By George Somerville

SEC Media days are amongst us again signalling the unofficial start of the 2022 season. The Touchdown team will bring you all the highlights from the week which is sure to be packed full of controversy, chaos and the odd comic moment!

Day 2 - we are rollin'

Day 1 got us off to a quick start and the SEC was keen to keep up the momentum by rolling out the big gun – yes Alabama  Head Coach, Nick Saban was first on the podium on day 2. He was followed by Clark Lea of Vanderbilt, the Pirate Mike Leach from Mississippi State  and pulling up the rear, South Carolina’s Shane Beamer.

So let’s see what they had to say…….

Saban takes the garbage out

Image credit: Network

There is always one guest speaker that everyone sits up and takes note of what they say. Alabama Head Coach, Nick Saban is the guy.

First up the Alabama Head Coach was asked about his tow returning stars – Bryce Young and Will Anderson. An unusual position for a Head Coach to have players of their calibre return for another crack at the title. Coach Saban had this to say,

“Well, I don’t like to compare players, but to have two players that make such a significant impact on our team as those two guys, I don’t recall ever having a circumstance like that”.

Saban continued,

“We’ve had some great impact players, but never one on offense, one on defense, of the caliber that these guys have been able to play on a consistent basis”.

But Anderson and Young are more than just stars on the field. They bring leadership to the Crimson Tide. Coach Saban explained,

“I think probably bigger than that is the impact that they have on the players around them. These guys set a great example. They’re players that other people on our team can emulate in a positive way because of the example that they set. These guys are very serving to their teammates in terms of they really do care about helping other people for their benefit.

So these guys have not only been great players, they’ve contributed from a leadership standpoint probably as significantly as any leaders that we’ve had – and we’ve had some really good leaders in our program and organization”.

In his opening remarks, Coach Saban remarked that this was his 21st season in the SEC. While he is the leader of his Alabama Football team, he is not the leader at home, so he was quick to make comment that he was looking forward to getting back to work to save on doing more chores around the house. Saban explained that Ms Terry rules in the Saban household,

“Lots of people love vacation, but I’m the leader of an organization, but I’m not the leader when I’m on vacation. When I get the list to take the garbage out, run the sweeper, Pledge the refrigerator, it’s always, after a certain period of time, refreshing to be able to go back to work so that I can be the leader of an organization”.

And what of the day that Saban wants to no longer be the leader of the Alabama organisation and sign up for more of Ms Terry’s chores?  Well not so sure that’s happening anytime soon. SEC Nation’s Laura Rutledge asked the Septuagenarian what he loved about his job. Saban responded,

“I love my relationships with the players, I love the competition, I love the preparation for the games. I just love it. 

I wish y’all would ask the other coaches that come up here because they tell all the recruits that I’m gonna retire – why don’t you ask them how they know when I’m going to retire? When all I think about is what I’m going to do if I retire! Because I love what I do right now, so how am I going to be happy not to do that!”

Anderson & Young revenge tour

Image credit: Network

Nick Saban brought QB1 and Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young and should have been Heisman trophy winner Will Anderson with him to Atlanta. As you might expect from Alabama’s top stars, it was pretty much all business. But still worth hearing what they had to say, specifically about the so called “revenge tour”.

First up linebacker, Will Anderson,

”Well for me I am going to approach the season just like I approached it last year. I am just going to be Will Anderson. I am not going to try to do anything special. I’m not going to go out there and try to be a hero. I am just going to go out there and be myself, be the player that I was when I first got here and just help my teammates play good team football.”

On the disappointment of last season…

“The biggest goal for this team is always to win the National Championship. And we didn’t meet that goal last year. So, last season was not the successful season that we wanted. All the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into a season is towards getting to the National Championship and winning it, and last year we got there and we did not finish the way we wanted to.”

And finally on that Game against Texas A&M on October 8th? Anderson had this to say,

“We approach every game the same. We know the history behind this game. We know what to expect. We know what type of game that it is going to be. We are just going to go out there and play Alabama football.”

“When we play Texas A&M everything will be addressed then”

Quarterback, Bryce Young was focused. Focused on the disappointment of last year and what drives him to win in 2022. Young started with this,

“Ask anyone who played at Alabama, the years we don’t win a national championship we’re failures”

Speaking to Sports Illustrated Young expanded on this,

“Being at Alabama, all you have to focus on is the team and winning. We didn’t get it done last year. That’s really the approach I am taking. I definitely have a lot of motivation, a lot of fuel to do that”

Young ended on this statement of intent,

“For me it’s all about winning a championship and finishing what we failed to finish last year”.

