Monday, August 13, 2007

News around the SEC

Looking around the SEC today, there are a few news articles of interest that deserve comment.

First up is this article in The Chattanoogan by Roy Exum. It describes an event during Bear Bryant's reign at Alabama involving one of his players and pot back during the early 1970's.

If you haven't read this story or heard it before, you really should just bookmark the link above and do it. It is one of the most fascinating stories I have ever read about Bear Bryant, and even if you don't love Alabama football, you should read this. I have always been a sucker for stories about redemption.

Continuing with the Alabama theme, we have this story from the Memphis commercial appeal about Nick Saban. Seems he is as much of a stranger to his players as he is to most Alabama fans. I found this kind of interesting:

Fair or not, Saban has become the poster child for coaching-salary excess ($5 million per year), though Castille, speaking to reporters at SEC Media Days last month in Birmingham, said he had been unaware that Saban is the highest-paid coach in college football. If Saban resides in a stratospheric tax bracket, well, Castille could not care less.

"I mean, the only time I ever really think of it is when I see him hop into his Mercedes," Castille said.

Now, I don't know Nick Saban from a load of coal, but I don't particularly like to see coaches parading expensive cars in front of players. I would rather Saban come to work in a less ostentatious vehicle. It's no mystery to anyone that he is the highest paid college coach in America, but tooling around campus in a Mercedes just doesn't seem like the best way to demand sacrifice from your players. I'm probably just old-fashioned, though.

On top of this, Cary Estes at ESPN thinks Nick Saban is overrated, and he may have a point. But one thing is for sure -- Nick Saban has energized the considerable Alabama fan base, and that is good news for a dispirited Tide following who must feel like the post-Bryant years are like Moses' time in the desert. They are starved for national relevance, and while Saban is a rock star now, he will have very far to fall if he doesn't deliver -- and soon.

From one overrated thing to another, Trev Alberts of CSTV thinks Florida is overrated this year:
Florida is the most-overrated preseason team in the last 10 years. I understand what they achieved last year. But with what they lost, the conference they play in, to be No. 3 in the country in the Coaches' Poll? They're probably No. 11, No. 12, just outside the Top 10 if you ask me. All of their preseason rankings are based on what they accomplished last year.
I think he's right in one respect -- the Gators are ranked way too high at number three. But I don't think they deserve a ranking outside the top ten, either.

Complicating Florida's situation is their kicking game, which, if you believe this report, is in even worse shape than last year. Chris Hetland was only 6-15 last year, including 3-11 outside of 20 yards, and he is gone. Who will replace him? Well, at this point, neither Joey Ijjas or Jonathan Phillips is setting the world on fire.

The Gators weren't exactly the hottest special teams school in the SEC last year. The fact that their kicking game seems to be sub-Gator standard is not promising, and only reinforces the idea that perhaps the Gators are not quite worthy of their lofty pre-season ranking.

Auburn is dealing with a good news/bad news situation. The good news is freshman quarterback Kodi Burns is making a serious impression on the coaching staff. The bad news is that Auburn is racking up some serious injuries, including some hits to the O-line and special teams.

Arkansas cannot seem to go a day without off the field controversy. This time, it comes in the form of an ESPN report that Darren McFadden has already taken a decision to enter the NFL draft after this year, which allegedly came from McFadden's mother. Now, that news should come as a surprise to no one, except it did -- to his mother.

On top of all the Houston Nutt drama, this is just one more distraction Arkansas doesn't need.

Maybe I was too hard on Bobby O'Shea's review of the Vanderbilt Commodore's season this year. Bobby thinks that the 'Dores will go 8-4, and articles like this from the Jackson Sun help reinforce the view that the Commies might well surprise some of the big boys this year. I still don't see 8-4, but 6-6 or even 7-5 seem very realistic to me.