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VOL. 129 | NO. 139 | Friday, July 18, 2014

SEC Media Days Notebook: July 17

By Don Wade

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HOOVER, Ala. – As usual, there was a large contingent of Alabama fans gathered in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Birmingham that cheered upon first sight of coach Nick Saban.

But once Saban reached the podium at SEC Media Days, he wasn’t talking about battling complacency after winning that last national championship – or the last two national championships.

Instead, Alabama’s most recent season ended with losing its last two games – to Auburn in the Iron Bowl and to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

“Our situation as a team is a lot different than the last couple of years,” Saban said. “It’s a little different mindset.”

Saban went on to say that this edition of the Crimson Tide is “basically an unproven team in some areas.”

None more so than quarterback, where A.J. McCarron has left big cleats to fill.

From the outside, there is a widespread assumption that Florida State transfer Jacob Coker has won the job. Saban tried to shoot that down, going to great pains to mention that senior Blake Sims is very much a part of the quarterback competition.

“The development of that position, regardless of who the player is, is going to be critical to the success of our team,” Saban said.

Media casting ballots picked Alabama to win the SEC championship. Auburn was second in the voting, South Carolina third, Georgia fourth and LSU fifth. Ole Miss picked up two votes and Arkansas and Mississippi State each received one.

By division, voters had the West this way: 1. Alabama. 2. Auburn. 3. LSU. 4. Ole Miss. 5. Mississippi State. 6. Texas A&M. 7. Arkansas.

In the East: 1. South Carolina. 2. Georgia. 3. Florida. 4. Missouri. 5. Tennessee. 6. Vanderbilt. 7. Kentucky.

Worth noting: The media pick for SEC champ has been wrong 18 of the last 22 years and all five times the media picked Alabama to win the Crimson Tide did not.

This was not lost on Saban, of course.

“Just to let you know, we’re evaluating you,” Saban said.

As for individual player voting …

First-team offensive choices included Auburn’s Nick Marshall at quarterback and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley at running back. Ole Miss offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi also was a first-team choice.

First-team defensive selections included Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson, Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and Rebels defensive back Cody Prewitt.

Alabama had the most first-team selections with nine. Almost 300 media members participated in the voting this year.

FREEZE

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn played golf together at the league’s spring meetings. So a reporter asked about their pace of play,” a natural question given the way they run their offenses.

“We played in under three hours,” Freeze said. “Not many practice swings in that group. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember any.”

Freeze said his short haircut also goes back to that day of golf and a bet with Spurrier.

“If he won our match, come Media Day, you had to buzz-cut your hair, so that’s why my hair is so short today. Really, there is some truth to that and there’s another story behind it, too, but we’ll give Spurrier the credit for that.”

Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace also was sporting a shorter look with the hair. He says it will stay that way this year; no more locks flowing out the back of his helmet.

“Honestly, I looked at the bowl game and thought (the hair) was really too long,” Wallace said. “I’m trying to have more of a professional approach my senior year, but the long hair was fun.”

Jeremy Pruitt went from winning national titles as Alabama’s secondary coach to last year winning one as defensive coordinator at Florida State. Now, he’s defensive coordinator for Georgia, and senior linebacker Ramik Wilson says everything has changed.

“A lot of players care more, a lot of people give more effort, a lot of people want to be great and go down in Georgia history,” Wilson said.

Wilson says Pruitt is not a screamer because he doesn’t have to be.

“He doesn’t yell,” Wilson said. “He just gives you a look – do right.”

Asked if Pruitt was a nice guy, Wilson laughed a little and said, “He shows flashes of it. He’s a great dude. He means no harm.”

SEC Media Days set a new record with an attendance of 1,267.

Unofficially, only 1,263 of those believe there should be two SEC teams in the four-team college football playoff every year.

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