Ranking all 14 SEC coaches on their Media Days press conferences

Florida coach Jim McElwain speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days, Monday, July 11, 2016, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Florida coach Jim McElwain speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days, Monday, July 11, 2016, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

HOOVER, Ala. — Each team drags three players with it to SEC Media Days, but it’s the coaches who tend to make lasting impressions.

With Steve Spurrier missing from this year’s festivities, there was a personality void. In his absence, we decided to crown a new “King of Media Days.”

It appeared to be an arduous task at the outset. There were favorites, sure. We laughed at dozens of jokes and cringed at a few questionable answers. Eventually, the dust settled, and by Thursday afternoon, we had our rankings:

14. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Asked to reconcile Mississippi State’s acceptance of Jeffery Simmons — caught on camera punching a woman repeatedly earlier this year — and a sign in the Bulldogs locker room that reads “Respect Women,” Mullen spoke in generalizations and never answered the question.

That was a theme.

He brought some interesting shoes to Hoover…

… But it was part of a tone-deaf performance that revolved around Simmons, though Mullen rarely mentioned his new 5-star recruit by name.

At one point, a reporter asked Mullen why Simmons was given uniform No. 36 — a special jersey in the Bulldogs program — and managed to say two completely separate things in his answer.

  1. He didn’t specifically give Simmons the number (“we just kind of assigned it off what locker you’re going to be in right now”), and…
  2. He specifically assigned No. 36 to Simmons to honor former player Nick Bell (“that’s something we had discussed and we’re looking forward to”).

On top of that, he tried to remove himself from the line of fire by saying “I wasn’t involved as much” in giving Simmons the green light to enroll.

There were some lighthearted moments (remember: the shoes), but any positive vibes were overshadowed by his Simmons comments and then a later interview in which he made things worse for himself.

13. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

He spent 59 words talking about his kicker in the opening. Sure, that kicker — Daniel Carlson — is good at what he does, but that’s an example of the unnecessary fat most coaches packed into their introductions.

Malzahn lost a lot of points for being a combination of boring and uncooperative.

Consider the following question: “What do you think you misjudged about your team last year? And then when something like that happens to you as a coach, how do you sort of compensate for that the next year in terms of maybe managing expectations or that kind of thing?”

He wound up speaking in generalizations and failed to answer either part. There were a couple moments of clarity and honesty (“Domestic violence is something that we don’t touch,” and “It was very humbling” to underperform in 2015), but they were few and far between.

A few years ago, Malzahn and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema were part of some mini-theater at this event, but that appears to be behind them.

Malzahn mentioned “Bret from Arkansas” as if he were a “first time, long time” guy on the Finebaum show, which we appreciated, but his overall cordiality toward Bielema was the end of our hope for fireworks.

We’ll finish with some classic coachspeak about quarterback Jeremy Johnson: “Jeremy went through a storm last year and the way he’s responded in the spring, in the summer, he’s responded very well. He’s operating with a chip on his shoulder. He wants to help our team in any way he can.”

12. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Kentucky has started 5-0 and 4-1 the last two seasons and failed to make the postseason in both. Some might call those “collapses,” as one reporter chose to do.

Stoops didn’t like it.

“I think you used the word ‘collapse,’” Stoop said. “I don’t think I would ever use that word because they weren’t. I just said they were very competitive games. Very good games that could have gone either way.”

This one was mostly a snoozer, save for a funny moment when Stoops discussed his relationship with Bret Bielema.

“He’s a beauty,” Stoops said. “I think he was in here entertaining you guys earlier, right? But I tell you a story about Bret. I just said it out there to some of the guys. I better be careful. Don’t get in a pissing contest with a skunk. Right? So he’s gone. He can’t say nothing about me right now.”

Stoops went on to tell an anecdote about Bielema’s tiny dogs (they’re little, he’s big, and so on), which proved to be the most memorable part of the conversation. Not good for personal branding, Mark.

11. Kirby Smart, Georgia

A lengthy opening (1,944 words) set the tone for a Saban-esque presser from Smart.

In the fashion of his old boss, the new Bulldogs coach made a power move to assert his dominance in the room: “This is my first Media Days, but I am no stranger to the SEC. This starts my 18th season as part of the SEC. Had five as a player, one as administrative assistant, three as position coach, and eight as coordinator. In that time, I had the great benefit of being to every venue in the SEC.”

