Five burning questions as we near SEC Media Days

SEC Media Days start Wednesday in Birmingham so we’re going spend our next three visits looking at some of the questions that are bound to come up during three days at the Wynfrey Hotel. We’ll do five questions today, Tuesday and Wednesday. Feel free to chime in with your own. If you could ask any question to any player or coach at SEC Media Days, what would it be?

Here are my five today:

1. Is South Carolina’s Weslye Saunders in trouble? Word broke last Thursday night that the NCAA is looking into whether or not North Carolina football players Marvin Austin and Greg Little had had improper contact with agents. On Sunday we learned that NCAA investigators had also visited Columbia, S.C. Joe Person of The State newspaper reported that NCAA investigators had interviewed tight end Weslye Saunders last week. Saunders is from Durham, N.C. and Person reports that he has several friends on the North Carolina team, including Austin. Coach Steve Spurrier made it clear to Joe that he doesn’t know if Saunders broke any rules or not. But he also said that South Carolina’s players are well educated on what those rules are when it comes to agents. If they took something that breaks the rules, they will not be playing for the Gamecocks this Fall. It’s as simple as that.


How serious this is remains to be seen but this much is clear: The NCAA, to the extent where it is possible, is clearly cracking down on improper contact with agents. And here is some advice to Weslye and any college athlete who will be interviewed by the NCAA on this subject: Don’t lie. The NCAA made an example of Dez Bryant at Oklahoma State, who simply lied about coming into contact with Deion Sanders. Bryant was bounced for the entire season. They will do the same for you.

2. Do you think Mal Moore deserves a raise? Well, let’s see. Moore took over as athletics director at Alabama in 1999. He steered the athletic department through one of the toughest periods in its history when the football program got hammered by the NCAA in 2002. He convinced the powers that be that Alabama needed to spend money–a lot of money–so that the school’s so-so athletic facilities could become world-class. He would lead a $125 million campaign and now Alabama’s facilities are among the best in the country.

 When the football program stumbled under Mike Shula in 2006 Moore came under intense criticism when Rich Rodriguez took the job and then changed his mind. There were a lot of people who wanted Moore out of his job. But Moore eventually got the coach he had to have in Nick Saban. Now the football program has posted two consecutive 12-0 regular seasons and is coming off a national championship.

Oh yeah, I forgot. Alabama just completed a $65 million stadium expansion pushing Bryant-Denny to over 101,000. All of the new seats were sold long ago. Mal is 70 but why should he retire now? This is the fun part.

By the way, Moore got a bump to $425,000 in salary after he landed Saban in 2008. Florida’s Jeremy Foley is in the $1 million range. Do the math. Moore deserves a new contract and a pretty hefty raise.

3. Will the Vanderbilt coaches have to wear the “interim” tag all season? No question Vanderbilt is in a tough spot. Bobby Johnson’s sudden retirement last week all but guaranteed that his staff would be in place for the 2010 season and that Robbie Caldwell would be elevated to head coach.

But do you let this staff carry around the “interim” title for an entire year? How difficult would that be and what kind of impact does it have on recruiting, which is year-round? This staff has been virtually intact for eight years. They have shown loyalty. Should that loyalty be rewarded or does Vanderbilt football go through a state of limbo for a season? I’ve looked at the schedule. There are 10 teams on it that went to bowls last season. The non-conference schedule, where Vandy should get its wins, includes Northwestern, Connecticut, and Wake Forest. It is going to be another tough year at Vanderbilt.

Just thinking: Because the Vanderbilt staff had been so stable, it was something of a surprise when linebackers coach Warren Belin left Nashville to join Mark Richt at Georgia. I wonder what Coach Belin was thinking last week when Johnson made his announcement?

4. Will we have any ballot issues? Last year in Birmingham South Carolina’s Steve Spurrer had to fess up that he was the lone coach who had not voted Tim Tebow as the All-SEC quarterback. Spurrier’s ballot, which he said was filled out by football ops guy Jamie Speronis, had Jevan Snead listed as the All-SEC quarterback.

Last week my buddy Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun called Spurrier to let him know about Bobby Johnson. Out of the blue Spurrier said to Dooley: “Gonna try to get Jevan Snead back on the ballot.”

That’s why you still have to like The Head Ball Coach. Who else in this league is going to say that?

Snead, by the way, left Ole Miss with a year of eligibility remaining after a bad 2009 season.

The closest thing we have to do that this year is Alabama running back Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. Ingram led the SEC in yards rushing with 1,658 yards last season. The next highest returning rusher is Kentucky’s Derrick Locke at 907 yards. Ingram will be an unanimous pick by the coaches. If not, we’ve got another story.

