HOOVER, Ala. — The topic du jour surrounding Alabama football during Day 2 of SEC Media Days centered on how other teams plan to close the gap with the Crimson Tide.
Both Florida coach Jim McElwain and Georgia coach Kirby Smart were asked what other teams in the league need to do in order to catch Alabama football.
Alabama has ripped off 17 consecutive wins in SEC play, and has won three straight SEC titles.
Smart helped Alabama to two of those conference titles (and four overall) before taking over as Georgia’s head coach last season. He also led Alabama’s defense during four national title runs.
“That’s a common question at this event. I think the biggest thing is recruiting and development,” Smart said Tuesday. “A lot of people say it’s one or the other. You can recruit great players, you can develop great players, but when you do both, that’s when you got something special.
“I think every team in this conference is trying to play catchup in regards to that. I think each one is getting closer. You’d like to see that gap closed through recruiting. But you can only do that through hard work and grinding. That’s what we’ll continue to do in Athens.”
McElwain was on the Alabama football staff for the 2009 and 2011 national championships. That run also included the 2009 SEC title, the first during Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa.
“They’ve just done an outstanding job,” McElwain said. “I think closing the gap, as I go back to I guess the understanding here, each year is its own and certain things happen that you don’t have control over, and yet what you hope happens is you’ve taken care of a lot of the details along the way, that when something comes up, you can still be successful.
“That’s the great thing they’ve done in that program. And I don’t know the gap itself. You know, I do understand this: They’re right now at the top and, you know, it’s up to the rest of us to go get them.”
Florida senior defensive back Duke Dawson also spoke about closing the gap between the Gators and the Tide. Florida has lost to Alabama in the last two SEC Championship Games.
“Of course. We talk about that even outside of workouts,” Dawson said. “Everyone gets together and even has workouts against each other, which we have to take to the next level to be better. We have to be more consistent and more at a higher level. That’s what we need to continue to do.”
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason was reminded of the Commodores’ date with the Crimson Tide to open SEC play this season. Vanderbilt hosts Alabama in Nashville on Sept. 23. It’s Alabama’s first game at Vanderbilt since 2007.
Mason and his team aren’t backing down from the challenge.
“In speaking about Coach Saban and his football team, there’s nobody right now that’s doing it better, you know, when you look at longevity of his program, what he’s done, how he’s built it,” Mason said. “He’s built it around who he is and how he sees football, and that’s extremely important, because that’s about being who you are. He is what he is all of the time. I sat in meetings with him and, believe me, I like his demeanor. I like the way he handles himself. I like the way he coaches his football team. So I respect it.
“But here’s what I tell you. I don’t fear anybody, and our team as well. So when we line up to play Alabama, we got to line up to play Alabama. We have three other opponents, starting with MTSU. That’s where we sit today, and that’s where we’ll be. When we face Alabama, we’re going to be ready to play.”