantage for us," Odom said. "Because those guys have got the ability to be really good backs in this league."

Stacy's Gift

LPGA professional Stacy Lewis, the former All-American and NCAA champion at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, will be featured on a SEC Storied segment in August.

The feature is titled "Stacy's Gift," and it will delve into her overcoming scoliosis -- which is a curvature of the spine -- her exploits in golf, and her role in helping relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area in 2017.

Lewis' profile is part of the newest round of mini-films produced for the SEC Network, which will also include looks at former Georgia quarterback Fran Tarkenton and sports writer Grantland Rice.

Humidity, bacon

Mississippi State Coach Joe Moorhead, a native of Pittsburgh who was the offensive coordinator at Penn State the past two years, was asked whether he's had a "welcome to the South" moment.

"I guess stepping out of your front door every day and being smacked in the face with the humidity, that's a pretty good 'welcome to the South' moment," Moorhead said. "And everything being wrapped in bacon in food, that's pretty good, too."

Rusting Iron?

Alabama senior Damien Harris had a surprising answer when asked which SEC team is the Crimson Tide's biggest rival.

First Harris mentioned LSU, because he said the Tigers play a bruising style like Alabama.

"LSU is always the most physical team we play," Harris said. "Every year."

Harris also said Alabama players always smoke victory cigars when they beat Tennessee -- which the Crimson Tide have done for 11 consecutive years -- so that's also a big rivalry game.

But what about Auburn?

"Oh, I forgot about Auburn," Harris said amid much laughter. "Auburn is a given."

Old yeller

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald explained the differences between playing for former coach Dan Mullen and new Coach Joe Moorhead.

"I think one is a lot more intense than the other," Fitzgerald said. "In a way, you are going to get more yelling and screaming with coach Mullen and his staff. There's a need for it. But Coach Moorhead isn't as much of a yeller. I think as a coach, Moorhead is extremely talented and is very football smart, like coach Mullen was. It was great to play for Mullen, but I'm really excited to play for Coach Moorhead."

Fitzgerald said he'll miss Mullen.

"It was tough," he said. "He was the guy who recruited me and gave me my shot, one of my only two offers. He was a phenomenal coach that taught me how to be the quarterback that I am."

Welcome, Friend

Tennessee Coach Jeremy Pruitt described why he hired former roommate and Alabama teammate Will Friend away from Colorado State to serve as his first offensive line coach.

Friend coached four seasons at Georgia (2011-14) prior to his three-year stint with Mike Bobo at Colorado State, and he faced Pruitt-led defenses twice while at Alabama.

"You know, probably in the last several years ... there's only a few teams that really ran the ball consistently against us," Pruitt said. "And two of them were teams that he was a line coach. One of them was the 2012 Georgia team. And one of them was last year at Colorado State."

The Rams ran 40 times for 144 yards in a 41-23 loss to Alabama in September, a game in which the Tide led 487-391 in total offense.

In the 2012 SEC Championship Game, Georgia ran for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns in its 32-28 loss to the Crimson Tide.

Not country club

Mississippi State Coach Joe Moorhead has come a long way in the past few years, as he pointed out during his opening remarks Wednesday morning.

In the summer of 2015, Moorhead was head coach at Fordham University in New York City and was headed to Patriot League media days in Bethlehem, Pa.

"Not to take away from Patriot League media day, which was held at Green Pond Country Club ... certainly this is a little larger in scope and significance," Moorhead said. "So certainly proud to be part of the SEC media days."

No expansion

There are no plans to tinker with the current format of the College Football Playoff, CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said Wednesday. The format, two semifinal games and the CFP championship, has been in place since 2014.

Many analysts have suggested the playoff field should expand to eight teams.

"There is no talk about expansion among the university presidents and conference commissioners who sit on our board," Hancock said.

'Insane' game

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald discussed the Bulldogs' 31-24 loss to Alabama last season, a game in which the Bulldogs held the lead several times, including a 24-17 edge early in the fourth quarter in Starkville, Miss.

"I equate it to my redshirt freshman year, when Auburn came in and it was No. 2 vs. No. 3," said Fitzgerald, referencing the No. 3 Bulldogs' 38-23 victory over the No. 2 Tigers in 2014. "The atmosphere was insane. The cowbells were ringing like crazy."

After Nick

Joe Moorhead was happy to open Wednesday's proceedings, rather than follow Alabama Coach Nick Saban, as Missouri's Barry Odom did later in the day.

"It would be like taking the stage and performing after the Beatles, and no one is going to be in their seats and paying attention to what you're doing," Moorhead said. "I am excited to be able to lead off today."

Good job, UCF

CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock was asked about his thoughts on Central Florida, which proclaimed itself co-national champion after going 14-0 in 2017 and defeating SEC West champion Auburn in the Peach Bowl. The question included, "What is it going to take for a Group of Five [program] to get into the playoff?"

"We have consistently congratulated UCF on a great season," Hancock said. "I got to see them play on television several times last year. It was a wonderful football team and a great team to watch.

"For the College Football Playoff, things are simple: Play a good schedule, win your games, and you're going to be in the hunt. That holds true for UCF and Houston and Northern Illinois, as well as Alabama and Ohio State and Texas and Washington."

Little churn

New Tennessee Coach Jeremy Pruitt said only two players have left the program since he took the job, and both of them came to him on the day he was hired to say they were transferring.

Sports on 07/19/2018

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