Oklahoma & Texas to the SEC? Nick Saban praises Lane Kiffin? Top 5 highlights from Day 3 in Hoover
HOOVER, Ala. — There’s something different about when Nick Saban shows up in Hoover.
It’s not just that he’s got a swarm of people around him everywhere he goes. It’s an aura that surrounds him. It’s evident when he speaks. There’s a reason that he’s the greatest coach of all-time, and even in his 19th SEC Media Days, Saban’s presence still feels unlike any other.
And yet, you could argue there was more excitement in the room to hear Mike Leach speak.
Remember, COVID canceled SEC Media Days in 2020. We didn’t get the full Leach experience. That changed Wednesday. Leach showed up, delivered a 12-second opening statement, turned it over to questions and that’s all she wrote. It wasn’t peak-Leach, but we still got a reference to not taking the Tennessee job and mentions of his desired 64-team Playoff.
That wasn’t the only interesting thing from Day 3 on Hoover. There was also the whole “Texas and Oklahoma reached out to the SEC about joining the league” bombshell report that dropped Wednesday afternoon.
You know. Just casual stuff.
Here are the 5 highlights from Wednesday in Hoover:
1. Jimbo Fisher had a great reaction to Texas and Oklahoma reportedly reaching out to join the SEC
The timing of it was pretty incredible all around.
Twenty minutes before Fisher took the podium in Hoover, the Houston Chronicle report that Oklahoma and Texas reached out to the SEC about joining the conference broke.
How did Fisher feel about that?
“I bet they would,” Fisher said with a chuckle.
That said … a lot.
Fisher continued later with that same sentiment on “The Paul Finebaum Show.”
“Be careful what you ask for if you jump in this league…”
-Jimbo Fisher with some early reaction to reports that Texas & Oklahoma could be looking to join the SEC pic.twitter.com/5AWij40jO4
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) July 21, 2021
Think about that from A&M’s perspective. The Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC nearly a decade ago while the Big 12 appeared to be falling apart. Texas and Oklahoma’s status was uncertain. It was A&M who got to capitalize on the SEC’s financial benefits while the Big 12 reduced in size.
A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said that the Aggies “want to be the only SEC team in the state of Texas.” He added this, too:
Ross Bjork says he was unaware of Texas/OU interest in joining the SEC. SEC ADs have not discussed the issue, he says.
It’s clear where the Aggies stand.
“There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12 – to be stand alone & have our own identity. That’s our feeling,” he says.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 21, 2021
For what it’s worth, Greg Sankey didn’t want to comment on the speculation. There’s also a bit to work through with the TV contracts. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported that the Big 12 owns TV rights to any school that leaves the conference before the deal runs out in 2025.
Fisher said plenty of things in his half-hour in front of the media masses on Wednesday — as he usually does. He discussed not regretting his viral comment from a couple of months ago. You know. The one about Saban. “We’re going to beat his ass when he’s there. Don’t worry.” Fisher basically said that if you aren’t confident in beating the best, why compete at all?
There was also a lot said about the quarterbacks and transitioning in the post-Kellen Mond era, as well as the upside of his defensive line. He delivered a clever one-liner about NIL: “Some people have been doing Name, Image and Likeness a long time; they just haven’t been telling anybody.” Again, Fisher said a lot.
But the words “I bet they would” and Fisher’s chuckle said more than anything on Wednesday in Hoover.
2. Nick Saban really does like and appreciate Lane Kiffin
How much would you pay to sit down in a room with Kiffin and Saban just to hear them talk to each other? $100? $1,000? I don’t know what my number is. What I do know is that anytime Kiffin or Saban talk about one another, my ears perk up. They perked up on Tuesday when Kiffin talked about rat poison and how Saban will probably find a way to overcome the odds again this year.
My ears perked up again Wednesday when Saban mentioned Kiffin.
“He did a really good job (at Alabama), and I think there’s been — because we’re a little different — a lot of people have sort of wondered what the relationship was, but we never really had a bad relationship because this was always a lot of mutual respect for the kind of play-caller he was, the kind of coach that he was, and the job that he did,” Saban said. “I actually said and told the people when he went to Florida Atlantic that Lane will be a better head coach than even he is an assistant because he has those kinds of qualities.”
Isn’t that nice? Saban didn’t sound like someone who had any ill-will toward Kiffin. We’re almost 5 years removed from Kiffin’s sloppy, pre-national championship exit for FAU. If there’s any sort of grudge there, Saban certainly didn’t show it.
