Photo courtesy of Auburn athletics
From Lane Kiffin to Dan Mullen, the first two days of SEC Media Days were just as entertaining as one would think.
Still, there was a chance for even more entertainment. Nick Saban, Clark Lea, Mike Leach, and Jimbp Fisher headlined the Day 3 group. SEC Media Days were concluded on Day 4 with Eli Drinkwitz, Sam Pittman, and Bryan Harsin.
Here are some quick notes and reactions from the remaining coaches:
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban
All eyes were on Alabama head coach Nick Saban headed into SEC Media Days. Following yet another national championship season, here is everything Coach Saban had to say:
- “This is an indication that we’re moving back to normal,” Saban said right after taking the stage.
- Saban praised Alabama’s new strength program: “It’s improved us in explosive movement and injury prevention.”
- Coach Saban wasn’t hesitant to point out the losses for Alabama this past offseason. However, he also stated that he was pleased with the progress of the new players and coaches.
- Mentioned that the loss of spring ball really hurt defensive development: “You couldn’t react to anyone because you couldn’t practice against each other.”
- “They were 8-3 last year with a lot of good returning players,” Saban said of Miami, Alabama’s Week 1 opponent.
- Saban simply stated that he had no answer for NIL and the ever-changing landscape of college football. Saban refused to comment, stating that “anything I say now will probably be wrong.”
- The key to longevity in college football? “I think that’s simple. You gotta win.”
- On Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin: “We never had a bad relationship because we always had mutual respect for the kind of play-caller he was.”
- Praised the development of offensive lineman Javion Cohen. Says that he projects to be a starter this fall.
- Cracked a joke when asked about 12 personnel football: “What is 12 personnel?”
Vanderbilt Head Coach Clark Lea
Clark Lea is the third of the four new head coaches in the league to take the stage at SEC Media Days. Here is what he had to say about his unique opportunity at Vandy:
- In Lea’s opening statement, he mentioned “redesigning the program.” He had two adjectives: “Redefine what it means to be a Vanderbilt football player….. Build the best team in the country.”
- “This team has a long way to go,” Lea said of his team before fall camp.
- “We believe this is the best student-athlete opportunity in the country.”
- Lea on success: “I’m a competitor. I didn’t come to Vanderbilt for anything other than to win.”
- On why Lea is back at Vandy: “There is no better program in the country than Vanderbilt football; that’s why I’m back.”
- OPINION: Of the four hires in the SEC this past offseason, Lea will probably experience the most losing. However, he is the best fit at his new program. His plans to build a program and take advantage of his opportunities are things that people only inside Vanderbilt would understand. On top of that, he has seen up close what Vanderbilt needs to be successful. Do we know how Lea’s tenure at Vandy will turn out? No, but he is absolutely a great fit at Vanderbilt.
Mississippi State Head Coach Mike Leach
Mike Leach is one of the oldest coaches in the league, but is still only walking into his first SEC Media Days. Leach is always a fun interview. Here are the most notable things from his turn at the podium:
- “I’m not a big opening statement guy, and y’all are going to ask whatever you want anyways.”
- On the best trait of a quarterback: “Someone who makes all 11 guys better.”
- On having fans back: “I think it’s critical….It’s important to our fans.”
- On the transfer portal: “There is way too many people on there… Too often, there is a temptation to cut and run.”
- Key to the longevity in the air raid scheme: “You utilize the personnel and you utilize the space you’re provided.”
- On the quarterback competition: “You don’t have enough reps to give to four quarterbacks.”
- Leach on if 12 teams is enough for the College Football Playoff: “Well it’s never enough….but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction.”
- On NIL and it’s effects on recruiting: “I think we’ll know a lot more in the future… I think if we end up with bidding wars, that will hurt college football.”
- On if there was a moment he thought he would be the coach at Tennessee: “I talked to Tennessee…. but I didn’t end up in the middle of the coo.”
- On if Leach is vaccinated: “If I was or I wasn’t, I wouldn’t share it with you.”
- Leach is a supporter in getting rid of the crossover game. “There’s some teams you don’t see for like six years.”
