Notepad from Hoover: Final day of SEC media days

semerson@macon.comJuly 18, 2013 

SEC ESPN Football

Georgia's Mark Richt and Alabama's Nick Saban sat next to each other at the unveiling of the SEC Network earlier this summer.

JASON GETZ / AJC — AP

Continuous updates from the Wynfrey Hotel, including noteworthy quotes and notes, impressions and opinions.

3:05 p.m.

In another sign of how things have changed, Arthur Lynch was asked today about "dominating" the Georgia-Florida rivalry. Georgia has won two in a row.

"Dominating is a strong word," Lynch answered. "I'll feel good about it when we beat them again. It's one of those things you get really excited for the first day it happens, then you realize we have another game number one, and number two, they're going to be looking for blood the next time around."

3 p.m.

Georgia's Garrison Smith is none too pleased with how one exchange went today.

According to the quote sheet provided by the SEC, Smith was asked about "the missing piece between UGA and Alabama." And Smith's simple response: "Nick Saban."

Ooh boy. Yeah, that one will get noticed, especially being on the official quote sheet.

But Smith tweeted that a reporter in the TV room "twisted" his comment. A Georgia team spokesman added that Smith "just meant they have different head coaches."

Smith is the furthest thing from a loose cannon - and would not have been brought here by UGA if he were - and one doubts Smith would come here to take shots at his head coach.

2:30

Vanderbilt's James Franklin is done speaking, and save for a few Commodore players, we're done here. Franklin spent a good deal of time dealing with questions about bad behavior, which more than a few people have noted was fairly unusual for a Vanderbilt coach.

In fact, somebody asked Franklin if dealing with off-field behavior goes hand-in-hand with winning.

"I haven't done any studies on that," Franklin said, wisely dodging the question. What's he supposed to say?

12:30 p.m.

Nick Saban spoke as a throng of people stood in the back, snapping pictures. And as he walked from room to room, he was swarmed by cameras and assorted individuals. Just par for the course.

Nothing earth-shattering from Saban's appearance here in the main room. I've been here for many of his press conferences, and he always starts and finishes by thanking the media for "all that you do." It's fairly insincere when you consider the constraints Saban puts on the media that covers his team, but I've also found that Saban himself is fairly forthcoming and insightful. When he cares to be. Hence, the Bill Belichick comparison.

He was asked his reaction to being compared to Bear Bryant, and while many Crimson Tide would let him get away with it, Saban wisely sidestepped it.

"I think Bear Bryant is probably the greatest coach in college football in terms of what he accomplished, what his legacy is," Saban said. "There's no way that we have done anything close to what he's done in terms of his consistency over time."

He also had a fairly analytical answer when asked how responsible a coach should be for bad player behavior. Saban didn't go as far as Will Muschamp, who said a coach was "100 percent responsible."

"We can be the moral compass for our young people, but we cannot always drive the ship," Saban said. "We always cannot be there to drive the ship. So we're going to try to provide the best moral experience for our players in terms of their development that we possibly can."

Alabama's A.J. McCarron then spent about 20 minutes dodging questions about Johnny Manziel. I spoke to C.J. Mosley about The Play in the championship game; Mosley tipped the pass. That will be in my story to be posted later.

11:20 a.m.

Mark Richt just finished his turn at the podium, which lasted just over 26 minutes. Here is a very rough transcript - well, overview is a better word:

A relatively short opening statement, in which he said the goal remains getting to the SEC championship game.

"It sounds like a broken record, but that's the real deal," Richt said.

Then on to the questions.

First question: The challenge of opening with Clemson.

Richt: He assumes they'll both open in the top 10, or close to it. Clemson beating LSU was "big for their program." Richt cited his 15 years at Florida State, saying he knew what it was like to play at Death Valley.

Second question: About Will Friend, and what he's brought to the program.

Richt: Very typical line coach, which is good. Good recruiter, great family man, great to have him.

Third question: How did you react to the disappointment of the SEC championship game?

Richt: He didn't have time emotionally to move on from it, because he had to recruit, prepare for the bowl, then recruit again. After that he watched the game tape. "I think it's healthy to watch all those games. It was certainly a gut-wrenching thing to see, with the way it finished. It was also an exciting game."

Fourth question: What is the competition like between Gurley and Marshall?

Richt: "They're poster boys for collegiate athletics. .. They're handsome kids, they're smart." As for the competition, there isn't much of one because they need at least two tailbacks. "I don't think one man can do it."

Fifth question: The "extraordinary" first month of the season, and how "brutal" it is as a schedule.

Richt: "I told the team we're in a race, and that's to be in midseason form by Game 1. And that race started in January."

Sixth question: Will he give Tammy Mettenberger the week off before the LSU game?

Richt: He corrected the questioner that she's not a "secretary," but an administrative assistant. Richt called Tammy a "mainstay" in the program who's been around since before Richt arrived.

