SEC Coaches Speak Out

On Thursday, 11 of the 12 Southeastern Conference football coaches took part in a media teleconference. Here are highlights of that press conference from the SEC staff:

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban

On his team during spring practice

"We've obviously made a lot of progress, being new, and having a lot of systematic changes. We're pleased with the attitude and progress we're getting, but we're not satisfied with where we are yet. We've just got to keep working to improve. It is what it is and we've just got to keep working to get where we need to be. This is a very tough league. There are a lot of very good teams in this league, and we have a lot of respect for that. I'm very pleased with the attitude of our coaches and players, and we've just got to keep working hard to get where we need to be."

On having four coaches in the SEC who have won National Championships

"I think it speaks volumes for the quality of coaches and the quality of programs we have here. Coaching is important, as far as teaching players. Obviously there are a lot of guys here that are committed to teaching players and winning a national championship. There's a little bit of luck involved too, because I think there are some other coaches in this league that maybe didn't have the chance to coach in the BCS Championship game, but are very good coaches. I think it just shows how tough this league is, when you look at the quality of coaching we have here."

Tennessee Head Coach Phillip Fulmer

On his team following spring practice

"Our spring practice was good. We made it a very physical spring, by design. I think our young men responded well. We've got a young team, but we have a veteran quarterback in Erik Ainge. It's exciting to have him back. I think our linebacker core should be good, but we'll have a young secondary."

On high school recruits starting school in the spring semester

"There are definitely some negative things to getting kids in early. The maturity isn't there for some of them. On others it's very good. Casey Claussen was an example of that. He came in early and was able to start with us in spring practice and was there in the summer and that helped him. This year we had five do that. I think they were on the level they needed to be on maturity-wise. It's kind of a sacrifice on their part, because they have to miss the second half of their senior year. If they're on the level they need to be on maturity, then I don't have a problem with them coming in early."

LSU Head Coach Les Miles

On his team following spring practice

"We took an early spring and finished in March. It was really a good spring. I feel like we improved offensively and defensively. We had a lot of young guys come in and show us that they can make an impact. We have three new coaches this year, and their transition went very smoothly. I feel like we're in very good shape defensively. All-in-all it was a very productive spring, which ended with a nice spring game in front of about 15,000. We avoided any major injuries, and barring any injuries this summer, we'll start off with our team healthy."

On if they'll defer and take the ball on the kick-off with the new kick-off position

"We've given thought to that. It really defends on the kicker that you have and the style and strategy that you're going to apply to the kicker. If you have a strong leg, then not a lot will change. If you have a guy that finesses the ball, then I think a lot of guys will consider changing, because you could have very good field position."

On what the team will focus on now that spring practice has concluded

"This is the time of year where productivity is going to be based on grade point average. Right now, I don't want them to focus on winning a championship. I want them to finish this semester strong and to work on strength and conditioning. It's always going to be team first, and then if you can do that you'll have success. Hopefully we'll have that success and win a championship."

Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer

On Florida's recent success, compared to Florida State and Miami "I think the bottom line is recruiting. Throughout the nineties, the state of Florida owned the championship because of the level of talent that we have in this state. Right now we're having some success and hopefully that will continue. I don't know that one team has to be down for the others to succeed. Again, in the nineties, I think all three teams in this state had success."

On keeping a coaching staff together

"It's really difficult to keep a staff together. I think every year you use one, two or three coaches, just because you can't pay them what they deserve. At a school like Florida, you can do that, and we've been fortunate to keep our staff together for three years. I don't think at a school like this you lose coaches unless it's to go be a head coach somewhere. I've got guys that could coach in the NFL, but they stay here because they love college football and they love Gainesville."

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier

On the upcoming spring game

"We're excited about the spring game. ESPN2 has picked it up, and we've got Hootie and the Blowfish playing before the game, so hopefully we'll get a lot of Gamecocks out here. This is a big fundraiser, as we're trying to get our facilities up on the level of Tennessee and Florida."

On Florida winning National Championships in football and men's basketball

"I think if you ask Commissioner Slive, he'd say it's very good for the league. It's certainly good for Florida. I think someone mentioned that it's the first time schools from the same conference, much less the same team, has won football and basketball. Now it's in the history book, and we're all going to go out and try to do what Florida did last year."

