HOOVER, Ala. -- Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley has a new athletics director, Dave Hart, and plenty of pressure from fans.
But entering his third year, Dooley was sounding a confident note in his opening remarks Thursday at SEC Media Days.
Its been a tough four years in Tennessee, he said, harkening back to the final year of Phillip Fulmers tenure and Lane Kiffins one-year stop in Knoxville. I know, of course, the SEC has enjoyed taking advantage of our tough times. But theres a nice mood on our team right now that youre not going to have Tennessee to kick around anymore.
The Volunteers were picked by the media to finish fifth in the East. That fate would not help Dooley get a fourth year.
But he said hes optimistic because of a more stable roster, for the first time having 85 players on scholarship. Quarterback Tyler Bray, an All-SEC candidate, is also back after missing much of last year with injury.
Its kind of (like) that song -- a little less conversation and a little more action, Dooley said. So we have to go out and prove it, and thats what we intend to do this year.
Responding to Spurrier
During his Tuesday appearance, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier twice made reference to Georgias easier schedule.
Do you think I make the schedule? he said, responding to a question. If I made the schedule, Georgia would be playing LSU and South Carolina would be playing (Mississippi).
The two affronted coaches had a chance to respond Thursday.
Well Im sure there will be a year where hes thankful for the schedule he has, Georgias Mark Richt said.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, I heard he said something to that regard. I guess my thought would be 2013, theyre on our schedule. We will circle that date and maybe change his perspective about what he thinks about Ole Miss football.
Technically, the 2013 schedule isnt announced yet, so its possible Freeze and the Rebels will have to wait longer.
Judging by the hundreds of Crimson Tide fans lined up in the Wynfrey Hotel lobby to catch a glimpse of their two-time national championship head coach, Nick Saban has been given a place of adoration few coaches ever reach.
In the wake of the Penn State scandal, plenty of onlookers have wondered whether or not Saban holds too much power in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Well, you know, its not true if thats the perception, Saban said. I have tremendous faith, trust and confidence in our institution that we will do the right things to try to promote the moral obligation that we all have to protect other folks.
Penn State has been a hot topic of discussion at SEC Media Days. With possibilities of major NCAA penalties being thrown around this week, nearly every coach has faced some kind of question about Joe Paterno.
A few have gone off-script. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel came under fire Tuesday after defending Paterno in an interview.
Asked about Penn States possible punishment, Saban responded with a suggestion of his own.
Citing a desire to protect the players instead of punishing them, Saban offered the idea of putting a tax on Penn State tickets at every athletic event, then donating all the proceeds to organizations that prevent child abuse.
He later stepped back a little from that statement.
Probably not a very good idea, and I probably shouldnt have said it, Saban said. I just think that more focus on outcome is always more beneficial.
Support for nine SEC games
When the SEC voted to preserve an eight-game schedule and permanent opponents at its spring meetings in Destin, Fla., the move was trumpeted as a way to continue the SECs heritage without adding another tough game to the schedule.
At the time, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said the schedule would hold for at least three to four years.
But Saban thinks the conference needs to take another look at pushing the conference slate to nine games.
Under the format adopted in May, no SEC player will be able to play against every other SEC school in a four-year career.
I just look at it that the number one priority should be that every player have the opportunity to play every school in the SEC rather than being so divisional oriented, Saban said.
Eddie Lacy, the heir apparent to Trent Richardsons role as Alabamas lead back, missed spring practices due to a toe injury.
According to Saban, Lacy and all the rest of the Crimson Tides injured players from the spring have recovered and should be ready to go when practices begin in earnest.
His teammates expect big things from the running back now that the job is his to lose.
Eddie Lacy is going to become that marquee back. He was banged up last year and didnt get a chance to show what he can do, center Barrett Jones said. There wont be a lot of drop off, I can tell you that.
Debate around college footballs new four-team playoff has centered on the selection process, revenue distribution and finding a venue.
Alabama tight end Michael Williams has another concern.
After a 12-game SEC schedule, your body is terrible, Williams said. Other than that, I dont have much to say.
Williams, a senior, wont ever have to play in the format, which takes effect in 2014.