5. Is Arkansas this year’s Ole Miss? Last season a lot of people had Ole Miss in the Top Ten based on the return of quarterback Jevan Snead and all-purpose star Dexter McCluster. Ole Miss finished the regular season 8-4 (4-4 SEC) and needed some clock management issues by LSU to pull out a 25-23 win in Oxford. The Rebels then got pounded pretty good by Mississippi State, 41-27. It was a good season that was tinged with disappointment because many Ole Miss fans thought it was going to be special.

This year the trendy pick in the SEC is Arkansas because of the return of quarterback Ryan Mallett. Will we in the media be guilty of building expectations for Arkansas only to see the Hogs fall short?

Perhaps, but Mallett (30 touchdowns, 7 picks last season) is a significantly better quarterback than Jevan Snead. Arkansas doesn’t have a Dexter McCluster but the Razorbacks have a lot of guys who can catch the ball and a stable of really good running backs.

Ask me again on the night of Sept. 25. The Hogs open with a pair of winnable games against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. Then it’s a road game at Georgia on Sept. 18 and a home game with Alabama on Sept. 25. Lose them both and 8-4 is a real possibility, especially with road games remaining at Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State.

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Programming note: Our “Talkin’ Football” crew on CSS will be doing shows daily from the SEC Media Days starting Wednesday at 6 p.m.  Check it out.

158 comments Add your comment

Old School

July 19th, 2010
8:17 am

Good post about Mal Moore. Mal is a fine man who also has been through a lot with the recent loss of his wife who had been battling illness for several years. Wish him the best and hope he remains for years.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 19th, 2010
8:21 am

good stuff- the Vandy situation is horrible. Mallett may be the best SEC QB this year, stat wise but agreed that they have a tough schedule this year.


July 19th, 2010
8:39 am

I agree with Old School Mal Moore is a fine man and he has stooped his toe a few times hiring bad coaches. But he hit a home run with Saban and really now he just raises funds from the big shots
and the former FSU AD David Hart really runs the day to day operation!! RTR

Beast from the East

July 19th, 2010
8:39 am

Mal Moore doesn’t deserve to paid like Foley. Other than football, has he raised the bar in any other sports? Foley has brought most sports in Gaineville into the mix for conference and sometimes NC’s. Don’t get me wrong, Moore has done great things as mentioned above, but Foley is the DC by which all others should be measured.
I know….I’m a Gator homer, but the facts support my argument.

Beast from the East

July 19th, 2010
8:40 am

Should have been AD…..not DC. DUH!


July 19th, 2010
8:44 am

Saunders, really, it’s South Carolina, they’re a perennial 7-5 team, they’re not relevant. Tribute to Richt that that sort of thing hasn’t touched his program. Spurrier can’t win big anymore at South Carolina, he doesn’t have the staff, players, or passion.

Moore a raise? Nope. Yes, Saban timed it good, when every SEC team except Florida was down, to win a Natl Champ. That’s not the measure of success. Saban is inconsistent, went 7-6 at Bama too, people forget that. One great year doesn’t erase years of medicrity, that’s what you get with Saban, 1 great year, and a bunch of mediocre years, ask Mich St, or LSU, or Miami.

Vandy interim coaches? Great move by the coach to keep his staff in tact. They have a chance, which is all he wanted, a chance for them to prove they can win without him, and then they all keep their jobs. If they get 4 or 5 wins, no one will be interim anymore.

Ballot? Ealey will be the best back in the league in 2010, but you won’t see that in the voting. If you compare what Ealey’s doing with some of the all-time greats like Walker, you can see he’s something very, very special that you see once every 2 or 3 DECADES.

Yes, Ark is this year’s Ole Miss. You can’t win big in the SEC without great defense, not a Petrino staple. Petrino runs up the score against bad teams, like Florida does, but lays eggs against the good teams due to no defense. Expect Petrino to not meet expectations again, he never does.

Rockin Tide

July 19th, 2010
8:44 am

Arkansas will be for real. Petrino is a way above average coach in COLLEGE football, Remember, he took a basketball school, Louisville, to the top in a very short time frame. Now, where are they? He will win big at Arkansas, starting this year. Two toughest regular season games on Bama’s schedule is Florida and Arkansas, with Arkansas being slightly tougher due to it being at Arkansas. Also, if we get out of Arkansas with a win on Sept. 25th it will be a HUGE pivotal boost for the SEC West lead. I don’t believe Bama will go undefeated this year, due to the schedule, Penn State, Florida, Arkansas, 6 straight teams with an open week before playing them. Prediction SEC title game: Arkansas/Bama vs. Gators. Dawgs will contend in 2011 after a year of experience under Grantham. Either way, I believe Bama and the Gators have a tougher time this year, its gonna be a fun time being an SEC fan this year!