Right, any questions?

Image credit: SEC Network

Yesterday we were all primed to hear what Ole Miss Head Coach, Lane Kiffin had to say. And it was worth waiting for.

Today, as much as Nick Saban was the headline act, everybody was waiting to see what Mississippi State Head Coach, Mike Leach – the Pirate  had to say.

And like Kiffin, Leach was far from disappointing. 

But let’s start at the beginning. SEC Commissioner was effusive in his praise of Leach in his introduction. A man with three degrees and who teaches military strategies to students in his spare time – Sankey’s introduction probably ran to two minutes or so.

In typical Leach style he walked onto the podium, shook the Commisioner’s hand said “thanks for that, right any questions?” – which left the media room in uproar with laughter.

Unsurprisingly Mike was asked why no introductory statement? His answer was honest as it was comprehensive,

“Opening statements? Well, I hate opening statements. I really don’t see the point of it. So as opposed to me sit there and think of some flowery opening statement, which I’ve done before, and then at the end of the opening statement a number of people ask questions that have already been addressed in my opening statement, I decided we’d just sort of cut out the middleman. You go ahead and ask the questions, and I’ll go ahead and answer ’em”.

So that was that.

So what to ask next. Well Commissioner Sankey had already planted the seeds in his opening statement when he made comment that Mike Leach was not short of recommending a good Netflix watch. So that was the next question. What would Coach Leach recommend? Well, this….

“I guess the hidden gem, which I think I said it last year, “Operation Odessa,” that documentary, you need to watch that about these international criminals that try to buy a submarine for Pablo Escobar. That’s worth watching”.

effused Leach.

“I wish I could tell you I watched more Netflix. I haven’t watched a lot lately. During the season, it’s good to watch to kind of get your head straight. I’m up to date on “Better Call Saul,” I’m up to date on “Yellowstone.”

Yeah, I’ll tell you, that’s part of it. The kids got me into “Stranger Things.” I’m certainly not ready for this season, I’m about halfway through. I don’t know”.

So, no spoilers on the new season then.

But on the topic of USC and UCLA moving to the BIG10, Leach was asked to share his thoughts on how they would fare. Leach had an interesting point to make on the geographical cost of moving to a conference much further East.

“The question I have is, one, if the Pac-12 does manage to stick together, how much does it or doesn’t it help Cal and Utah get more recruits in Southern California?”

But it was his next point which was most interesting. Leach said,

“Then the other is, I’ve been on long trips like that, UCLA and USC have to take five a year, across two or three time zones. I don’t think they’re going to play all those games at noon, say. I bet you they play a bunch of them at night. They have to do it five times a year. The rest of the Big Ten has to do it less than one time every other year.

I’m kind of curious how it will unfold. I’ll be here to watch it. Maybe it’s such a great idea, everybody will do it”.

Shane, Rattler & Roll!

Image credit: SEC Network

I have said it before, I’ll say it again, Coach Shane Beamer is a coach I would play for. At my age I might even run through a wall for him.

Why? Coach Beamer has energy, positivity, enthusiasm. For life, for his football program, for his players. He is similar to Clemson Head Coach, Dabo Swinney in that regard. So it is easy to see why players want to play for Beamer.

I guess Coach Beamer knows this and he is more than savvy enough to know that a prime spot in SEC Media Days is as good a place as any to sell the program to prospective recruits. And sell he did.

“(I) Really like this 2022 group that we have. I love being their coach. I love coaching this team. The work ethic, the maturity, the hunger to improve has been evident since January when we came back after the bowl win”.

Beamer’s enthusiasm was obvious for all to see,

“Right now as a football program we have the third highest graduation success rate in all the SEC. We’ve got 22 players on our team that will play this season as graduates of the University of South Carolina. Then, assuming we’re at a bowl game in December, we’ll have nine more guys that will graduate in December. If you’re watching us play a bowl game in December or hopefully January, we’ll have 31 players on our team that will have already graduated from the University of South Carolina. 25 of our guys made the dean’s list last year”

Shane Beamer continued almost without taking a breath,

“Last year I stood up here and there wasn’t a single person in here that was talking about South Carolina football other than maybe our beat writers. No one was talking about any of the individuals in our football team across the country last year.

