SEC: 110725 SEC Bristol

Podcasts: SEC coaches speak out

July, 26, 2011
7/26/11
6:00
PM ET
Ivan Maisel speaks with more coaches from the SEC including Bobby Petrino, Les Miles, Joker Phillips, Nick Saban, Mark Richt and James Franklin.

Alabama coach Nick Saban discusses Tuscaloosa's recovery from April's deadly storms, the Crimson Tide's QB situation, Trent Richardson and more.

LSU coach Les Miles dishes on the SEC, the addition of Steve Kragthorpe, the Tigers' season-opener against Oregon and more

SEC commissioner Mike Slive shares his thoughts on the state of his conference, NCAA policies, the SEC's next television contract and more.

Saban talks about why his team plays challenging non-conference games. Plus, Saban talks about his approach with the media.
South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, one of the best in the nation, comes from Calhoun County. Gamecock tailback Marcus Lattimore, also one of the best in the nation, comes from Duncan, S.C. Corner Stephon Gilmore, a preseason All-SEC pick, comes from Rock Hill, S.C., as does the top recruit in the nation last February, defensive lineman Jadaveon Clowney.

The long list of South Carolina natives who became All-Americans elsewhere -- Penn State defensive lineman Courtney Brown and Florida State linebacker Peter Boulware come immediately to mind -- have been the Gamecocks’ biggest roadblock to winning their first SEC championship.

It’s no coincidence that, as Steve Spurrier prepares for his seventh season in Columbia, the Gamecocks’ fortunes have improved as they have signed the state’s best players. Spurrier doesn’t stray much farther than North Carolina or the Atlanta area. He said improved fundraising has allowed South Carolina to bring its facilities up to SEC standards. The fact that he’s never had a losing season, and that the Gamecocks have played in five bowl games in his seasons has helped, too.

“We’ve won a few games, enough games along the way to convince the in-state kids, hey, we can win big at South Carolina,” Spurrier said. “…We still haven’t hit it big. We haven’t gone to a major bowl, we haven’t won the SEC, haven’t finished in the top 10. But we did have some firsts last year. winning the east, beating the No. 1 team in the country (Alabama) at home there, beating Florida for the first time ever in the Swamp. We accomplished a few firsts but there are many, many more out there we’re going to be shooting for.”
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has three quarterback candidates, all of them transfers, competing to start for the Rebels this season in the place of Jeremiah Masoli, also a transfer.

There is a pattern there, isn’t there? Nutt said he doesn’t have a long record of taking transfers. He took Masoli, kicked off the Oregon team, to fill a hole last season. Masoli, without the benefit of spring practice and with a very young team, led the Rebels to a 4-8 finish.

This season, the candidates are West Virginia transfer Barry Bernetti, Louisville transfer (via Iowa Western CC) Zack Stoudt, and junior college transfer Randall Mackey, who redshirted last season.

Nutt said he would prefer to make a decision early in August instead of late and would prefer to play one quarterback.

It can be awkward for any transfer to knit himself seamlessly into the fabric of a team. When the transfer is a quarterback, who parachutes in to compete for a leadership position, the burden is doubly difficult.

“What I try to tell them,” Nutt said, “is, ‘Hey, be the best teammate you can be. The ball? You’re a good athlete. That’s going to come. If you win your teammates over by being a servant, by being a worker, that’s going to help you slip in. That transition will be so much easier if you do those.’”

Nutt said he has been impressed by how well Brunetti has eased into a leadership role on and off the field. Stoudt, he said, has made great strides. Last week, Nutt went on and on about Mackey’s gifts on the field. Nutt, ever the optimist, sounds confident the Rebels will find a talented quarterback this fall. Coming off a 4-8 season that Nutt said he could see coming when he took the job, the Rebels need to rebound.
You never know what you’re going to find out when you ask a question.

On the ESPNU College Football Podcast on Monday, I asked Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen if he owned a cowbell, those noisemakers that are as much a part of the tradition of Bulldog football as sitting in traffic on U.S. 82.