Roll Tide and the SEC


July 19th, 2010
8:46 am

It’s good to know GT players would never have improper contact with agents like these thugs at USC(e) and UNC. CPJ lays down the law when they come to The Institute and he demands the highest respect and adoration of his players. So glad to have him on The Flats.

Let’s go get em Jackets!!!

(((( 45-42 ))))


July 19th, 2010
8:55 am

Les….Saban has been inconsistent? Two years in a row he has had a 12-0 regular season. In his years in the SEC he has won the west 4-5 time, has 3 SEC titles and 2 NC’s at 2 different schools. He is recognized as one of the best coaches in the college game. While I agree with you that Mal Moore doesn’t deserve a raise, I think you fail to grasp how good of a coach that Saban is. Richt struggled in his first year at UGA and this last year but that doesnt make him an inconsistent coach.

As for your comments about Ealey, you are insane. BAMA returns a Heisman winner and a backup RB who are widely considered the best RB duo in the nation. As a Sophomore and True Freshman, they helped lead BAMA to the NC. Stop looking through those red and black lenses sometime and you will get a better idea that college football exists outside of the city of Athens.


July 19th, 2010
9:02 am

Is Ole Miss this years Auburn?
Aka.. a team that came in without a ton of hype but puts together a solid year and has some good momentum going into the next year.
I like how this season is lining up for Ole Miss. I think they avoid going back to the SEC cellar, win 8 games, and make a statement that although they may not contend for the west every year, the program has a lot more stability than its had in decades.


July 19th, 2010
9:03 am

I’d say Moore deserves to make more than Damon Evans was supposed to make and less than Jeremy Foley makes. That makes him a bit underpaid at present.

That being said, I truly believe that they are all overpaid. The same goes for the coaches. Sooner or later the athletic departments are going to crumble under the weight of the salaries they are paying.

The Vanderbilt coaching staff is not interim; they ARE the coaching staff. They may be replaced for next season, but not this one.

I wasn’t sold on Ole Miss going into last season, and I feel the same about Arkansas this season. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


July 19th, 2010
9:16 am

Will the SEC invest some of this TV money in full time Ref’s-many blown calls in big games last year!

Rockin Tide

July 19th, 2010
9:29 am

Les, what kind of hallucinogenic mushroom Kool-aid u drinking? Can u get it at the local liquor store? I’m a Bama fan living in Georgia and MOST of the dawg fans I party with would disagree with ya unless possibly than can get a hold of the kool-aid. I guess you might want to check back after you come down in a few days and see that you posted the most ignorant blog posted. Try Friday and see if most of your brain cells have regenerated by then.

Ric Flair

July 19th, 2010
9:29 am

Yeah, that was a tough call in deciding to get Nick Saban.

If anything he should be thankful to still have his job after trying to land Rich Rod. We’ve seen how well that’s gone…

UGA Faithful

July 19th, 2010
9:49 am

I switched to DirectTV here in Athens and cant watch your programs anymore Tony, which makes me truly sad


July 19th, 2010
10:12 am

Who cares about SC!! It’s all about GA-FLA!!!


July 19th, 2010
10:22 am

Mal Moore hiring Shula says a lot about his management style, for a while.

Many schools like to hire used-to-be’s, or sons of used-to-be’s. Bama tried Shula, Tenn tried Kiffin and now is trying Dooley. SoCar tried Holtz, now trying Spurrier.

UGA tried Dooley as AD because he was good as a coach.

People doing such hiring are the status-quo kind. If they don’t change, the programs will be mired in mediocrity.

Mal Moore changed his mind quickly and made a sharp turn, Florida’s never even considered that route in the last 20 years in its AD or coach hiring.

Burning SEC Question

July 19th, 2010
10:25 am

Does Georgia believe the back-up QB position is not important ?

…………… This could be crucial.


July 19th, 2010
10:29 am

In this state isn’t UGA always the trendy pick? I have yet to hear UGA alums saying UGA will finish anywhere but first in SEC East (and yet they have only won it like twice since 1980?) They are the perenial laughing stocks…all talent and yet never win anything of note. Well except Gymnasties.

