Happy Friday, everyone. By all accounts, Nick Saban lapped the field in terms of preparation and professionalism at media days. That’s probably to be expected, but the palpable air of inevitability espoused by reporters is not.
While Alabama’s dominance is great for everyone in Tuscaloosa, it’s terrible for the health of the SEC. Even ultra-passionate fanbases such as the ones that populate this conference will check out if the final result is a fait accompli. To keep everyone engaged, someone else needs to have a chance. It will be up to a few programs to create that competitive balance, because Saban isn’t showing any signs of slowing on the recruiting trail or on the field. “They’re right now at the top,” said Florida’s Jim McElwain, whose team has lost to Alabama by an average of 26 points in the past two SEC title games. “It’s up to the rest of us to go get them.”
The only thing missing from Saban’s address to hundreds of college football reporters was a laugh track. His claim of conference parity seemed more like a conference parody. His contention that his team’s youth may finally allow one of the league’s perennial pack of pretenders to challenge King Crimson for the SEC championship seemed more benevolent than believable.
This was clearly a case of Alabama’s dominant, dynastic coach dangling a shred of hope in front of his SEC underlings before methodically mashing them into a bloody pulp this fall.
This is just a sampling, Al.com has compiled more of the same from other writers if you’re so inclined. To hear the media tell it, asses have quit all over the conference and rival coaches are just biding time until Saban hangs ‘em up. If there was ever a year that the players needed to stay away from the noise, this is it, particularly considering the difficulty of the opener.
Speaking of the opener, I’m not sure if it was smart for Jimbo to put this out there at the cute little two-day event known as ACC media days:
Jimbo Fisher: "I think we've established ourselves as the premier conference in college football."— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) July 13, 2017
And then there was this gem:
Asked at ACC Media Days Thursday who he'd be rooting for when the Crimson Tide and Seminoles face off at Mercedes Benz Stadium, Swinney didn't hesitate. According to Warchant's Ryan S. Clark (among others), Swinney said "I'm pulling for a great game and I'm pulling for the Noles."
Welp, if Dabo wasn’t dead to you before, he should be now. Clown.
And let’s talk about this conference superiority thing, shall we? The ACC went 10-4 vs. SEC teams last year, but as usual the devil is in the details. First off, Clemson was 3-0 in those games. Great for them, they won the national title, but that takes the rest of the conference to 7-4. Out of those 11 games, the ACC was 5-1 vs. teams that finished below .500 in SEC play, and every one of those winners was .500 or better in ACC play save for NC State, who beat Vandy.
Louisville, at worst the #3 team in the conference, lost to Kentucky and got smacked by LSU, two teams that were a combined 9-7 in SEC play. Coastal division winner Virginia Tech was whipped by Tennessee and had to rally in the fourth to beat Arkansas, combined 7-9 in SEC play.
The wins they can really hang their hats on are the national title game, a one-point win by Georgia Tech over Georgia, and FSU over Florida. We’ll see how it goes this year. Well, besides Florida. Might as well chalk that one up for the ACC again, but it’s been that way for a while.
In so many words, Spears said Alabama has become the football equivalent of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its success has helped the Crimson Tide become more attractive to the best recruits, who want to play for the Tide, which in turn will make Alabama even more powerful. The cycle perpetuates and the image of Alabama is enhanced for kids who have never seen the Tide out of contention.
"People like winners," Spears said. "That is really what it boils down to. When you look at the national championship, that's who is there. When you look at the SEC championship, that's who is there. When you turn on the draft the last few years, a lot of players are going in the first round. All of that stuff is recruiting."
"That would change everything," Thomas said. "Everybody doesn't just get an offer from 'Bama. That's a championship program. If I do get an offer from them, that's a big game-changer right there."
"It's like your first time going to Dubai," said rising junior tailback Bo Scarbrough. "I've never been to Dubai."
Wait, what? Dubai? Alabama football has been compared to many things but never the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates.
"I know if I get to Dubai [it would be like] 'I can't believe that I'm here,'" Scarbrough said. "[Freshmen] can't believe that they're actually here playing under coach Nick Saban."
Interesting analogy from Bo, but it’s nice to hear that a scholarship offer from Alabama is, in fact, “the prize” for many prospects.
Against the Seminoles, Saban will also be breaking in a retooled defense. Alabama, which is no stranger to players leaving for the NFL, was hit hard this year, with seven total draft picks from the defensive side of the ball. Last year's consensus SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Jonathan Allen) is now gone, along with the Butkus Award winner (Reuben Foster), one of the most productive pass-rushing tandems in recent memory (Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson), a two-year starter at cornerback (Marlon Humphrey) and a longtime playmaker at safety (Eddie Jackson).
No one is weeping for the Tide, of course. Even if the defense doesn't live up to 2015 and '16 standards, it could still be the best in the conference.
There is plenty of talent on the roster, but Saban constantly preaches that every team is different. This one will have to forge its own identity with a lot of new faces on the field.
“All that crap about ‘He can’t throw it,’ that’s not true,” South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley said at SEC Media Days on Thursday. “He can spin it.”
The two took part as counselors at the Manning Passing Academy earlier this summer. Bentley, himself, started as a true freshman last season as well, taking over the Gamecocks job under center halfway through the season. In seven games, he threw for 1,420 and nine touchdowns.
Jalen’s issues have never been arm strength. He’s adequate at worst and appears to be above average in that regard. It’s the accuracy, and confidence in himself to pull the trigger knowing that the ball will go where he intends, that need development. Reports on Jalen have been positive out of the summer 7-on-7 work.
By the way, if the rumblings are true, Henry Ruggs is a freak who is about to set the world on fire.
As SEC Media Days drew to a close Thursday afternoon, it did so without the reigning Offensive Player of the Year as a main talking points. Alabama not bringing him to the Wynfrey Hotel was obviously a factor, but Hurts was mentioned less than other quarterbacks who have yet to take a snap in the league.
Well, of course the writers are going to be talking about Auburn’s most recent preseason Heisman winner.
"We're not letting the small things slide," Fitzpatrick said. "That's the reason we lost last year because we let little things slide and they added up toward the end of the season. We lost because of the small details. Leaders learn from that. We're not letting nothing slide. We're not letting the small things go away. If you're not wearing the right socks or pair of shoes, we're going to say something to you."
A ton of veteran leadership walked out the door last season. Good to see some new voices stepping up. Minkah has all the credentials.
“Brian Daboll has done a really, really good job as offensive coordinator,” Saban said in Hoover. “The players have really responded to him well. He’s got a great personality.
“I think he’s exactly what we’re looking for in terms of helping us redevelop a pro-style passing attack that would go with the athleticism with some of the spread offense that we’ve used with Jalen and our other quarterbacks, which helped us tremendously, I think.”
If Saban is happy, we are happy. As mentioned yesterday, can’t wait to see it.
Last but not least, Avery Johnson Jr. had a birthday this week, and his dad made this really cool tweet:
Great family dynamic. Hard to imagine a university having better representation in the two most visible athletic roles than the Johnsons and the Sabans.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.