Instead, he was complimentary about how much Kiffin really revolutionized the Alabama offense when it watched Ole Miss have that success against the Tide back in 2014. Saban explained how he put it on Kiffin to master the spread and RPO concepts while working to maintain the pro-style concepts to make Alabama a modern offensive powerhouse. Three consecutive SEC titles with Kiffin at the offensive controls speak for themselves, and the fact that the Tide just completed their 2 best offensive seasons in program history also probably can be attributed to Kiffin’s work.
Nothing but love between these 2.
No rat poison 😅
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) July 21, 2021
3. John Metchie is sacrificing more than I realized
Every once in awhile, you’ll get a reminder that some guys deal with things away from the field that are well beyond what a college student should have to endure. Metchie is one of those guys.
Because of the pandemic’s restrictions on international travel, the Alabama wide receiver hasn’t been able to see his family in Canada in “2-ish years,” according to Metchie.
So how did the Metchie family celebrate the national championship?
“They weren’t really there for it,” Metchie said. “I think one of my brothers got there for it, but it was kind of just being on the phone with them. Of course they were happy for me, and I was happy, so we’ve kind of just been handling it as best as we could.”
Think back to this past season when teams opted out of bowl games, citing that players hadn’t seen their families in 6 months. Now picture being Metchie and going almost 2 years without seeing loved ones.
“It has been tough,” Metchie said, “but I definitely always remind myself that even since high school, going to a boarding school, I’m definitely making the sacrifice and working here to make a sacrifice for my family, and hopefully one day it could pay off for them.”
Here’s hoping Metchie, who will likely be a preseason All-SEC pick, can reunite with his family up north sooner rather than later.
4. What was it like to tackle guys without numbers? Vandy’s Daevion Davis explains
Vanderbilt has been practicing without numbers on the jerseys during the Clark Lea era. They started with black T-shirts. As of Wednesday, there are 5 players on the roster who have numbers.
One of those players is Davis. He went in-depth about how that process from Lea.
“That’s just what had to happen. We were told that we were restarting, we were stripping it all by our head man, Coach Lea,” Davis said. “He wanted a new culture, a new feel for us. He wanted us to not just slap logos on something and make it a T-shirt or something like that or have a slogan, but he wanted us to live it. He wanted us to make what we were seeing committable and actionable.”
Davis said all the things you’d want a player to say — it helped them grow, he appreciated that uniform that much more, etc. That’s all well and good.
But, um, what about the whole “knowing who to block and tackle” thing?
“I think the O-line and quarterbacks hated it all spring because they couldn’t ID anybody,” Davis said. “We were having fun with it. We were kicking their tails. They were just trying to figure out who’s who, but at the end of the day, we knew who everybody was. No number, but you had your last name on the back of the jersey.
“You knew somebody’s face, and it’s football, so see ball, get ball.”
I don’t know, man. Last I checked, football is also playing with numbers. But hey, you do you, Vandy.
Thankfully, Davis has his number. No. 9 is officially off limits in Nashville.
5. How does Mike Leach feel about not getting the Tennessee job in 2017? “Lucky for me”
It’s no secret that after the 2017 season, Leach talked with ex-Tennessee athletic director John Currie about replacing Butch Jones. Soon thereafter, Currie was told he didn’t have a job to offer and he was fired as athletic director.
Leach was asked Wednesday if he thought that he was going to be the next coach at Tennessee. And as only Leach could, he delivered.
“I talked to Tennessee, but nothing ever got nailed down. Then pretty soon they had a coup d’état there,” Leach said. “You guys can sort that among yourselves. It’s pretty well-documented. I didn’t end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me.”
Mike Leach comments on Tennessee’s interest in him a few years back:
“Yeah, I didn’t end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me.” pic.twitter.com/e2afwGfmGB
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) July 21, 2021
It’s a fascinating sliding doors moment.
Where would Tennessee be right now if Leach had been hired instead of Jeremy Pruitt? Would the Vols have beaten Alabama, Florida or Georgia? What about MSU? Who would’ve replaced Joe Moorhead after the 2019 season? One would think Leach would’ve been entering Year 4 in Knoxville instead of Josh Heupel entering Year 1.
Did Leach dodge a bullet? Or would Leach have prevented Tennessee from dodging a bullet with the way the Pruitt era turned out?
We’ll never know. The only thing we do know?
Leach is happy he didn’t stick his hand in the hornets nest.