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Saban Liking His 2014 Alabama Team So Far

gfx-they-said-it4When you win a national championship, it’s only natural to become a bit complacent.  When you win two in a row, it’s even easier to take the foot off the accelerator.  ”We got this,” the mind assures.

So it was little wonder that Nick Saban’s 2013 team — a squad going for a third crown in a row — failed to improve after an emotional win over LSU.  ”We got this,” they must have thought.  Instead, Auburn got them on the weirdest final play this side of a Cal/Stanford game.  And then Oklahoma got all over the Crimson Tide in a Sugar Bowl rout.

This year’s Bama players have no reason to believe they can just roll their helmets out onto the turf scaring their foes into a pregame surrender.  And one scrimmage into spring practice, Nick Saban says he likes his team’s attitude:

 

“I thought that for the first scrimmage (on Saturday), I was really pleased with the effort and intensity that the players had.  I really like the attitude of this team, in terms of how they go about what they try to do, how they word and the effort they give, the mental and physical toughness they play with.  A lot of guys come out and be conscientious to do a good job, and I think it shows in the way we play and the way we compete.”

 

That’s about as effusive as Saban gets when it comes to praise.  Let’s see if Saban is still just as happy when the curtain falls on his team’s spring drills.

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Nick Saban: “Accumulation Of A Lot Of Hard Work”

Alabama coach Nick Saban meets the media to discuss National Signing Day 2014.

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Alabama’s Saban Explains The Decline In Signing Day Suspense

gfx-they-said-it4Speaking with ESPN this morning, Nick Saban admitted that while there “is some suspense involved” today, there clearly isn’t as much as there used to be.  Alabama’s coach explained why:

 

“I think the way recruiting’s set up now guys make decisions early, which is helpful.  Most of the guys know what they’re gonna do today, which is also helpful to us being able to manage the numbers and get the best players.”

 

Asked about his ability to land 5-star prospects, Saban ignored the question and spoke only of how top-rated guys will have to come in and get to work like everyone else.

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SEC Headlines 1/22/2014

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. Conflicting reports about Alabama freshman cornerback Tony Brown’s arrest over the weekend.  Witnesses say police press release was filled with inaccuracies or fabrications.

2. Georgia has three vacancies on its coaching staff. Here are the reasons why they haven’t been filled yet.

3. Long rumored – finally official.  Jeff Grimes is the new offensive line coach at LSU. Grimes has helped put six offensive linemen in the NFL since 2001.

4. Nick Saban on Florida State quarterback and potential Alabama transfer option Jacob Coker: “We can’t talk about anybody that we might be recruiting.”

5. Is Clemson coach Dabo Swinney the ideal candidate to succeed Saban at Alabama?

6. Jeremy Fowler on the offseason coaching shuffle.   ”Yes, it’s still a bit shocking that Lane Kiffin slid so smoothly into Nick Saban’s staff meetings. ”

7. Here’s a video from the Iron Bowl you may have not seen before - the band reacts the game-winning touchdown.

8. Who were the greatest SEC receivers of the BCS era?  Athlon Sports ranks the Top 10.

SEC/NFL 

9. When asked about safety Vinnie Sunseri’s departure from Alabama, coach Nick Saban didn’t mention him by name.

10. Quarterback AJ McCarron had a minor surgical procedure on a toe after the Sugar Bowl.  Also battled a sore shoulder for much of the season.

11, Is Missouri’s Michael Sam’s future at defensive end or linebacker?

12. Auburn’s Chris Davis wants to use the Senior Bowl as an opportunity to showcase his ability as a defensive back – not just a return man.

13. NFL teams see LSU’s Lamin Barrow as an inside linebacker at the pro level.

14. 31 players on the two Super Bowl rosters came from current SEC teams. They include former Kentucky star Danny Trevathan and former Georgia star Champ Bailey.

SEC Basketball

15. The governor of Kentucky wants lawmakers to approve $65 million in bonds to help renovate Rupp Arena.

16. South Carolina at Georgia. Both teams offer proof you don’t have to be tall in order to contribute.

17. Arkansas at Tennessee.  Arkansas knows it must rebound better to have any chance against the Vols. Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes coming off impressive performance at Rupp Arena in front of some NBA scouts.

18. Auburn at Mississippi State. Tigers bring the league’s top scorer in Chris Denson - teammate K.T. Harrell is third in the conference in scoring.

19. Ole Miss at Vanderbilt. Coming off a breakout game, is Ole Miss sophomore Anthony Perez on the verge of becoming an impact player? The Marshall Henderson phenomenon started at Vanderbilt last year.

20. Florida coach Bill Donovan is done talking about speculation regarding Chris Walker’s timetable.  Freshman still waiting to be cleared to play by NCAA.

