published Friday, July 19th, 2013

Alabama Crimson Tide remains on top in SEC

Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., Thursday, July 18, 2013.
Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., Thursday, July 18, 2013.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Thursday’s quotes from SEC Media Days

“Summer went fast. I had no vacation. I took meaningful hours watching TCU film, but I’m looking forward to football, in case you were wondering.”

— LSU coach Les Miles concluding the recap of his summer, which included hyperbaric oxygen therapy research, rappelling down a building in Baton Rouge for charity, following his four children’s various sports endeavors and preparing for the Tigers’ opener.

“I was never an Alabama fan growing up, so I didn’t know too much about the ‘Bear,’ other than my Mimi had a dog named ‘Bear.’”

— Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron when asked about Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban drawing comparisons with former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“It’s kind of like saying, before they had cars, I’m not allowing any of my players to have cars. Why? Well, I like the old buggy. It’s safer. The horse is a problem, but as long as you keep the horse pointed in the right direction, you’re OK.”

— Miles further explaining his policy of not banning his players’ use of social media.

“That’s his own opinion. If that’s what he wants to think, I’m glad and happy for him. We play them in November? We’ll see in November what he thinks after that game.”

— Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hal responding to Tennessee left tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson promising a result like the Commodores’ 41-18 win against the Volunteers last “won’t happen again.”

“It’s not like I’m Tim Tebow and have terrible mechanics.”

— LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger finishing his answer to a question on what offseason tweaks new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has made in his throwing motion.

“I had a great vacation, then I get the opportunity to come here and see 1,200 of my very closest friends all at the same time.”

— Saban poking at the big room of reporters in his 12th appearance at SEC media days.

HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama has won three of the past four national championships, so why would anyone turn against the Crimson Tide now?

College football’s premier program was picked Thursday to run away with this season’s Southeastern Conference race, and being the best in the SEC usually means being the best nationally. The SEC champion has won six of the last seven BCS titles, with the only exception being Alabama’s 2011 rematch opportunity with league champ LSU that resulted in a 21-0 Tide trouncing.

“Everyone goes through their era in college football,” Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron said as SEC media days concluded. “Miami was good for years, and then it was Florida State and then Nebraska. Everyone has their time, and then it falls out after two or three years. Our thing is why does it have to leave?”

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who needs two more national championships to match the six compiled by the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, took to the podium and discussed the challenge “to reinvent your team.” Alabama has a healthy 13 starters back from last season, and that doesn’t include 1,108-yard rusher T.J. Yeldon, who was the backup last season to Eddie Lacy.

Saban mocked the media’s track record of projecting the conference champion and was equipped with ammunition. The media has picked the league champ correctly four times in the last 21 years and twice in the last 17.

LSU was the conference choice last season.

“If I was 4-17 as a coach, I would be back in West Virginia pumping gas at my Daddy’s gas station,” Saban said.

Alabama collected 182 of the 239 votes for the overall league title. Georgia was next with 38 votes, followed by South Carolina with 14, Texas A&M with four 4 and LSU 1.

In the balloting for the SEC West, the Crimson Tide received 225 first-place votes with Texas A&M a distant second with 11.

The Tide also had 16 players named to the SEC’s first, second and third teams. Among them were seven first-team selections — Yeldon, receiver Amari Cooper, offensive linemen Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen, linebacker C.J. Mosley, and defensive backs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Deion Belue.

McCarron, the second-team quarterback pick behind Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, said it doesn’t feel any different defending the national championship this time around. Alabama is going for the first three-peat in college football history, and Tide players insist they will not be lacking for motivation.

“Not trying to disappoint Coach Saban makes us work that much harder,” Steen said. “I know I don’t want to make him mad, because I know he could make me run until I pass out.”

Said Mosley: “When he gets on you, he gets on you hard. I got cussed out my freshman year like I was a senior, and it’s all about being accountable for your job.”

Saban, who won his first national title with LSU in 2003, was asked about the comparisons to Bryant that are becoming more and more relevant.

“I think Bear Bryant is probably the greatest coach in college football in terms of what he accomplished and what his legacy is,” Saban said. “The biggest thing that impacts me is how many lives he affected in a positive way. His players come back and don’t talk about the championships in ’78, ’79 or ’61 or whenever. They come back and say how he affected their lives.

“There is no way that we have done anything close in terms of his consistency over time and how he changed what he did to impact the times.”

Playing the Mocs

Alabama’s 11th game this season will be against Chattanooga in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Saban has been for playing nine SEC games and for having 12 BCS conference opponents on his schedule, but he said until something like that is implemented for everyone, his program will continue to schedule Championship Level teams such as the Mocs.

“Do I think that’s what the fans want to see? Probably not,” Saban said. “But it’s a great experience for those players who are going to have the opportunity to play at Alabama this year.”

Tide tidbits

Alabama’s eight SEC opponents were a combined 24-40 in league play last season. ... Saban said that freshman receiver Robert Foster is currently repeating a class that was denied by the NCAA Clearinghouse with hopes of attaining eligibility. ... McCarron wore a navy bow tie with pink ribbons to honor his cousin, who recently was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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