Texas A&M Head Coach Jimbo Fisher
Jimbo Fisher turned heads this offseason with some rather bold statements about Saban. Let’s see what else to say:
- Is confident with the young talent Texas A&M has at quarterback and on the offensive line.
- On recruiting: “Our talent keeps going up, up, up.”
- Thoughts on the 12-team playoff: “I think it’s necessary.”
- Believes that both Zach Calzada and Haynes King are NFL-level quarterbacks.
- On if he regrets saying he’ll beat Saban: “That’s what we are here for, right?”
- Initial takeaways from NIL: “I know this: none of it is going to be equal.”
- “Each team has a one-year life expectancy.”
- On the vibe of the program: “From what I’ve seen…. I feel really confident in our guys.”
- On Texas and Oklahoma wanting to join the SEC: “I bet they would.”
- Is really confident with his wide receivers room. Had high praise for seven or eight different guys.
Missouri Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz
Entering his second season in the SEC, here’s a look at what Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz said:
- Is happy with the positive momentum he has built, but says they’re still not where they want to be.
- Applauded Mizzou’s work in the transfer portal, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
- On Texas and Oklahoma wanting to join the SEC: “I’ve been trying to tell people; everybody wants to play in the SEC.
- On the time he spent coaching with Auburn’s Bryan Harsin: “A lot of the things we do as a program are a direct result of the things I’ve learned from him….. He always has a plan.”
- “I kinda like the rivalry we have with Arkansas. I can’t remember the last time they beat us.”
- “In order to win the SEC, you have to win your division.”
- The importance with the Kentucky match-up: “Going to be a tremendous challenge on the road….. I think you have to focus on who you are, what you want to become, and play to your strengths.”
- On quarterback Connor Bazelak; “He really played within himself… He’s a maverick.”
Arkansas Head Coach Sam Pittman
Coming off a big turnaround for Arkansas in Sam Pittman’s first year, he took the stage for the first time at SEC Media Days.
- “We have an outstanding team that’s worked extremely hard. They’ve bought into what we’re selling.”
- Praised his coaching staff for their ability to communicate with the players.
- Praised defensive coordinator Barry Odom: “I bounce things off him frequently.”
- On Week 1 opponent Rice: “They’re very physical.”
- Praised Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian for his play-calling last season at Alabama.
- Praised his former head coach Kirby Smart: “I wouldn’t be the head coach of Arkansas without him.”
- Named KJ Jefferson as the starting quarterback, but praised the competition emerging behind him.
- “We didn’t have enough defensive linemen to put on the field,” Pittman said of last season’s situation.
- On Oklahoma and Texas: “I really haven’t thought about it much.”
- On the transfer portal: “I think the transfer portal just happens.”
- “The relentless pursuit of athletes.” That’s how Pittman described Smart’s recruiting.
- “The only way you have a chance to win is to play hard.”
- On the Missouri rivalry: “We consider Missouri our No. 1 rival.”
Auburn Head Coach Bryan Harsin
First-year Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin concluded an action-packed week at SEC Media Days. Here are some reflections from his first media day:
- “We’re going to have competition at every position on our team in fall camp.”
- Praised the way the SEC handled COVID-19 in the fall; says he admired it from afar in the Mountain West Conference while at Boise State.
- Says his family loves Auburn. Praised the surrounding community for their support.
- Says Auburn is “at the 60% range” in terms of vaccinations. The SEC threshold is 85%.
- On NIL: “There’s not gonna be deals for everyone on the team.”
- Says he is most excited about experiencing Tiger Walk. Also excited to see the students roll Toomer’s Corner.
- Told a story where he and Chris Peterson went to visit with Gus Malzahn in 2007. Harsin said that Boise State implemented some of his ideology into the offense next year.
- On if he understands what he’s walking into at Auburn: “I want to win… every little thing has mattered.”
- Called Jordan-Hare Stadium a “ground-shaking” atmosphere when he coached there in 2013.
- On if it was hard to leave Boise for Auburn: “I bleed blue, always will… there’s been other opportunities, but not like this.”
- On the culture he wants to build at Auburn: “Show up, care, and repeat.”