Then again, it fits in with an almost zen-like quality to Saban's press conferences. There's less emphasis on Xs and Os and winning as many games as possible than you might expect from a driven coach like Saban. Instead, the time is spent discussing how Alabama players need to focus on becoming the best they can be through hard work. It's an emphasis on preparation and executing every play exactly right. Saban sees those things as the key to winning, and it's hard to argue with the results.
Texas A&M (8.5) and Virginia Tech (10) were the only two teams to receive three max bets. Professionals bet the Hokies over 10 wins strong enough to force Salmons to tack on a -160 juice to bet the over, after opening the prop wager at -110 either way. Sharps also liked the Aggies to go over 8.5 wins. They opened up costing bettors -120 to bet the under, but were priced at -140 to take the over by mid-afternoon. Boise State had the highest number at 10.5 wins; UNLV had lowest at 2.5. Alabama and Oklahoma, the co-favorites to win the BCS title, were at 10 wins. Defending BCS champion Auburn was at six wins and, according to Salmons, was lucky to make the list.
"This has got to be the largest credentialed media contingent for a nonevent," said Tony Barnhart, veteran multimedia sage of Southern football. The SEC credentialed 1,050 people for last week's gridiron fest at the Wynfrey Hotel. They take their "nonevent" football seriously down here. For three days, Wednesday through Friday, starting with Arkansas and ending with Louisiana State, fanatics of all shapes and allegiances jammed the lobby for the chance to glimpse their heroes. Think of a "Star Trek" convention combined with a rodeo.
Richt told a story about his team having a meeting where Murray and Boykin could not be found. The coach got upset and was fuming about a lack of leadership and drive from two of the Dawgs utmost statesmen. Right about then, Murray and Boykin walked in to the room wearing the uniform that the Dawgs will wear against Boise State. The entire locker room went crazy with passion and excitement. Many Georgia players went to Twitter to exclaim their pleasure with the jerseys. The actual image of the jerseys will be unveiled on August 20th. Energy and hard work is how Richt said Georgia will find redemption from last season. But, he was the only UGA representative that glowed with confidence and eagerness to begin the football season.
"I'm fine," Barron said. "It's almost 100 percent. I'm not saying it's 100 percent, there's probably some scar tissue (that needs to heal)." Asked if he believed he would be cleared for contact once hitting begins in August, Barron said, "If I had to guess I don't think I'd still be in a black jersey."
Junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who sustained a major knee injury against Arkansas in 2009, said he didn’t completely get over the mental hurdle until just before A-Day. "Last year, there’s a big difference to now," he said. "I feel like I’m one hundred percent. I feel like after the A-Day Game it shows. My pass-rush is back and I move better laterally." Coach Nick Saban disagreed a little bit. "I don't think he has completely gotten over his injury," the coach said. "He's got his explosive quickness back, his burst in pass-rush, playing with a little bit more speed, which is more like he played before his injury."
Usually when a coach says in late July that the job is still up for grabs, ulterior motives are at work. Maybe he's already got a starter in mind but he's trying to keep the top guy motivated. Or, perhaps, he's hoping to keep the projected backup from becoming the projected starter at another school in a year's time. Four months ago, I would have agreed that one or both of those scenarios were reasons for keeping the competition "open" heading into fall camp. Not now. Well, not in terms of how close the competition really is, anyway. Believe it or not, this is one of those rare cases where an August competition at the game's most important position will be real. Adding to the intrigue will be the possibility of fall camp scrimmages not being enough to identify the next multi-year starter.
"Let's just say people have been somewhat curious about an otherwise unknown culture," writer for Alabama sports blog Roll 'Bama Roll Paul Holley said of the 20-year-old Torres Strait Islander.
So I just think it's a very challenging league to play in. I think it's very difficult to have that kind of standard of excellence. But with the quality of players, coaches and programs that we have, it would not surprise me if we can continue to at least have someone in a position to have an opportunity to be in the championship game again." Now, we've had a bit of a challenging off-season with some of the things that have happened in our community, the tragedy of the tornado. I would definitely like to thank so many people who have made a positive contribution to helping rebuild our community, clean up our community. Kenny Chesney made a tremendous donation, Taylor Swift to Nick's Kids in an effort to clean up and rebuild communities. But I think the people of the state of Alabama have been stellar in how they reacted to help each other sort of rebuild our communities.
From attending funerals to visiting shelters to volunteering hands and muscle, the offseason was a unique experience for Alabama's football players and its 59-year-old coach. "I never had a player die before," Saban said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect and a completely different feeling talking in front of our team now. Maybe you take it for granted that they're all always going to be there. It's probably the same thing with your children at home if you've ever lost one. These things all have a tremendous impact and change the perspective of things."
Local clothing store owner Tom Al-Betar received a cease-and-desist letter from the University of Alabama compliance office in December of last year requesting compliance with NCAA regulations prohibiting the use of a student-athlete's name, photograph or likeness to promote a commercial product or service, but a UA investigation into the matter found no rules violations or eligibility concerns.
The idea is that you have certain plays that always work on the whiteboard against the defense you hope to see — the pass play that always works against Cover 3, the run play that works against the 4-3 under with out the linebackers cheating inside. Yes, it is what works on paper. But we don’t live in a perfect world: the "constraint" plays are designed to make sure you live in one that is as close as possible to the world you want, the world on the whiteboard.
Michael Buckner, a Florida attorney who represents schools on how to handle NCAA compliance, believes many universities aren't prepared to deal with the consequences of the North Carolina allegation. "I think it's going to come as a shock to a lot of presidents, compliance directors, athletic directors and coaches that the NCAA has now put this new obligation on universities," Buckner said. "Whether membership agrees with it or not, if this is the enforcement staff's position, schools are going to have to devise strategies that are cost-effective but at the same time demonstrate they're monitoring social media sites."
But where is the bottom of this slippery slope? Would a frequent poster on a fansite’s message board be considered a "booster?" How about someone on Twitter with an avatar and page background prominently featuring a particular university’s athletic program, and who regularly posts Tweets promoting the individual’s favorite team? If that individual has attended games, has season tickets, graduated, attended or currently attends classes at the school or has made financial contributions, the answer is a slam dunk "yes.
The season opens Nov. 1 with an exhibition game against in-state program Flagler before starting in earnest Nov. 11 at Alabama. UNF's official home debut comes Nov. 14 versus Savannah State before playing a three-game, five-day road stretch at Florida, Miami and Ohio State.
Q: The most ticked off you were after any loss in anything.
A: I gave up a walk-off home run in Super Regionals in college [at Alabama]. It cost us our chance of going to the College World Series, and it felt like the weight of the whole town was on my shoulders, we had more people there than we'd ever had. ... All eyes were on me and I didn't get the job done.