There were buzzwords aplenty; it’s only a matter of time until Georgia has its own version of the “Process.”

“I got great value from the nine years I spent at University of Alabama and 11 years I worked for Coach Saban, learning the difference between a team and a program,” Smart said.

He was later asked how his Georgia team will be different from Alabama, a query that he answered by failing to disassociate his plan from Saban’s plan in any way: “The trademark for us is going to be big, physical, fast football team. We’re not there yet, but we’re certainly moving that direction. That’s the stamp I would like to put on it.”

What’s the stamp logo? An elephant?

10. Barry Odom, Missouri

Imagine you are Barry Odom. It’s the eve of your first career appearance at SEC Media Days. You are about to introduce your program to the 1,000-plus credentialed media and tens of thousands of fans watching at home.

Then, you get a phone call. It’s your athletic director. He’s leaving town to take over a program — Baylor — in worse shape than your own.

Less than an hour before your speech the next day, the news breaks. You get ushered through several interview rooms before stepping up to the main microphone and saying hello to the nation for the first time. Just as you step onstage, Baylor puts out an official press release about your old athletic director.

This was supposed to be your moment, and now it’s not.

Given the circumstances, Odom held up well. He eased through his pre-written monologue as the room sat silent, and then did fairly well answering questions about social unrest and his departed AD.

He seemed relieved to field a few questions about football, and scored extra points byputting the heat back on a Missouri-Kansas rivalry that’s been dormant since 2011.

Few will remember his answers on Wednesday, but that’s a good thing considering things could’ve gone south in a hurry for the poor guy who had to deal with negative factors outside of his control.

9. Butch Jones, Tennessee

Like commissioner Greg Sankey, whose opening address established a somber tone, Jones decided to begin with a remembrance of Pat Summitt.

“Every day I start my morning off, I look outside my window and I look down at her statue,” Jones said.

When the Q&A session began, he unleashed a joke that he’d clearly been dying to share (because it didn’t fit the question at all). When asked about high expectations, he responded: “Well, first of all, you get snapped back in reality right away. We’re excited to get here, and we board the bus, and Coach Sumlin changed buses with us, so we had no air conditioning. So it was about 100, 110 degrees on the ride over there. That’s a reality check right away.”

Hmm … what?

Jones has a penchant for saying nothing at all while plenty of words pour out of his mouth (a skill his players share). Example: He used “You always have to learn from the previous experiences and past experiences” and “it’s better to be a player-coached team than a coach-coached team” in the same paragraph.

He managed to sneak an Erik Spoelstra reference into one of his answers; one of those designed tidbits he was waiting to interject. But any presser that provides an unprovoked Spoelstra reference is probably better than one without any Spoelstra, especially with this group of humor-averse coaches.

We did appreciate Jones’ response to a question about Tennessee’s sexual assault problem: “Well, we don’t look at it as something of the past or something that’s been settled. Everything is a teaching unit. These are very, very serious issues that surround every college campus, they surround society today, and we’ll continue to educate our players on the importance of it.”

8. Nick Saban, Alabama

Sure, he’s often boring, and his deification of “The Process” has become stale. But the moments of subdued rage make any Saban presser worth a listen.

During a lengthy monologue (more evidence that Smart is following his blueprint: They both went way long before taking questions), Saban got weird; he acknowledged the absurdity of the Media Days spectacle, leaving reporters momentarily stunned before launching into his talking points again.

That moment alone shoots him up the list, and if this list included his ensuing appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show, Saban would’ve made a play for No. 1.

Also, this will live on forever:

Saban "I'm sorry?"

7. Jim McElwain, Florida

McElwain is one of the SEC’s funniest coaches (though some beat writers would say he uses humor to divert attention from questions he doesn’t want to answer).

His Monday session provided a decent amount of laughs. Here were a couple of his greatest hits:

  • Regarding freshman kicker Eddie Pineiro: “I was excited to see he was able to buckle his chinstrap. That was awesome. And to see that happen, you know what, that’s a step in the right direction.”
  • Regarding Florida State’s “state championship” rings: “You know, I mean, they won it. So why wouldn’t you? That’s a hell of a deal. But I don’t really get that jacked up in that stuff … I don’t know whether our administration has it in our budget to do that. I don’t know.”

