ATLANTA — SEC Media Day 2 began with a visit from Thor by way of Tuscaloosa. With Nick Saban, Heisman winner Bryce Young and other members of the Tide scheduled to appear, some of the hardcore Bama faithful made their way to the College Football Hall of Fame to greet their heroes.
The four-day media spectacle is a pretty sedate affair, at least by the standards of an SEC tailgate, but the hardcores like this duo — or the autograph hunters toting enormous duffel bags of memorabilia – often slip in around the edges. It adds a little spice to a pretty calm affair. (Everyone’s happy about getting back to football, everyone’s feeling good about their chances.)
The highlights from Day 2:
Mike Leach, man of few words
Several coaches use media days as an opportunity to hold forth on the state of the game, or the state of their program, as they see it. Vanderbilt’s Clark Lea, for instance, held forth for more than 2,300 words on his vision for the Commodores.
“A team that plays with total effort and plays together will compete with purpose for every blade of grass on the field. This fighting spirit, combined with a smart, integrative strategy, will give everything this team needs to realize its potential,” he said. “The line of progress in our program is clear internally. It shows up in subtle ways: small conversations and interactions, small habits, winning choices, silent commitments, work in the shadows.”
Others, like Mississippi State’s Mike Leach, keep it simple. Leach’s opening statement was just two words: “Any questions?”
Why Nick Saban doesn’t like vacation
Nick Saban delved in depth into complex topics like NIL and recruitment. But he set the stage with the revelation that he’s not a big fan of vacations … for a not-at-all-surprising reason.
“Lots of people love vacation, but I'm the leader of an organization,” he said. “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.”
Every game is circled
With Alabama in the house on Tuesday, talk turned to the Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher spat from earlier this year. Not surprisingly, Alabama players didn’t engage in any kind of Texas A&M trash talk. When asked if the team had circled its Oct. 8 game against the Aggies, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson didn’t bite.
“Every game is circled,” he said. “Every game is a national championship.”
Shane Beamer, coming in hot
Count this among the things Nick Saban would never do: South Carolina’s Shane Beamer used media days to debut a new hype video, dancing to Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On”:
“That came together very quickly,” Beamer said at his Tuesday afternoon session. “Walked in, changed clothes, knocked it out in three takes. Had a lot of fun doing it as well. I was a little bit taken aback because one of our players thought I needed to hear the song so I knew what the song was and I knew what the words were. I'm not that old. I know who Soulja Boy is. I know some of the words to that song. It was an easy ask.”
NIL as a starting line, not a finish line
Sobering quote from Lea on the way colleges can’t just use up and discard players, their most valuable assets, in pursuit of short-term NIL gains:
“We believe firmly that if the earning potential of our players, our team members, is greatest in their lifetime between the ages of 18 and 22, then we and our collective system have failed them completely.”
The Mike Leach Show
Dressed like a fraternity pledge — navy jacket, loose khakis, tie not quite square — Leach was easily the most relaxed coach of the first two days. He offered up a few TV recommendations — “Operation: Odessa,” “Better Call Saul,” “Yellowstone,” "Stranger Things” — and solicited more from the assembled media.
He also offered up his own idea on divisional realignment once Texas and Oklahoma arrive. “I mean, the two most eastern teams in the West are the two Alabama schools,” he said, “so send them east, and we have to play Texas and OU, and I probably gained a little on that.”
“We know in time Vanderbilt football will be the best program in the country.” - Clark Lea
SEC media days continue Wednesday with Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky and defending national champion Georgia.