21. Gators best in the league defensively but have room to grow on the offensive end.

22. Our earlier roundup of Tuesday night SEC hoops.

Extras

23. Judge weighs argument over whether to dismiss a civil lawsuit against Nick Saban’s daughter.

24. Notre Dame and Under Armour agree to the most lucrative shoe and apparel contract in college sports history.

25. Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young files for bankruptcy.

26. Warren Buffett will pay you a billion dollars if you fill out a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket.  Why would he do such a thing?  The odds are heavily in his favor.

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D-Coordinator Shoop Heading To Penn State With Franklin, But We Know Who VU Should Pursue

greg-schianoAccording to Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop will not be the man to take over for James Franklin in Nashville.  That’s because he’s going to join Franklin at State College as Penn State’s new defensive coordinator.  

Shoop was expected to be on David Williams’ list of possible replacements for Franklin, but with the ex-Vandy coach taking as many Commodore commitments as possible with him, it might be best for a clean break from the previous regime.  And there’s certainly no shortage of potential candidates (at least in terms of who the media has been throwing out):

 

* Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh head coach who just finished his first year

* David Cutcliffe, Duke head coach with an SEC background at Tennessee and Ole Miss

* Herb Hand, Vanderbilt offensive line coach who was a holdover from before Franklin’s era

* Mark Hudspeth, UL-Lafayette head coach and former Dan Mullen aide at Mississippi State

* Pete Lembo, Ball State head coach

* Jim McElwain, Colorado State head coach and former Nick Saban offensive coordinator at Alabama

* Mike MacIntyre, Colorado head coach for one year whose father once served as Vandy’s head coach

* Derek Mason, Stanford’s defensive coordinator appears to be an early favorite for the job

* Chad Morris, Clemson’s offensive coordinator who some view as a potential Gus Malzahn clone

* Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State defensive coordinator

* Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator

* Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator

 

There is one name that’s popped up on very few lists and gotten little attention.  But it’s the one name we believe Vanderbilt’s athletic director should have at the tip top of his list — Greg Schiano.

Schiano’s no-nonsense approach didn’t work with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  In going 11-21 he never gave the grown men on his roster a reason to buy into his dictatorial system.  No surprise.  Nick Saban and Bill Belichick can shhh and criticize their players because they win.  Guys who take that approach and lose are typically run out of town on a rail (Derek Dooley, being a recent SEC example).

Forget Schiano’s brief NFL tenure.  The man built Rutgers — traditionally the very worst football program in Division I — into a program that’s now respected.  Before Schiano the Scarlet Knights had been to one bowl game in school history.  Since Schiano took over they’ve been to eight (six under the man who built them and two under his replacement, Kyle Flood).

Schiano — a former Miami assistant — recruited South Florida heavily and likely still has plenty of connections in that talent-rich area.  After a four-year building phase, Rutgers posted winning records in six of the coach’s last seven years at the New Jersey school.

Could a coach who just bombed out of the NFL afford to try and kickstart his career at a school with a sad tradition?  Good question.  Schiano might believe there are better gigs than the one at that toughest academic school in the toughest conference in America which also boasts some of the smallest and oldest facilities.  VU has made plenty of recent improvements, yes, but enough to lure in someone like Schiano?

Also, how would he handle the academic restrictions he would face on the recruiting trail as Vandy’s coach?  On that front, we suspect pretty well.  Hey, if you can sell South Florida kids on going to the worst D-I program in the country — in New Jersey — you can sell kids on getting a world-class education in a world-class city while playing football in a world-class conference.

Williams has shown that he can spot talent.  He offered Malzahn the Vandy gig three years ago and when Malzahn balked, Williams found Franklin.  Franklin came from way off the radar.  Vanderbilt’s next hire might come from off the radar, too.

But if we were manning the controls in Nashville, we’d make sure Schiano was on the radar and then we’d contact him.  Immediately.

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SEC Headlines 1/5/2014

headlines-sun-150x150SEC Football

1. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher could have been at UAB had University of Alabama trustees not killed the deal after the 2006 season.

2. Kevin Scarbinsky on Fisher: “If Bobby Bowden and Nick Saban had a child, he’d be a dadgum good football coach. Aight?”

3. Matt Hayes: “The only difference between Saban and Fisher was Fisher’s staccato delivery during Saturday’s BCS Championship Game Media Day.”

4. Dan Wolken:  “In the end, it all comes back to Nick Saban.”

5. Ellis Johnson wound up at Auburn, but after Mark Stoops left for Kentucky, he was one of Fisher’s top targets at Florida State.

6. Is Florida State backup quarterback Jacob Coker considering transferring to Alabama? ”I think it’s just assumptions.”

7. Auburn’s Nick Marshall wanted to play quarterback, not defensive back, when he was at Georgia.  Did not consider playing basketball.