The answer nearly choked me up.

“I’ve gotten one as a gift. It sits in my office in a case,” Mullen said. “I don’t need it during the game.”

Mullen then began to describe the tradition of cowbells being rung at Mississippi State games.

“I understand the tradition of the thing. Traditions are what make college football different from every other sport out there. My story that sunk home, with what the cowbell means -- we had a young man on our team last year, Nick Bell, passed away after a short six-week fight with cancer. Very, very, very difficult situation to go through as a team. Even more so with his family.

“We were at the funeral, had the team at the funeral. Nick’s mom Linda, as they are getting ready to close the casket on her 20-year-old son, stood up and rang her cowbell.

“That really is where it sunk home to me. It’s not a silly gameday thing. It is a deep-rooted tradition in the hearts of our people. Those traditions are what make our sport so special. I’m just happy that the SEC understands that, what it does mean to our people.”

Linda Bell has remained connected to the Misssissippi State football program. Mullen hosted a women’s football camp this month. Linda Bell served as the keynote speaker.

“She’ll come talk to the team in our preseason camp,” Mullen said. “She’s very close with our program, with myself, my wife and our family.”

Podcasts: Chatting with SEC coaches

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
5:00
PM ET
Ivan Maisel talks to some SEC coaches including Steve Spurrier from South Carolina, Dan Mullen from Mississippi State and Houston Nutt from Ole Miss.

Florida coach Will Muschamp weighs in on how the SEC compares to the Big 12, John Brantley, becoming a head coach, the expectations for the Gators and more.

Also, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier covers Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, the Gamecocks' QB situation, Jadeveon Clowney, his coaching future and more.

SEC coaches endure media blitz

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
4:30
PM ET
We had a “This is SportsCenter” day in Bristol on Monday, the kind when life imitated the ESPN ad campaign. And we’re going to have one every day this week.

Six SEC coaches arrived at the Bristol campus for the first of a four-day coaching extravaganza. The other six SEC coaches will be here Tuesday. The Pac-12 coaches will arrive on Wednesday and Thursday. What you have to know is that none of them would be here by their own accord. This is the end of their summer, if it hadn’t already given way to planning for the preseason.

The fact that the coaches will be here this week is proof that even they have bosses.

All of the coaches are tightly scheduled to appear on as many shows as they can make. Trust me, they don’t appear on every show that wants them. As host of the ESPNU College Football Podcast, I can attest to the fact that sometimes we get squeezed out.

Guests typically are slotted somewhere every 20 minutes. And when I say “somewhere,” I mean it. The podcast studio is not far from the cafeteria. The hallway between the two has big windows, which, even on an overcast day, flood the walkway with light. The floor covering lined to look like a football field. Nice touch.

Not far from one end zone, there’s Dan Mullen of Mississippi State, doing an interview with our social media guys. Walk a few more yards into the outer hall of the cafeteria, and there’s Derek Dooley of Tennessee preparing to do a social media interview.

Can we get the social media guys an office? A studio?

I stopped and said hello to each, each of whom I interviewed last week in Birmingham. Dooley captured the coaches’ feeling when he said, “Haven’t we done enough media lately?”

Outside the cafeteria, on the lawn, TV lights shining on them as they sit in tall director’s chairs, are Gene Chizik of Auburn and my colleague Chris Fowler. They are preparing to do an interview. And it’s sprinkling. I was never sure Fowler had enough sense to get out of the rain. But I always thought Chizik did.

Chizik has been to Bristol twice this year and appeared on the podcast each trip. I saw him in the hallway a few minutes later and told him, “Nothing personal. But we’ve bugged you twice. I figured I’d give you a break.”

“Thanks,” he said. “I’m trying to get home for my son’s baseball game tonight.”

Mullen, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina and Houston Nutt of Ole Miss appeared on the podcast today. I’ll post more about them soon.

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