I think the most noise we made at SEC Media Days last year was when we reenacted the Coach Spurrier Arby’s picture on the way back to the airport. But there was very little talk about our football team.

That’s different this year. People are talking about us nationally, which is what we want. We have high expectations at South Carolina. People are talking about our players as individuals more nationally than what they were last year. There’s more buzz about this program right now”.

Inevitably, Beamer was asked about his star quarterback, the recent transfer in, Spencer Rattler. Coach Beamer was asked if Spencer Rattler is under pressure ahead of his first start. Beamer’s enthusiasm could not be rattled. If you excuse the pun.

“I don’t know if there’s pressure. I would say this. People forget, Spencer Rattler is the starting quarterback at Oklahoma. He had some pretty high amount of pressure replacing guy by the name of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts”.

Said the Gamecocks Head Coach.

“I don’t worry about Spencer. There may be some outside pressure with him. He’s been through the fire before. I saw first hand how he handled it when he was at Oklahoma and started out 0-2. Never flinched. Continued to get better. There will be some ups, certainly some downs this season. But I have no worry about him from that standpoint and being able to handle it.”

Key stories to watch out for

Image credit: Chris Marler Twitter

It would be easy to gloss over the representation from Vanderbilt. There are many around the conference – not within necessarily, that would happily swap Vandy out for say a North Carolina or Virginia. If you listened to the rhetoric you would be forgiven that Vanderbilt has gone the way of the University of Sewanee. Certainly they have become the whipping boys of the SEC but Head Coach, Clark Lea knows this. He knew it before taking up the job and is no less certain about it now. In fact he didn’t hide from this. Lea said,

“A year ago I talked to you about the strain of resuscitating a program, aligning a group of people who had come to find themselves under new standards and expectations while not having made the choice to be a part of it”.

Lea continued,

“Once we reached the season, we were forced to confront our reality, and our physical, mental, technical and tactical deficiencies were evident from the start. I want to be clear that the season was challenging on many levels, but we were not victimized by that adversity.

Last fall was a necessary experience for us. It exposed the true starting point for this early start of our build as a program. The adversity of the fall broke off all the parts of us that were fake and unbelieving. It stripped us down to our studs”.

Which is as honest an evaluation as you might come to expect. Although the critics will say that there is nowhere else for Clark Lea to go with this. Except he said it will as much humility as he did with an attitude that this will work”.

Clark Lea continued,

“Towards the end of the season, internally we could start to feel the fibers of our program strengthening. We could start to feel the shift from a compliant program to a committed program. We could feel a brotherhood forming. And yet, even at the end of the season, we fell way short of our own program performance expectations”.

It’s difficult not to be impressed by the no nonsense, yet humble personality of Clark Lee. I get the sense he hasn’t shirked a challenge in his football career thus far and isn’t starting now.

So when he speaks I can understand why people, including this staff and team listen. Clark Lea had this to say in summing up where Vanderbilt currently is,

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done to this point as a program. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. I’m excited about what’s to come. I’m excited about getting back to the team that awaits me in Nashville that’s been fighting through the summer to continue to tile into that identity.


We are on a quest to be the best developmental program in the country. We want to set a course for our men to realize successful careers in the NFL.


Now, I use the term ‘career’ intentionally because you can get an opportunity in the NFL no matter where you go so long as you have the skills. But to establish a career and maintain a career, to sustain success at a high level, requires a certain specific foundation that you lean upon as your physical skills deplete”.

Finally, Clark Lea had this to say about competing in the SEC,

“I think as a competitor, you want to do this at the highest level. The SEC is the highest level. So what that means is your systems are stressed and strained in every way imaginable. It’s, like, part of the fun and the joy in doing it.


There’s not a Saturday where you can sit back and relax. You have to bring it at your highest level each time you play. No matter who it is in our conference, it’s going to be that way.


Again, I think as a competitor your goal is always to do this at the highest level, to compete and play the best, to win at the highest level. Membership in this conference gives us a chance to do that”.

With a steely confidence that comes with a CV that Clark Lea has amassed at UCLA, South Dakota State, Bowling Green, Syracuse, Wake Forest and most recently Notre Dame, Clark Lea said this,

“We know in time Vanderbilt football will be the best program in the country. We’re not fighting to win an SEC game, we’re fighting to become a dominant force within the conference”.

Whatever your thoughts are about the Vanderbilt program, it is hard not to admire the job that Clark Lea is doing in Nashville.

Mock Draft

george somerville

College football writer