Greensboro, GA

July 19th, 2010
10:30 am

…… Nesbitt for Heisman ……

That Guy

July 19th, 2010
10:52 am

Ask little Nicky Saban if Bama has received another PLOI that they are hiding and how many current players have been questioned by NCAA investigators regarding improper benefits. Also ask if they have been cleared in writing as is required by NCAA rules. Last one, please ask if any players are suspended for the upcoming season.

Billy from Winder

July 19th, 2010
11:13 am

How bout dem Dawgs?????

This is the year!

2010…Year of the Dawg!!!!!

Billy from Winder

July 19th, 2010
11:15 am

That Guy = Obsessed with Bama

Must be a Barner.


July 19th, 2010
11:16 am

For Arkansas, the higher expectations this year are not only because of Ryan Mallet, but because they return 17 starters which include a receiving corps that could be among the top 5 in the nation. If they can improve their dreadful defensive numbers from last year and kicking game, then they’ll be one of the toughest teams to beat in the SEC.

Dawg Top

July 19th, 2010
11:18 am

The Dawgs will beat Arkansas easily in Athens. Grantham’s new 3-4 D will shut down mallett and their overrated offense—mark it down.


July 19th, 2010
11:21 am

Arkansas’s offense is talented, but Arkansas had the worst defense in the SEC last year and I have heard nothing speaking to it being any better. They will not live up the the hype.

Yet another....

July 19th, 2010
11:21 am

SEC Update from Mr. SEC …thanks Tony


July 19th, 2010
11:26 am

Who cares, the SEC is a bunch of drunker s.

Hamad Meander

July 19th, 2010
11:33 am

Mal Moore deserves to enjoy the success he has created. Whether that be with a big raise or not, should be recognized for what he has accomplished. For those you are critical because he hasn’t made other sports as successful as the football program, remember this: Football is what creates the revenue to field all of the other sports. If it’s not successful and PROFITABLE, then there isn’t anything left for any other program. Mal is smart that he has invested so much money and resources to the program that will return the most back to the school.

Sensei John Kreese

July 19th, 2010
11:33 am

Hey RAMBLE, don’t look now, but those “drunkers” tore your lame excuse for a conference apart last year. Oh, and won yet ANOTHER national title.

Tide Pride?

July 19th, 2010
11:34 am

Mal Moore also gave Mike DuBose a big raise in 1999 and then fired him less than a year later

Mal Moore was also dumped by Coach Franchione in large part for misleading him about the NCAA investigation

Mal Moore also hired Mike Price, who was fired by President Witt over Moore’s objection

Mal Moore also hired Mike Shula over the much more qualified Sylvester Croom

Mal Moore was also the AD when the NCAA declared that Alabama’s Athletic Department was “starring down the barrel of a gun”

Mal Moore’s entire tenure as AD has occurred (one way or another) during an NCAA repeat offender window

Seriously, isn’t Mal Moore is still trying to earn those paychecks from 1999 until 2007.


July 19th, 2010
11:35 am

Sure wish the media would stop mailing in the SEC West title to Alabama. I don’t think they’re going to have it quite as easy this year as in the past. Plus, Penn State is not going to be a gimme, even at home. On the other hand, the notes about Mal Moore were right on. He deserves a lot of credit (as well as Saban) for the resurgence.


July 19th, 2010
11:39 am

Yet Another, Tony would write more about the ACC, but basketball doesn’t start until December.


July 19th, 2010
11:46 am

I’m not entirely sure that Mal Moore should be making Jeremy Foley money. However, I too would agree that he should be making at least as much as Damon Evans was going to make prior to the “Red Panty Party”. Mal has made his mistakes to be sure, but he has seemed to learn from them and has righted the ship. Saban deserves the lions share of that and is paid accordingly. But Mal was the one who was willing to throw money Saban’s way to get him there, and he has been supportive of Saban from day one. At Bama, the only thing that matters is football. As long as football is a nationally elite program( which it is right now), then the AD deserves credit and should be paid accordingly.

[...] With SEC Football Media Days coming up this week, Tony Barnhart of the AJC offers five burning questions. [...]

Al Nall

July 19th, 2010
12:00 pm

Mr. Football – say what you will about Jevan Snead, but please remember he was qb for 18 wins in two seasons at Ole Miss. Yes he was horrible in some big games, which we all remember, however while at QB, we did very well in the SEC.


July 19th, 2010
12:09 pm

UF v Bama again in Atlanta, everyone else is irrelevant


July 19th, 2010
12:10 pm

Hey “Gators Rule SEC East”. It is better to keep your mouth shut and have everyone think that you are a moron, than to speak and remove all doubt. The Dawgs were SEC champs in 1980, 1981, 1982, 2002, and 2005. Tied for first with Tennessee in the SEC East in 2007.