8. Key for Auburn Monday night?  Make “FSU play their first fourth-quarter game this year.”

9. Florida State center Bryan Stork on Auburn’s defense: “This is the best defense we’ve played. Yeah, the stats say they’re very average, but I beg to differ. I’ve seen the film.”

10. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn honored as the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Saturday night.

11. “Personally, I often choose to watch SEC games over everything else for two reasons: One, Verne Lundquist; two, Nick Saban might lose.”

12. Saban on the 2013 season: “There’s lots of lessons to be learned for every team when you have adversity.”

13. If things had played out differently a few years ago, could Charlie Strong have gone to Georgia?

14. Missouri center Evan Boehm on the 2014 Tigers:  ”I don’t think the University of Missouri is rebuilding. We’re reloading.”

15. Florida State assistant coach Sal Sunseri on his time at Tennessee: “You go into Tennessee and you could see there wasn’t the talent that needed to be there.”

16. What’s the outlook at defensive line for the Vols?

17. Ever think you’d hear this? “I don’t think Florida has the athletes like Duke got.”

18. Steve Spurrier has raised the bar at South Carolina - what are the expectations for 2014?

19. South Carolina running back Mike Davis thought to have high ankle sprain – will have MRI today.

SEC/NFL draft

20. Add Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief’s name to the growing list of SEC underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft.

SEC/College Football

21. Jon Solomon: “College football scoring is up 10 percent from 2009 to 2013, the largest increase in a five-year period since 1979-83.”

22. ESPN wants to know if higher scoring produces more viewers.

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SEC Headlines 12/12/2013

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. Alabama’s Kirby Smart is the highest paid assistant coach in the SEC – $1,150,000 a year before bonus.  The staff at LSU is the highest paid in the country.

2. Auburn’s assistant coaches are the third-highest paid in the conference – and expected to get a bump in pay.

3. Almost thrown away after Auburn’s loss to LSU, a 500-1 betting ticket on the Tigers to win the national title now sits in a safety deposit box.

4. Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell named the SEC Freshman of the Year. Roundup of award winners includes Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

5. Vanderbilt assistant Herb Hand staying at the school according to James Franklin.  Was reportedly a finalist for the head coaching job at Elon.

6. Florida sophomore fullback Rhaheim Ledbetter will transfer to another school. Total of five players leaving – including 2012 tight end recruit Kent Taylor.

7. When it comes to the SEC, is Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops good at playing dumb?

8. Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell has surgery to repair a torn labrum - won’t play in the Liberty Bowl.

9. South Carolina fans - get to know your Capital One Bowl opponent - the Wisconsin Badgers. Steve Spurrier’s message to Florida.

10. This ranking of the Nick Saban coaching tree puts Florida coach Will Muschamp and former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley at the bottom.

SEC/College News

11. Christine Brennan: “In the deepest, darkest, most cynical corners of college football, Mack Brown already has stepped down at Texas and Nick Saban is on his way.” Our Saban update from this morning.

12. Mack Brown: “My situation has not changed.”

13. When the college football playoff starts next season, strength of schedule will be a factor.  Tom Osborne: “A lot of teams are going to be at the mercy of the strength of your conference.”

14. Playoff won’t be a magic bullet - controversy will only grow.

15. Could the SEC and other major conferences break away to form their own subdivision?  It’s “not off the table,” according to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

16. NCAA has changed its “over-signing” bylaw – SEC and NCAA now have identical rules.

17. New governance model for the NCAA by next summer?

18. Ten teams finished with at least six wins this year but won’t make a bowl game.  Bowl roster expanding next year from 35 games to 39.

19. How about a one-on-one interview of NCAA president Mark Emmert by NCAA critic Jay Bilas?

SEC Basketball

20. Arkansas plays Savannah State tonight.  6-2 Razorbacks have five games remaining before conference play begins.

21. Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein doesn’t have sickle cell anemia but he does have the sickle cell trait.  “So some days…I’ll have like real bad chest pain and I can’t like breathe…”

22. Average attendance at Rupp Arena through first seven games during the John Calipari era has dropped ever year.

23. LSU begins a five-game non-conference stretch that starts Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.

24. Mississippi State will host Southeastern Louisiana Friday night – in Tupelo.

Extras

25. Compromise?  Nick Saban coaches Alabama AND Texas.

26. Why was Peyton Manning icing his ankle, wearing a helmet and watching his iPad all at once?

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Texas Website Says Saban Has Started Thinking About His Longhorn Staff (Which Sounds Kinda Funny)

saltgrainsIf you’re a Longhorn fan, it’s true.  If you’re a Crimson Tide fan it’s clearly propaganda from a Longhorn website.  If you’re anyone else, it’s just the latest log to be tossed onto the increasingly entertaining  “Will he or won’t he” Nick-Saban-to-Texas fire.

