Everything I found interesting from Day 2 of SEC Media Days in Atlanta
ATLANTA — It’s not quite Hoover, but it’s still a sight to see.
I’m of course referring to that moment when Nick Saban walks through the door and immediately takes over a room. It’s not quite the autograph session that we see when SEC Media Days are usually in Hoover, where it usually feels like it’s a fire code with the amount of crimson awaiting the G.O.A.T.
Tuesday morning in Atlanta, Saban made his presence felt by capturing the attention of a significant (but not overcrowded) group of fans in the College Football Hall of Fame lobby. Even media members hurrying to their seats before he takes the stage is always unique. It was only fitting that a pounding rain came to a halt immediately after he approached the main podium. Bob Holt then all but asked Saban if he stopped the rain.
If that’s not an ideal way to start Day 2 of SEC Media Days, I don’t know what is.
Here’s everything I found interesting from Day 2 with Alabama, Vanderbilt, MSU and South Carolina:
Nick Saban wants us to ask other coaches how they know that he’ll retire
Even the G.O.A.T. has to deal with negative recruiting.
That’s right. Saban said he’s well aware of other coaches saying the 70-year-old coach is ready to fade off into the sunset.
“I love my job. I love the relationships with the players. I love the competition, I love the preparation for the games and I just love it,” Saban said. “I wish you all would ask all the other coaches that come up here, because they tell all the recruits I’m going to retire. Why don’t you ask them how they know I’m going to retire? When all I think about is what am I going to do if I retire, a’ight. I love what I’m doing now so how am I going to be happy not doing it.”
The fact that he threw an “a’ight” in there tells you everything you need to know. Clearly, though, Saban isn’t having any issues recruiting even though he’s the league’s oldest coach by a decade. He signed the No. 2 class in America in 2022, which was lost in the shuffle of A&M’s historically dominant (and historically controversial) class.
In defense of other coaches, what else can you say to a recruit to make them not want to go to Alabama? That’s really the only card that a program can play, especially now that it runs a modern, prolific offense.
Saban said that he wants us (media members) to ask other coaches about negatively recruiting against him. How incredible would that be if Jimbo Fisher’s first question he received was “hey, Jimbo, do you know when Nick Saban is gonna retire?”
I might’ve just talked myself into doing something stupid on Thursday.
You’re darn right I asked Mike Leach for his Netflix recommendations
A little birdie told me on Monday that they spent a good amount of time in a production meeting asking Leach about his rather long list of Netflix watches.
When Greg Sankey introduced Leach by saying that the MSU coach had plenty of recommendations but he had yet to share them, well, I couldn’t resist trying to get that answer.
“Yeah, I wish I’d watched more Netflix lately. And I haven’t,” Leach said. “Somebody said I need to watch ‘The Terminal List,’ which I haven’t watched it yet. I guess the hidden gem, which I think I said it last year, “Operation Odessa,” that documentary, you need to watch that about these international criminals that try to buy a submarine for Pablo Escobar. That’s worth watching.
“I wish I could tell you I watched more Netflix. I haven’t watched a lot lately. During the season, it’s good to watch to kind of get your head straight. I’m up to date on ‘Better Call Saul,’ I’m up to date on ‘Yellowstone.'”
But wait, there’s more!
“Yeah, I’ll tell you, that’s part of it. The kids got me into ‘Stranger Things.’ I’m certainly not ready for this season, I’m about halfway through. I don’t know,” Leach said. “If you guys have any good recommendations, I could probably use ’em. So I guess I’ll defer to the numbers here.”
— The Next Round (@NextRoundLive) July 19, 2022
As my SDS colleague Adam Spencer pointed out, for a guy who hasn’t watched much Netflix lately, Leach sure did have a lot of recommendations. Leach did get some tips from the media, too.
“Severance” was suggested by a media member. “Don’t try any funny stuff,” Leach said. Leach also pretended to know what the new doc “Countdown to Pearl Harbor” was and seconded when a media member suggested that.
Perhaps Leach thought twice about being knowledgable with all things Netflix. After all, he does get paid $5 million to do his non-Netflix job.
Clark Lea named Mike Wright his starter, which is super easy to figure out after speaking to Wright
In a stunning turn of events, an SEC coach released the winner of his quarterback battle at SEC Media Days. I can’t tell you the last time that happened.
We sort of assumed that when Vandy announced that Mike Wright was coming as a player representative that it meant he was the starter, but Lea made it official during his opening statement Tuesday. Wright took over as the midseason starter and added another dimension to the offense behind a leaky offensive line. It’s not necessarily a surprise to see that he won the starting job. Wright found out after the spring that he was gonna be the starter.
And if you spend 10 minutes speaking to him, you’ll see exactly why he won over that locker room.
