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Additions of Oklahoma, Texas help him, Leach says

by Tom Murphy, Bob Holt | July 20, 2022 at 3:17 a.m.

ATLANTA -- Mississippi State Coach Mike Leach zinged Oklahoma and Texas when asked how he thought the SEC would change with their additions to the league.

Leach said the Bulldogs have been widely judged to have the toughest schedule in the country, so adding Oklahoma and Texas can't make it any more difficult.

"I get asked that especially from the Texas and the Oklahoma people, [and] from their standpoint I think it's going to change things quite dramatically," Leach said.

"From our standpoint, I mean, you guys have us as having the toughest schedule in the country. So that being the case, we can't play everybody. So knock two of those guys off and add OU and Texas, and I probably gained about half a step I would think.

"I mean, the two most eastern teams in the West are the two Alabama schools, so send them east, and we have to play Texas and OU, and I probably gained a little on that."

Jimbo-Nick tiff

Alabama players Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. had differing thoughts on the war of words this spring between their Coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher regarding recruiting and name, image and likeness implementation.

Young went the more diplomatic route.

"Both coaches are great coaches and great competitors," he said. "When you're competing at this high of a level stuff like that is bound to happen. For us, we have a lot of respect for Texas A&M as a team. We know how good they are."

Said Anderson, "A couple of my teammates said something. For me, I watched it. ... I don't really get into all the social media stuff. I don't tweet any of that. When we play Texas A&M, everything will be addressed then."

Luau invite

During his introduction of Vanderbilt Coach Clark Lea, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey pointed out that the Commodores are playing at Hawaii in what is called Week 0 of the season.

"Just a commissioner's note, I'm going to be making that trip to watch Vanderbilt play at Hawaii using my frequent flyer miles."

Vanderbilt Coach Clark Lea acknowledged Sankey's remarks.

"We'll make sure you get the invite to the luau," Lea said. "We won't leave you out of that."

No surprise to Nick

Alabama Coach Nick Saban gave a philosophical response when asked about finally losing to some of his former assistants last year.

Saban had run his record to 24-0 against his former assistants before the Crimson Tide fell to Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M 41-38 on Oct. 9. Then Kirby Smart and Georgia downed Alabama 33-18 in the College Football Playoff title game.

Saban now has four of his former assistants as SEC head coaches -- with Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin and Florida's Billy Napier joining Fisher and Smart -- and Texas' Steve Sarkisian is scheduled to join the conference in three years.

"All the coaches who have had opportunities to go on and be head coaches in Division I, I'm very proud of," Saban said. "I think they all did an outstanding job for us.

"Sooner or later these people that get these opportunities would get in situations where they had a chance to have nationally recognized, nationally powerful, whatever you want to call it, top-ranked teams like Georgia was last year, like Texas will be I'm sure very soon with Sark[isian] being the head coach there, the staff that he has, the job that they're doing.

"This is not something that is surprising to me. A lot of people are at really, really good schools."

Bryce & Sark

Alabama junior quarterback Bryce Young will face his former offensive coordinator when the Crimson Tide play at Texas on Sept. 10.

Steve Sarkisian, in his second season as the Longhorns' coach, was Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020.

"Sark was a very instrumental part of me going to Alabama," Young said. "He's the one who recruited me. I have a lot of love for Sark. He's an amazing coach, great guy."

No Rattler

South Carolina Coach Shane Beamer was accompanied to Atlanta by offensive lineman Jovaughn Gwyn, receiver Dakereon Joyner and defensive lineman Zacch Pickens, meaning transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler did not make the trip.

"In my mind, it was three guys that epitomize what this program is about," Beamer told local reporters. "Three guys that are great leaders of our program. Jovaughn is a returning captain. Zacch has played a lot of football. [Joyner] has done what he's done. And Spencer will have enough opportunities to be in the limelight, for sure.

"I reached out to Spencer, just to make sure he understood why I wasn't bringing him and he was great. He's like, 'You don't have to call me. Take those guys. they're deserving. There will enough opportunities as the year goes.'"

No middle man

Mississippi State Coach Mike Leach thanked commissioner Greg Sankey for introducing him, then said, "Any questions?"

That two-word opening statement contrasted with the 15-plus minute opening of Vanderbilt's Clark Lea.

Asked later why he didn't use an opener, Leach said, "Well, I hate opening statements. I really don't see the point of it.