Geoff Ketchum of Orangebloods.com — the Rivals.com site covering Texas athletics — tweeted today:

 

“An OB source has confirmed that Nick Saban has initiated the vetting process of trying to see what a staff at Texas might look like.”

 

Figures.  With Saban even vetting assistants requires a dang “process.”

What exactly this means is anyone’s guess.  Is Saban calling potential assistants?  Is he drawing little hearts around assistants’ names in a spiral-bound notebook marked “The Process?”

Your guess is as good as ours.

But we will add this to the mix — and Alabama fans will like it — during last year’s Jon-Gruden-to-Tennessee buzz-nado, the ESPN broadcaster was reportedly calling potential aides, hiring high school coaches to work as liaisons for his Big Arnge program, etc.  And then he didn’t take the job.

Grain of salt time, folks.

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Herbstreit On Saban-To-Texas Rumors: “There’s No Chance”

gfx - they said itAppearing on KESN-FM in Dallas yesterday, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit tried to put the kibosh on all those Nick Saban-to-Texas rumors.  Asked who might replace Mack Brown once the Longhorns’ current coach steps down, the ex-Ohio State QB had this to say:

 

“Just scratch Nick Saban from the list.  Immediately scratch that, and then go from there…

There’s no chance.  No chance of that happening.  Nick Saban will work TV sitting next to us on our set before he’ll be the head coach at texas… He’ll be at Alabama for another five years, and then he’ll be working TV after that… I know Nick Saban beter than anybody.  It’s not going to happen.”

 

Strong words.  Alabama fans are likely jumping for joy after reading them.  Herbstreit is respected in the industry.

Texas fans, however, will most definitely be reminding one another — and everyone else who’ll listen — that Herbstreit isn’t always right about such matters.

 

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Nick Saban, Everybody Wants You

Saban-crystal-footballA tip of the cap to Billy Squier for providing the theme for this morning’s Nick Saban update.  (Not so much for this.)  Once more Jimmy Sexton has his man at the intersection of Speculation Street and Big Money Boulevard.  Saban — who’s joked that he’s too old to move again — is most definitely the man University of Texas officials want to move again as Mack Brown finally walks away from the Longhorns’ job.

You remember Brown.  He’s the man who a couple of weeks ago said he didn’t have to worry about his buddy, Saban, taking his job.  Now it appears his job will indeed be up for grabs and Saban might actually be the man to catch it.

Or not.

Tuesday was Rumor Day from Austin to Tuscaloosa.  First, Brown was out, then in, then he was on the verge of being out before sources last night finally said, “No, really, he’s out but it’s gonna be on his schedule.”  Websites written by hopeful Texas fans penciled in Saban as his definite successor.

But while that was going on, stories from Alabama proclaimed that Saban and Bama officials were hammering out an extension that might pay him $7 million per season (which is still less than what he’s worth to the school’s bottom line and ego).  Hopeful Tide fans then took to their own websites to announce that their coach’s extension was already dunzo.  (Why UA didn’t just go ahead and announce it if that were the case… well, they didn’t really get into all of that.)

But wait, there’s more.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com deduced that someone in Camp Saban might have leaked the $7 million a year story to ex-Cowboys official Gil Brandt — Gil Brandt? — in order to draw the interest of serial over-spender Daniel Snyder, the owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

So where do things stand currently?  Your guess is as good as anyone not named Saban or Sexton.

If Saban has a contract on his desk — as Paul Finebaum has reported on ESPN Radio — why hasn’t he signed it?  And if Texas folks aren’t sure they can land Saban, why give Mack the knife?

Best guesses:  Saban hasn’t signed his new pact because he and his agent know that you only sign a new deal when you’ve milked every last cent out of every bit of leverage that you have.  That means the Texas job.  That means the Redskins’ job.  That means any other job that might come open ASAP, too.

Also, yes, Texas officials are probably quite sure that Saban will listen to their proposal — you can bet Sexton has reiterated that point to them this week — and their self-confidence has them believing they can close the deal.

But we still don’t believe Saban will leave Tuscaloosa.

Yeah, we know, there are pressures at Bama and the coach just had his threepeat blocked by Auburn, of all schools.  So maybe it’s feeling like splittin’ time.

But a move to Texas will come with just as many pressures.  If Saban thinks he’ll get more love in Austin — or that students won’t have to be told to stick around for a full 60 minutes each Saturday — he needs to do a bit more thinking.  There are no grace periods in college athletics any longer, especially if you’re viewed as a miracle worker.  Saban is.  And Texas has high expectations

Would he move for money?  It’s hard to imagine the University of Alabama being outspent, even by Texas.

Is the man who told “60 Minutes” this fall that he still regrets his Bama denials while coaching the Miami Dolphins really ready to be called a liar all over again?

We say no.

But check back every 15 minutes just in case.

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