What are you even on this blog for? You need to get a life, you loser. I would never waste my time by going on a Gayturd blog.

Don’t you need to go check on your psycho coach? He may be having yet another anxiety attack…

sherlock holmes

July 19th, 2010
12:16 pm

NESBITT FOR HESIMAN, he has better stats than all of these wanna be’s


July 19th, 2010
12:23 pm

Any Tide fans that are ignoring Auburn are doing so at their peril.
The Tigers will be to Alabama what the ‘Noles will be to the Gators – a nail biter for a season ender (remember last year Hefalumps?)!


July 19th, 2010
12:26 pm

The loser of the UGA-Arkansas game will go 8-4, at best. At SC and Arkansas the following week are huge games if Mark Richt wants to get past this “hot seat” tag.


July 19th, 2010
12:29 pm

Les, the team that is not relevant is UGA. They have beaten FLA three times out of the last twenty years. Now that is irrelevant.


July 19th, 2010
12:29 pm

Anonymous (figures) – I don’t know of any Tide fans that ever ignore Auburn…the history of that series has always shown you can throw the record books out. With that said…I do remember last year…congrats on your moral victory.


July 19th, 2010
12:43 pm

GatorsRuleSECEast Move back to Florida and instantly make Georgia a better state.


July 19th, 2010
12:44 pm

Shula to Bama…… Dooley to UT……. Very close to the same situation, but different….Bama was in Trouble with the NCAA and no big name who had already made his rep was going near Bama,,,,Enter Shula…at least a “name” to get in the door to recruit…….UT in shambles, no big name was going in to the place to rebuild,,,enter Dooley…..It will be sad if Dooley gets the place cleaned up and loaded up with respectable Div. 1 players and not be allowed to see it through because of some tough 6-6, 7-5 seasons………


July 19th, 2010
12:49 pm

Florida fans making a lot of cracks about Damon, but it might come back to haunt them….Ga just might, I mean might hire an AD who will not allow the the next 20 years to be 17-3. He may demand excellence, like Foley, and put a big stick in Athens….There is no shortage of money there.

Tide Rising

July 19th, 2010
12:50 pm

Les at 8:44am ,

What on earth were you smoking this morning? Washaun Ealey is the best running back in the sec over Mark Ingram? He couldn’t even be Ingram’s backup. Ingram’s backup Trent Richardson is vastly superior to Washaun Ealey some people think Richardson is better than Ingram. Ealey would have a hard time beating out Bama’s 3rd team tailback Eddie Lacy. “Washaun Ealey is one of those special players that only comes along once every 2 or 3 decades?” Seriously? Wait till after the workday is over before you hit that pipe.


July 19th, 2010
12:51 pm

Saban’s gone 7-6 or worse 50% of his coaching years, Richt has NEVER had a 7-6 season. Saban’s the most inconsistent coach in the country, that’s why he’s called the “Human Yo Yo”. Richt’s the most consistent coach in the nation, finishing in the top 10, 19 out of the last 24 seasons.

Ealey matches up well with any RB in thwe SEC, includign Ingram. Ingram gets like 5.9 ypc rushing, 7.7 receiving, Ealey gets 5.7 ypc rushing, 7.7 ypc receiving. Whether Richt USES Ealey, like Saban uses Ingram, remains to be seen, as Richt is not known for using his playmakers.

If Richt uses AJ, Ealey, and Olson, the way Saban & Meyer use their playmakers, it might make an interesting year. But they’re deluded that you can’t 1 guy mega touches at any 1 position, Percy, Ingram, and Hernandez were used a lot more.

Gen Neyland

July 19th, 2010
12:52 pm

As far as Arkansas, Mallet and his WR’ing corp can resort to the famous Cox-Green secret pass play of Heave and Catch. Only problem is that won’t win the division. I mean, who in their right mind can see the Razorpigs representing the West in the Georgia Dome in December..? Albeit, they haven’t played the games yet. Speaking of AJ Green, he should be a unanimous 1st teamer at WR’er along with JJ of Alabamastan unless Coach Steve lets an asst fill out his card (wink-wink) again…

Tide Rising

July 19th, 2010
12:55 pm


Tennessee is a big name in college football. Seems to me they could have gotten a bigger name than Derek Dooley or at least a guy with a track record of success like Chris Peterson at Boise or Kyle Wittingham at Utah. Plus they were in a much better situation than Bama when Shula took over. They are not on probation and Kiffin had in fact brought in a decent recruiting class. No reason anybody can’t be successful at UT with all they have to offer.