Maybe Wright was feeling comfortable back in his home state(he grew up idolizing former Falcons QB Michael Vick), but the new Vandy starting quarterback was as personable as any player in Atlanta.
“I’m not the most traditional quarterback,” Wright said. “There’s not too many quarterbacks out there who play with my style, but there’s a guy who will plant his back foot like mine. There’s a guy who thinks like me in the league. So I’ll pull from Russell Wilson, I’ll watch Lamar (Jackson).
“I’ll never watch Pat Mahomes because that’s a different guy. He does stuff that nobody else can imitate.”
Wright talked about going to the Manning Passing Academy and getting closer to Hendon Hooker even though he’s from “the orange school,” as Wright said.
I asked Wright, who was decked out in a plaid suit with a blue bow tie, if anyone in Atlanta was dressed better than him.
“No,” Wright said with a laugh. “Fashion is me. I love to dress up. I love to wear suits. I love wearing Miguel Wilson. Number one suitmaker in the land. In the world. I love him. Great guy. You send him your sizes, he reads your personality, he gives you everything you need. He gave me this (suit) today and he gave me this Hercules beetle. The Vanderbilt is coming out in me right now.
“Hercules beetle, can lift over 800 times its body weight. So right now, I’m here representing 110 guys on our team and representing our whole entire institution back home, so I gotta be a Hercules beetle.”
I mean, see for yourself.
Vandy QB Mike Wright has been a crowd favorite on Day 2.
Says he watches tapes of all the great QBs to help his game. Except Pat Mahomes bc “That guy is different.”
— Saturday Down South (@SatDownSouth) July 19, 2022
I went over to Vandy teammate Anfernee Orji and asked him about Wright’s claim that he was the best-dressed guy in Atlanta.
“He is the best-dressed guy here. For now,” Orji said. “But I am definitely the best-dressed guy …”
Then Orji spoke directly into the microphone to try and get Wright’s attention across the room. “Anfernee Orji is the best-dressed football player at Vanderbilt University. I’m gonna say that one more time for Mike Wright over there answering questions. Anfernee Orji is the best-dressed football player at Vanderbilt University. That is on the record. Mike has today, but I have him every other day.”
Shane Beamer saved Dakereon Joyner’s football career
Dakereon Joyner loves the idea of being listed on South Carolina’s depth chart as “football player.” He’ll line up at receiver, he’ll line up in the backfield and he’ll even go back to his old position of quarterback if needed, like when he stole the show en route to Mayo Bowl MVP honors last season.
Entering Year 5 of his atypical college career, Joyner admitted something that I had never heard him say before.
“I was gonna hang it up and stop playing,” Joyner said on Tuesday. “But Coach Beamer and Coach (Justin) Stepp changed that for me.”
From South Carolina’s final game of 2020 until spring ball, he thought his football days were over.
“Mentally, I wasn’t there,” Joyner said. “I was checked out.”
What led to that? A few things.
The position that Joyner loved and went to college to play (quarterback) was taken away when he was asked to switch to receiver in 2020. As a result, he didn’t love playing quarterback anymore. He didn’t even want to play quarterback in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. He wasn’t sold on it. He didn’t have the confidence to play the position. Then he went out and dropped dimes like he had never been able to do in his career.
Go figure that one of Beamer’s first major recruiting victories at South Carolina was making sure that the ever-versatile Joyner didn’t walk out the door and move on to his post-football life.
Joyner is as feel-good of a story as there is in the SEC.
Shane Beamer explained why Spencer Rattler wasn’t in Atlanta
Beamer didn’t address this in front of the masses, but he did tell my guy Ben Portnoy why the Oklahoma transfer wasn’t one of the program’s 3 player representatives in Atlanta.
“In my mind, it was three guys that epitomize what this program is about,” Beamer said (via The State). “Three guys that are great leaders of our program. Jovaughn (Gwyn) is a returning captain. Zacch (Pickens) has played a lot of football. (Dakereon 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 be enough opportunities as the year goes.”
He’s not wrong about that. And in Beamer’s defense, Rattler got all the coverage at this time last year. Surely there’s an attempt to make sure that he isn’t getting too much attention entering the season. It was an easy thing for Beamer to justify because transfers rarely make the trip to Media Days before they’ve played a game.
Then again, most transfers aren’t Rattler.
Clark Lea said what?!
I get it that everyone wants to portray confidence. But what the Vandy coach said was some next-level insanity.
Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea:
“We know in time Vanderbilt football will be the best program in the country.”
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 19, 2022
Mercy. How about just win an SEC game first? Like, in the 2020s decade?
Was that mean? Ya know what, no, it wasn’t. That’s reality. A program who hasn’t undergone a major stadium renovation since 1980 isn’t about to become the best program in the country in my lifetime (I’m 32).
Of all the things that were said on Tuesday, nothing made me scratch my head as much as that.