He called his younger self “a little shaver.” He told a reporter “I think you may have to check with Tennessee on that one” after the reporter said Georgia was Florida’s biggest rival. And he said he’d love to play Nick Saban again “because I know it’s in Atlanta.”

McElwain endured a barrage of Saban questions to give us a nice note on Nick: “I think he can go forever. He’s — that’s just the way he’s wired. And I haven’t seen one thing, when we were around each other that week of the SEC championship game, I didn’t see one less bounce in his step, anything like that. And, you know what? He’s — the guy’s something special.”

6. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Sumlin put forth a strong performance on Tuesday. He got his points across in a straightforward manner while providing scenes and insight that most coaches struggle to conjure up in the flow of conversation.

He snuck a couple laughs into the session, but was best when cordial and informative. Here are some examples of his effectiveness while discussing new quarterback Trevor Knight:

  • Setting a scene: “I think it’s been his ability since he came into the first team meeting and sitting there in the front row with his beard, and all of the 17-, 18-year-old guys are going: Who is that old man? Didn’t I see him on TV playing for Oklahoma? And his ability to be humble and still be able to share his experiences and talk to our guys, it’s been fabulous.”
  • How Knight won the starting job: “It was pretty simple, he earned it.”
  • How to make something corny sound wise: “The greatest teacher is experience and I think what has helped Trevor is some of that gunslinger has won games and some of that gunslinger cost him his job and has put him in the situation that he’s in.”

The only time Sumlin really had to walk on eggshells was when he was asked about Johnny Manziel, his former quarterback at Texas A&M.

Sumlin looked none too pleased by the question — “Have you been in contact with Johnny Manziel recently?” — but summoned up the strength to put forward a good answer.

“Here’s the bottom line,” Sumlin said. “He’s an Aggie and he’s always going to be an Aggie. At Texas A&M, we take care of each other.”

5. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Facing a mountain of criticisms and uncertainties, Freeze handled himself well in front of a slightly hostile room. His answers appeared to be honest, and he managed to address Ole Miss’ self-punishments and further potential NCAA violations in his introduction.

“As a head coach, I understand that I’m held accountable for the things that happened within our building and even outside the walls of our building,” he said.

His thorough answers to football-related questions were a bit dry, and he sort of stumbled around with dumb metaphors now and again, including the following: “It’s like making a cake. I don’t like taking a raw egg or baking soda. Those don’t taste good. But when the final product is done, it tastes really, really good. And it doesn’t taste good right now…”

We appreciated his summary of the current NCAA controversy:

“Look. Everybody has — everybody’s got a narrative. You have one, I have one, our rivals have one. All of us have one in regards to us going on in the world and in our world with the NCAA … But with everybody’s narrative going on, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle and the facts are this. There will come a day where we get to stand before the committee on infractions, which are the ones that matter, and we will be held accountable for any wrongdoing that is found, and that’s the way it should be. We don’t want it to be. I have zero interest, zero interest, in cutting corners to be successful, and our staff knows that very well.”

He fought off a well-crafted follow-up question about his lack of oversight, effectively putting himself in the clear — for Thursday, anyway.

4. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Mason promoted the brand hard with a custom suit that caught the country’s attention on the first day:

He also made three references to “West End,” the street that runs alongside some of the Vanderbilt campus. We’re not sure if that will catch on, but it was a valiant effort.

While he’s not a funnyman, Mason tackled several serious issues with aplomb.

This is the kind of guy Vanderbilt has in charge: “It goes back to John F. Kennedy when he was asked to fall for the lesser role than running for president. For me, that’s been a statement that really speaks to where we are. I think, obviously, if there’s an opportunity to be better, then let’s be better. Let’s reach, you know, for the highest thing out there. Let’s reach for the sky. Let’s reach for the brass ring. Let’s not reach for, you know, what is sitting there at eye level.”

Some of it came across as a bit silly (“Don’t downgrade your dreams to match your reality. Upgrade your faith to match your destiny”), especially when Mason was asked about the country’s recent police-related shootings.

“You know,” he said, “it takes teamwork to make the dream work.”