Seventh question: Talk about Aaron Murray, and the SEC quarterbacks in general.

Richt: Lot of great QBs in the league, Murray is a "great player." But also a 365-day quarterback, always working hard, always has a plan. "How he eats, how he trains, how he rests himself. How he watches film." Richt also pointed out that Murray is a "great ambassador" for Georgia and does an extensive amount of community work.

Eighth question: Richt and Murray's relationship.

Richt: Went back to his recruiting, and his speech announcing he was going to Georgia. Richt saw the "passion" in Murray, and added that Murray was raised well.

Ninth question: It was pointed out this was the first time Murray will have tailbacks coming back, will that open up the playbook?

Richt: Of course Richt didn't cite how the playbook may open up, but said Murray understands the value of the running game.

10th question: What about motivational speakers?

Richt: "We do it quite often. And I think the ones that are the best for us are former Georgia players. They're talking about the experiences in life that hurt htem, and use those as a general warning. ... But also there are ones who had a tremendous amount of success ... and how they used Georgia as a platform for them."

11th question: What about the safety debate over hurry-up offenses.

Richt: He says he doesn't worry about it. He felt there was plenty of time to rest between series, eespecially with the lengthy TV timeouts. And he pointed again to his time at Florida State, saying they were running the hurry-up there in 1993.

12th question: With five returning starters on the O-line, how much easier is that?

Richt: It's big, and they should be better. "Should we have a great season because of those things? We should."

13th question: Jadeveon Clowney's 'scared' comments.

Richt: Same answer he gave some of us before that. "I think we need to let some guys have some fun."

14th question: Bobo had a lot of criticism, but now?

Richt: "Mike Bobo is an outstanding coach. ... I've watched him get better and better." Richt said Bobo was "old school in a lot of ways," having grown up with his Dad as a high school coach. "But he also has a tremendous mind for the game."

15th question: Has Richt ever proposed a league-wide drug policy?

Richt: "Would I like that? I would like that, I think that would be a good thing for the league to be in sync in that league. But I would think it would be a difficult thing to do." He went on to say he has no problem with UGA's strict policy. "I like it, quite frankly. Because I care very much about our players and I want them to be safe."

16th question: Regarding Nick Saban, and basically how great he's done at Bama.

Richt: "I guess we've had what seven national champions here in our league. And I guess two are undefeated seasons. So people are getting beat."

10:50 a.m.

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger had some good lines about his looming return to Sanford Stadium, when Georgia hosts the Tigers on Sept. 28.

"They're going to boo the crap out of me," Mettenberger said.

"I don't know anybody else who's had to play the team they were kicked off of," he said later.

Mettenberger's mother Tammy still works in the UGA football offices. But Zach says he hardly ever returns to Athens, estimating he's there about once every year-and-a-half.

A reporter sought to clarify if it was true his mother wore purple-and-gold to the office.

"Yeah, but not every day," Mettenberger said.

10:45 a.m.

I had to miss most of Les Miles' appearance because of meeting with Georgia. And Mark Richt is about to take the podium. But a quick note about Miles, who finished his appearance by once again lobbying for chances in the schedule, specifically the permanent cross-division rivals.

"A key piece to every conference is that we'd be able to describe the path to a championship in an equal and direct manner," Miles said. "When I went to the SEC meetings (in Destin), I brought all these statistics that were not necessarily listened to, but here is a for-instance: We play Georgia and Florida for the seventh time this year. I'd have to say there's some other schools that have not played Georgia and Florida in the same year in my entire time here or since 2000. I'd have say there's a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference based on tradition and traditional matchups."

Miles talked a bit more, and when the SEC moderator wrapped it up, Miles spoke back up, suggesting media members talk to his sports information director to get the "raw information about the scheduling" that Miles cited.

8:00 a.m.

HOOVER, Ala. - There are only four days going on this final day, but two of them met in last year's SEC championship, and very well could again. Plus, we'll have preseason media predictions and all-SEC teams released. So busy, busy, busy.

Georgia gets going bright and early. Head coach Mark Richt and players Aaron Murray, Arthur Lynch and Garrison Smith will first meet separately with a few of us, and I'll post details as soon as possible. Of course a few major subjects on the agenda:

- Will Richt address the status of kicker Marshall Morgan?

- Will Murray answer Jadeveon Clowney?

Then the Georgia contingent will make its way to meet the rest of the media circus. Perhaps they'll run across old friend Zach Mettenberger, the LSU quarterback who will be making his rounds at the same time.

Richt and his players are sure to get a lot of questions about being five yards away, whether they should've spiked it, what it'll take to get over the hump, yada yada yada. Murray will draw the largest crowd; not Manziel-like, but large. But Arthur Lynch should draw a bunch too as soon as word passes that Georgia has a pretty good quote in another corner of the room.

Alabama and Vanderbilt finish things up in the late morning. I'll have updates throughout, both here and via the tweet machine.

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