On having four coaches in the SEC who have won National Championships

"I've always said that I don't know what the strongest conference in the country is, but I do know the one that has the biggest stadiums and the most fans. In the south you talk football year ‘round. I don't know if that helps, but you've got several schools in this league that are really serious about football. The interest is there, but until we have a play-off, we won't know."

Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt

On his team following spring practice

"I think the best thing that happened in the spring was our lack of injuries. Our head of sports medicine said that this was the best year we've had as far as injuries are concerned. We had a couple of guys miss practice because of some injuries, but overall we stayed healthy. We improved a lot, and we finished on a high note, with a good spring game. It was a very good day for Georgia Athletics."

On having four coaches in the SEC who have won National Championships

"I think what sets us apart even more so is the amount of resources, facilities, passion and coaching that we have. You go to any of these stadiums, and they're jam-packed. These schools pour a lot of resources into the programs. You've got four coaches who have won national championships and Tuberville probably should have won the year he went undefeated. I think the biggest thing is the championship game; not the National Championship, but the SEC Championship game. There's so much passion and excitement around that game, and its every team's goal to win it. You're not going hear someone say, ‘Oh, well we won the SEC Championship game, but it doesn't matter because we didn't win the National Championship'. Winning the SEC Championship is very important to a team and its fans."

Mississippi State Head Coach Sylvester Croom

On his team following spring practice

"We finished our spring practice up. It's the first time we've gone this early, but I like it this way because it gives our guys an opportunity to focus on academics. It gives our coaches a chance to wind down and get some things squared away before we go out and start recruiting. We finished spring training with out any injuries, and I think we really got better. We had some players come in early, and I think they fit in well and showed that they were going to make a contribution. Even though we're young all our guys have played in SEC games. As we leave spring practice, we have a lot of optimism that we're going to be very competitive in this league."

On the quarterback situation with Michael Henig and junior college transfer Josh Riddell

"I think they both did well. Josh came in and had a great improvement from the first scrimmage to the second scrimmage. I think we're going to be very comfortable with him as our back-up quarterback. Mike will still be our starter. He certainly didn't do anything to hurt himself, and I think he'll improve over the summer."

Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt

On his team following spring practice

"We've had a good spring practice overall. We've had some young guys that have stepped up and gotten stronger and faster. We had a couple of injuries. Hopefully we'll get everyone back, because then we'll have a chance."

On the off-the-field distractions this spring

"This is the first time in my 26 years of coaching that there's been this much distraction, especially as far as things that involve me personally. I understand why, that's why I feel good about how our team feels and how our fans feel. That's what keeps me going."

Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron

On hiring John Thompson as defensive coordinator

"First of all, John coached me in college. I think he's a fantastic coach and he's a good friend of mine. He's kept it pretty similar, but he had a very good blitz package that he's brought in. I wanted to be able to focus on the offense a little more and recruiting, and having him hear has worked very well."

Kentucky Head Coach Rich Brooks

On his team during spring practice

"I think we've got a lot of players that didn't play a significant role for us last year, who will help us continue to move up in the conference. We have had some problems with our offensive line. We had four players have off-season surgery after we played in the Music City Bowl, and have missed spring practice. We had some new guys come in and step up and contribute there for us. We've got some more work to do, but we're excited about the upcoming season."

On schools being labeled as a football school or a basketball school

"I think obviously, there are some schools that have had greater success in one sport or the other, and they've been labeled as that. In our situation here, Kentucky has had great success in basketball and not so much in football, but we've had great support from the fans. We have great attendance, and it's kind of like in my mind, how Florida was in basketball, a bit of a sleeping giant. We're continuing to grow as a program, and we're going to have some success with our football program here."

Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson

On his team following spring practice

"We had a very good spring. I was very pleased with the attitude of our players. Obviously we're working on developing some depth. We've got some of our starters coming back, but other positions are still up for grabs. Some of our ‘all-star' type players really had good springs. We're feeling pretty good about it right now."

On having four coaches in the SEC who have won National Championships

"This league's always been tough. They're going to attract some very good coaches in this league. We've got four coaches who have won national championships in this league, which speaks very highly of this league. Our guys are excited to be playing in the SEC, and they're looking forward to playing some of these other good SEC teams. Hopefully we'll have some success in the league and get some quality conference wins. We're excited about the challenge."

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was unable to participate on the teleconference.

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