Jeff's Journal - #7

Just got back from SEC Kickoff 2003 (or "Media Days" as we like to call it).

Thought you might like to check out a few notes and observations from the 3-day talkfest.

Tommy Tuberville says the plan is for Carnell Williams to return kicks, with Tre Smith handling punt returns. The Auburn coach says he’ll rely on Cadillac and Ronnie Brown to power the running game, with junior college superstar Brandon Jacobs and last year’s Iron Bowl hero, Tre Smith, playing lesser roles.

Tuberville says don’t be surprised to see Carnell and Ronnie on the field at the same time - a ploy designed to keep defenses guessing about which Tiger will be carrying the ball.

Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell took it one step further, saying the Tigers will occasionally employ 3 running backs at the same time! And we thought the "Wishbone" had gone the way of the "Wing T" and the "Notre Dame box."

With all of the talk about Auburn (the Tigers are ranked #6 in the preseason coaches’ poll and reporters in Birmingham picked Auburn to win the SEC West), I was interested to see that only 3 Tigers were picked to the preseason first-team All-SEC, while Alabama boasts 5 first-teamers.

For the record, Auburn’s "big three" are Karlos Dansby, Dontarrious Thomas and Carnell Williams. Alabama’s preseason All-Stars are Justin Smiley, Wesley Britt, Shaud Williams, Antwan Odom and Brooks Daniels.

Many coaches were asked what advice they would give to new Bama coach Mike Shula. Arkansas’ Houston Nutt says, "Learn how to say no" to some of those speaking engagements, and make sure you handle your coaching responsibilities before you start schmoozing with all of your former teammates who want to hang around the program.

Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer, who tried to recruit Shula to Knoxville 20 years ago, says Mike doesn’t need Fulmer’s advice - not when Shula’s dad (Don) is the NFL’s all-time winningest coach. (By the way, I used the word "winningest" in a sportscast a few months back, and got an educational e-mail from a viewer who pointed out that "winningest" is not a real word. Turns out the viewer was correct, but don’t you agree that, at least to sports fans, "winningest" is part of the language?

Georgia’s Mark Richt, who thanks to Shula is no longer the SEC’s youngest head coach, says being a head coach in the SEC is something you can prepare for, but it’s something for which you’re never truly ready.

Speaking of getting ready, I think Mike Shula is becoming much more comfortable handling himself in front of cameras and microphones. After his less-than-impressive introductory press conference, the new Tide coach seemed quite at ease in Birmingham. I’ve yet to hear anyone say a single unkind word about him.

I ran into Auburn’s new play-by-play man, Rod Bramblett, at Media Days. He says the Auburn Network is still deciding how it wants to honor the late Jim Fyffe this fall. Bramblett hinted that he’ll pay tribute to the legendary voice of the Tigers by borrowing Jim’s trademark "Touchdown Auburn" phrase after the first TD of the season.

Rod’s a real pro - he’ll do a great job. And Auburn people will enjoy listening to him call the games. But there’ll never be another Jim.


If you read last week’s Journal, you might recall I wrote that either Alabama State head football coach L.C. Cole or athletic director Dr. Richard Cosby would be gone by this time next year. I should’ve written, "this time next WEEK."

What will happen to Cole Blooded Football now that the program’s most outspoken critic, Dr. Cosby, has left ASU to be the A.D. at Tuscaloosa’s Stillman College?

I thought Coach Cole's chances of remaining the "head Hornet" were much better with Cosby gone, but that was before the "Friday Night Hornet Massacre" that resulted in Cole's dismissal.

Where does ASU go from here? I'm hearing whispers that former ASU player and assistant coach Ben Harris might be the guy.  Harris built a dynasty at Mobile's Blount High School.  He would be a popular choice among alumni, who are upset about the end of the Cole Blooded Era.

 I’m taking "the Journal" on the road next week. Heading out for what we use to call the "Skywriters" tour. Phil Snow, who made this annual August excursion for more than 25 years, gave me a hand-drawn map of SEC country, along with some tips on how to get to a dozen campuses in 10 days (sleep fast and catch early flights).

You can see "Jeff’s SEC Journey" beginning Monday, August 18 on WSFA 12 news at 6. Throughout that week, from Monday to Saturday at 6 and 10, we’ll be checking in from a different Southeastern Conference campus in each newscast.

Now if I can just get Phil to lend me his "official Skywriter hat," I’ll be good to go.

See you next week from somewhere in the SEC. God bless - Jeff