"So as opposed to me thinking of some flowery opening statement, which I've done before, and then at the end of the opening statement a number of people ask questions that have already been addressed in my opening statement, I decided we'd just sort of cut out the middleman. You go ahead and ask the questions, and I'll go ahead and answer 'em."

Hogs down

When going over rules changes for the 2022 season, SEC coordinator of officials John McDaid had three video clips involving the Razorbacks. In all three instances, the Razorback in question was the one being impacted by what would now be a foul.

Against Auburn last year, the Tigers' center fired out and blocked middle linebacker Grant Morgan below the knees on an outside run. The block was legal last season but would draw a penalty this year because it was not within a yard of the line of scrimmage.

On another clip from two years ago, the Razorbacks ran a screen pass at Florida and lineman Ty Clary was out in front of the play and blocking downfield when a Gator defensive back dove low to take Clary out below the knees. The play was legal in 2020, but it will not be moving forward as it was performed by a non-defensive lineman outside the tackle box.

Another clip involving the Razorbacks dealt with defining when a defensive player turns into an offensive player. In the clip from last season, a Texas A&M player grabbed and slung down a Razorback on an Arkansas punt about 25 yards downfield. The new rules would allow for defining the Aggie as an offensive player at that point, and he would be called for offensive holding.

Hall of Fame dad

South Carolina Coach Shane Beamer sounded pumped to be back in Atlanta, where he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech.

Beamer, son of legendary Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, was also stoked about having media days at the College Football Hall of Fame.

"This is a venue that my family and I love to visit," he said. "If you haven't had an opportunity ... to visit this awesome venue, please do.

"It's pretty cool to be down here on the main floor and to know that there's a Hall of Fame exhibit of my father literally one floor up that I was just looking at as we came down. Certainly no pressure from that standpoint as well."

Mrs. Terry says

Alabama Coach Nick Saban frequently makes references to his wife, Terry, and her role in dispensing household chores during his media day appearances.

During his opening statement in the main room, Saban said "I'm the leader of an organization, but I'm not the leader when I'm on vacation. When I get the list to take the garbage out, run the sweeper, Pledge the refrigerator, it's always, after a certain period of time, refreshing to be able to go back to work so that I can be the leader of an organization."

Later in breakout room, he was asked what he would want someone to know about him if they didn't know him, he replied, "How well I clean house. I get a list every day. I try to play golf in morning.

"When I get back, I get a list. ... Nobody knows how well I do those things."

O'Brien set

Seven SEC quarterbacks, including Arkansas junior KJ Jefferson, were named Tuesday to the watch list for the Davey O'Brien Award, which is given annually to the country's top quarterback.

The other SEC players on the 35-man watch list are Alabama's Bryce Young, Georgia's Stetson Bennett, Tennessee's Hendon Hooker, Mississippi State's Will Rogers, Kentucky's Will Levis and South Carolina's Spencer Rattler.

Former Arkansas State quarterback Logan Bonner, now at Utah State and reunited with Coach Blake Anderson, is also on the list, as is Gerry Bohanon of Earle, who transferred from Baylor to South Florida in May.


Alabama Coach Nick Saban came to the podium a few minutes after his scheduled time of 9 a.m. Eastern because a massive rain storm was hitting the College Football Hall of Fame, creating a din due to the non-metal, fiberglass-like roof.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey introduced Saban with a reference to the 2008 SEC Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome, which included a tornado.

The intensity of the rain let up just as Sankey began introducing Saban, leading a reporter to ask if Saban had control of the weather.

The storm grew louder near the end of Saban's opening remarks, had a lull during Alabama player interviews, then came back strong and loud during Vanderbilt Coach Clark Lea's opening statement.

Team two

Vanderbilt Coach Clark Lea referred several times to his "team two" with the Commodores during his essay like opening statement.

After a 2-10 season in his debut, Lea defined what went wrong in specific terms.

"Once we reached the season, we were forced to confront our reality, and our physical, mental, technical and tactical deficiencies were evident from the start," Lea said. "I want to be clear that the season was challenging on many levels, but we were not victimized by that adversity.

"Last fall was a necessary experience for us. It exposed the true starting point for this early start of our build as a program. The adversity of the fall broke off all the parts of us that were fake and unbelieving. It stripped us down to our studs. From there, we started our build."

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