HOOVER, Ala. — Even though other teams made the rounds at SEC Media Day when Alabama departed on Wednesday afternoon, the front lobby went from being jam-packed to nearly empty almost immediately.
Thus, the draw of coach Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, who are again considered the conference’s best shot at the national championship. Regardless of being the home team for the annual event with Tuscaloosa roughly an hour’s drive away, they’re still the main event during the four-day preseason convention.
There were two Paul “Bear” Bryant impersonators on hand and random calls of “Roll Tide” echoed throughout the Wynfrey Hotel. And nearly every other coach and player fielded questions about the Crimson Tide.
“You can’t argue that is the mark, and that’s where everybody wants to be,” said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who admitted the Alabama game had “taken a toll on us the last couple of years.”
“Without question, for what Nick has done and what that program has done, they were ahead of the curve a long time ago with how they approach things, and I think, you know, that was — has basically been the model of the people you tried to follow.”
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) July 12, 2017
Highlights of Alabama’s day:
- Saban confirmed that linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (knee) and running back Bo Scarbrough (leg) will be full-go for the start of training camp next month.
- Saban reiterated that sophomore Jalen Hurts is Alabama’s starting quarterback, but later added that true freshman Tua Tagovailoa will “absolutely” get playing time. There’s only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, the third being true freshman Mac Jones.
- One of the few competitions in camp will be the right side of the offensive line, where junior Lester Cotton is likely to start at one spot. Saban hinted that Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Willis might be in position to challenge at right tackle. “I don’t think that decision is going to get made until sometime in fall camp. We have a couple new freshman that have shown some potential over the summer.”
- All-American defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick’s regular role has yet to be determined between safety and cornerback. That will depend primarily on the development of sophomore Trevon Diggs, who played cornerback in the the spring after moving from wide receiver.
They said it …
- Fitzpatrick on why he looks forward to playing LSU every year: “Every play matters.”
- Senior center Bradley Bozeman said the player he used to hate facing the most during practice was Dalvin Tomlinson. “He’s a technician when it comes to football.” He was also a former high school wrestling champion.
- Junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley on rooting for his brother at Georgia. “I just wanted my brother to go somewhere he felt comfortable and just be able to play real well. I expect him to have a really great season, win the Heisman or something, do something real great. I don’t really care. I just want him to play real well.”
— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAthletes) July 12, 2017
Under-the-radar comments by Saban…
- On former Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett leaving school and subsequently transferring last year: “Blake is a fine young man and did an outstanding job for us. I think he would have been a very positive influence in our team. I hate to see players be able to transfer in the middle of a season. … I understand that everybody wants an opportunity to play, and the quarterback position is a little unique because only one player can play.”
- The coach revealed he received a letter from a player who transferred from Alabama that said, “This is the worst decision I ever made.”
- Saban said he still has no problem getting excited for the season. “When I go on vacation, I play golf every day. play a game, I mean just go play and hit a ball, I mean it’s a game. Who’s going to win? … This is one of the best competitive venues in the world, being able to complete in the SEC. To go on some golf course in which you lose a bunch of balls to get a fix in your competitive spirit, I’ll just take the SEC.”
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) July 12, 2017
While answering a question about whether kids should play football, the coach said one of his best experiences during the offseason was having dinner with a traveling group of neuroscientists.
“I think football’s a great game, I think it’s the greatest team game,” he said. “As any professional or college sport we’re all working very hard on for player safety so that we don’t have issues, but I think it’s a little unfair in some ways to football when there’s other sports that you never talk about that people seem to be totally fine with that actually have just as many or more issues when it comes to concussions and injuries as football does. But we always talk about the issues that we have in football.
“There are a lot of lessons to be learned in any athletic competition, but football — because of the number of participants and the number of people who can contribute in a phenomenal way. It was really good for me growing up to develop some of the attributes that it takes to be successful, whether it was commitment, hard work, perseverance, ability to overcome adversity, pride in performance. Every person has to way the advantages and disadvantages but we value it or we wouldn’t do it.”
Saban sounded disappointed when his time expired in one of the interview rooms: “I was just getting started.”