We were impressed by his immediate answer (“Linebacker”) to a broad question (“What’s the toughest position on the field to play?”) and the information he used to back up his thesis: “The sleight of hand with quarterbacks, the deception of formation adjustments and how things change, bumping gaps, being able to communicate what happens with empty sets…”

But many reporters came away impressed by his handling of a question regarding his status as an African-American football coach.

“You know what?” he asked. “I don’t wear that cape. I really don’t. I think my ethnicity, OK, has nothing to do with my position. I think I’m intelligent enough to be a head coach, and I’ve proven over time that I can, you know, do the job.”

3. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Following a fairly monotonous opening, Muschamp got the crowd chuckling when he opened it up for questions. Bob Holt, a longtime columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, stood up to address Muschamp, which prompted Muschamp to say, “You don’t have to stand, Bob.” Holt fired back with, “I have to … It’s like a presidential address.”

Later, to the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi (who is bald): “The glare of these lights off your head is blinding.”

Muschamp was confident throughout, saying, “I’m a little shocked it took six or seven questions to get to this one,” after being asked about the lessons he learned from his Florida tenure and how he can apply them to his new gig.

He flexed his muscles — noting his former Florida recruits were the reason the Gators have more draft picks in the last two years than any other SEC team — and said to hell with hedging: “There is no three-year or five-year plan. We plan to win now.”

The highlight was his explanation of a broken finger he suffered last season: “I wear my emotions sometimes on my sleeves a little bit more than I should. I don’t remember the situation. I black out sometimes.”

2. Les Miles, LSU

When it comes to the SEC’s best personality, take your pick between Miles and the man who claimed our No. 1 spot.

The Tigers coach’s first line (“Thank you so much for the applause”) got people laughing, but his bizarre, 21-minute opening sequence put the room to sleep by the end.

We’ve got a full breakdown of his monologue here, and hope he’s able to return in 2017.

1. Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Bielema immediately detailed the slap on the wrist he got from previous SEC commissioner Mike Slive after Bielema’s first Media Days appearance in 2013, and also made note of current commissioner Greg Sankey’s sober opening address.

Those things together made some wonder if he would not come through with another lively performance.

Thankfully, he proved the doubters wrong.

There were plenty of memorable moments (calling defensive end Deatrich Wise “beautiful” was one of them), but the overall effect stuck more than any single punchline.

An anecdote that cracked people up: “I was in Europe with my wife. We were on a train headed to Paris. It’s ironic for me to say that in every words. My wife said, Hey, there’s something about — on the Internet about a Big Ten team canceling with an SEC team. I said, I don’t know anything about it. She said, Really? Your picture’s right here.”

Many thought Bielema might go in on Jim Harbaugh, but he instead opted for compliments, saying, “I love a guy that speaks his mind.” Curveballs are always good, even when they replace potential flamethrower statements against a prominent Big Ten coach.

Bielema also called out SEC head of officials Steve Shaw for “a marvelous call” against Texas A&M in 2014.

“First tripping call I’ve ever seen in college football,” Bielema said to shouts of laughter. “I hope there’s a moratorium on complaining about ref’ing.”

Florida’s Lamical Perine validated by senior season after lack of offers, respect

Lamical Perine (left) and his mother with Perine's award for Alabama Class 7A running back of the year. (Photo courtesy of Perine)
Lamical Perine (left) and his mother with Perine’s award for Alabama Class 7A running back of the year. (Photo courtesy of Perine)

THEODORE, Ala. — Following his junior season, Lamical Perine expected his offer sheet and recruiting rankings to increase.

Neither happened.

The 3-star tailback out of Theodore High School rushed for 1,416 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2014, but that production basically went unnoticed by college coaches and recruiting services.

“It was frustrating,” Perine said. “I felt like I didn’t get the looks I deserved.”

One SEC program, however, set its sight on Perine in the spring of 2015. Florida coach Jim McElwain and running backs coach Tim Skipper offered him on May 28, and he committed the following day.

“It felt good to have a big school like that come after me, regardless of my rating,” Perine said. “It just showed me they really cared about me. Stars didn’t matter to them. They saw how much talent I had.”

But after his pledge, Perine didn’t receive the bump in rankings that typically happens when a prospect commits to a school such as Florida. He carried his 3-star rating into his senior season.

“It definitely bothered me,” Perine said. “I thought about it every day, actually. I know recruiting analysts can’t evaluate every kid, but I figured my Florida commitment would get me noticed and it didn’t. People kept doubting me.”

