Tide riled by four-finger salute

Auburn has beaten Alabama four consecutive games, a fact not lost on the Crimson Tide. Bama players Ramzee Robinson and Kenneth Darby said at the annual SEC Football Media Days they knew Auburn players and coaches held up four fingers in the fourth quarter of the most recent game.

``I can see players doing that, but the head coach?'' Darby said.

Robinson said he didn't find out Auburn held up four fingers until a few days before Alabama's Cotton Bowl game.

``After this year,'' Robinson said, ``I think we'll have a finger for them.''

The chant from Auburn fans: Fear the Thumb.


Florida coach Urban Meyer said he doesn't care if quarterback Chris Leak breaks any passing marks; he doesn't want Leak talking about records and if reporters ask Leak about records, Meyer will stop the interview.

A few minutes later, Leak was talking about records – and Meyer wasn't around to stop the interview.

Leak offered that his goal this season is to throw for 50 touchdown passes. He had 20 last year.

``I hope he doesn't get 10 against us,'' said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.

Asked how many yards he'd like to pass for this season, a media member sarcastically suggested 10,000. Leak smiled. He said his goal last year was 4,500. He fell about 1,900 short of that.

``I've always had high expectations for myself, even in youth league'' Leak said.

Coming out of high school, Leak boldly said his goals in college were to win multiple SEC and national championships. He doesn't have either. In fact, he's never played in the SEC Championship game.

Asked if his career would be incomplete without a championship, Leak meekly said it would be ``disappointing.''


Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said beating Ole Miss by three touchdowns last year far surpassed upsetting nationally ranked Florida the year before.

``We won against Florida,'' Croom said. ``We beat Ole Miss.''

Croom believes that game will carry momentum into this season for a program that has had 31 scholarship players leave or be dismissed in just over two years.


In more than 100 years of football, South Carolina has one conference championship: winning the ACC in 1969.

Paul Dietzel's team was only 7-4, but it was 6-0 in league play.

Can Steve Spurrier bring the Gamecocks a second conference title?

If he can win an ACC title at Duke, he can win one at South Carolina. Of course, it'll be difficult breaking into the SEC's upper echelon. The Gamecocks tied for second in the SEC East last year, but they also lost 37-14 to Alabama and 48-7 to Auburn before upending Tennessee and Florida to finish 5-3 in SEC play.

``I tell recruits, they've got nowhere to go but up,'' Spurrier said. ``South Carolina is a football state. But for some reason, we haven't done that much. We hope good things are on the way.''


Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said he felt it was time to give up play calling duties after eight years because he was losing some of his effectiveness.

``The thing about this league is, it's so good and the defensive coordinators are so good, I felt like they were getting a little bit of a handle on me and we just need a little bit of freshness right now,'' said Nutt.

Nutt said he'll have input in the game plan during the week, but he won't get in the way of the play calling on game day.

Nutt said he was surprised that his team led the SEC in rushing, yet won just two SEC games and went 4-7.

``You'd think when you lead this league in rushing, it ought to equate to wins and usually it does,'' Nutt said.

Arkansas certainly won't abandon the run, but Nutt feels he's got to mount a more efficient passing attack to win games in the SEC. He said the quarterback job will be open this August to give prep All-American Mitch Mustain a chance to show his skills.


The offseason talk at Ole Miss has been about quarterback Brent Schaeffer, but the Rebels might have a secret weapon at tailback.

Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, a New Orleans native who transferred from Indiana, won the starting job in the spring over talented freshman Mico McSwain. Green-Ellis led Indiana in rushing with 794 yards in 2004. In 2003, he made the Big Ten All-Freshman team when he rushed for 938 yards, including 203 against Penn State. He had 155 against Purdue and 136 against Northwestern.

``I think he's ready to explode in the SEC,'' Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said of the 5-11, 211-pound junior. ``He's tough, he runs through you, he makes plays, he's hard to tackle one-on-one. He's has proved he can make big plays in big games.''

EXTRA POINTS: Leak, who appears to be a reluctant runner, said he averaged 6.8 yards per carry on run plays last season but admitted he feels more comfortable as a pocket passer. … Asked if it's sweeter to go 13-0 or beat Alabama four in a row, Tuberville said: ``It's not close – beating Alabama four in a row. That's our rival.'' … While Alabama returns nine offensive starters and four defensive starters, the Crimson Tide will have more senior starters on defense this season than offense. … Croom said if he's more interested in a player's academics than the player, the player doesn't need to be at State. … Ole Miss tight end Robert Lane, a Parade All-American high school quarterback, considered transferring to Northwestern (La.) State to play quarterback but decided his best position for a possible NFL career is at tight end. … For a guy 6-5 and 305, Vanderbilt offensive lineman Brian Stamper breaks the mold. He likes surfing, golf, jet skiing, and plays the piano and guitar.

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