Lamical Perine established himself as Alabama’s best running back recruit in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Perine)
Lamical Perine established himself as Alabama’s best running back recruit in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Perine)

That fueled Perine as a senior, and he went on to rush for 1,654 yards and 15 touchdowns that fall. Ten games into his season, he got a called from Alabama coach Nick Saban.

“He wanted to offer me because I was playing so well,” Perine said. “He told me I had gotten faster and stronger since my junior year. Coach (Burton) Burns had been at my game that week to check me out, and I guess he decided to pull the trigger after watching me.”

The offer served as validation for Perine. In his state, you’re not a big-time recruit unless Saban wants you.

“I was very excited to have the offer,” Perine said. “There’s not too many running backs from this state that can say they got an offer from them because they recruit nationally.

“There’s nothing better than being in Alabama and saying you got an offer from the Crimson Tide. It’s the in-state school and you get a chance to play at home, but I wanted to try something different and go to Florida.”

Perine put one final stamp on his senior season when he was named the Class 7A running back of the year in Alabama. His team plays in the highest classification of high school football in the state.

“That was an amazing honor,” Perine said. “My mom enjoyed seeing me receive the award. To be labeled as the best back in Alabama, it felt good to finally get recognized.

“You know, I didn’t feel like I was getting respect throughout most of my recruitment. That’s all I really wanted. By the end of my senior season, I got all the respect I needed.”

Perine ultimately ended up with a 4-star rating from ESPN and Rivals. But regardless of where the recruiting services have him, Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is excited to add the 5-foot-11, 211-pound prospect to his backfield.

“Big, physical back,” Nussmeier said of Perine on signing day. “Has great instincts, vision, balance and body control. You go into that state and get the state back of the year, we’re eally, really excited about him. Great addition to our team.

“He runs behind his pads, does a great job in the open field, he has great balance and body control. Just really, really excited. Going into Alabama and get the No. 1 back in the state, he’s just another weapon that’s going to help us score points.”

Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow @ZachAbolverdi

THE NEXT UP SERIES

VIDEO: Four-star LB Jeremiah Moon never envisioned playing for Florida

HOOVER, Ala. — Growing up in Alabama, four-star linebacker Jeremiah Moon didn’t have the Florida Gators on his mind.

(Courtesy of ‎@jmoon50 on Twitter.)
(Courtesy of ‎@jmoon50 on Twitter.)

Like most in-state kids, Alabama and Auburn were his dream schools. He was also high on Mississippi State and at one point thought he would go to South Carolina.

But an offer from UF last summer changed his entire recruitment.

“I never thought I would get an opportunity to play for them, to be honest,” Moon said. “I just never saw myself going there. I didn’t have any contact with the coaches at first and I’m from Alabama.

“But when Florida reached out, I thought about it and felt like it was a great option. When you think about all their history and the great players they’ve had come through there, there’s a wow factor.”

A month later, Moon committed to the Gators. Auburn and Mississippi continue recruiting him after that, but he solidified his pledge on his official visit and ultimately signed with UF.

In the video interview above, Moon answers the following questions:

1. Why did he choose Florida over Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina?

2. How does he fit into the scheme of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins?

3. What appealed to him about playing for linebackers coach Randy Shannon?

4. How much more physical development does he anticipate experiencing in college?

5. What are his team expectations for the 2016 season?

 

Four-star Kentucky offensive tackle recruit has Florida in his top 10

(Scout.com)
(Scout.com)

Four-star Class of 2017 offensive tackle Jedrick Wills released his top-10 schools in a tweet on Tuesday, and six SEC schools made the cut.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman has Florida, Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky in his top 10, along with Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame. He released the names in no particular order.

https://twitter.com/JWills73/status/732624776435539968

Wills hails from Lexington, Ky. (Lafayette High School) and is rated as the No. 8 offensive tackle prospect in the Class of 2017. He is also ranked as the No. 1 player in Kentucky.

Recruiting: Florida among huge programs coming after elite Texas safety

Grant Delpit, a safety from Lamar High School in Houston. (Zach Abolverdi/AJC)
Grant Delpit, a safety from Lamar High School in Houston. (Zach Abolverdi/AJC)

HOUSTON — Grant Delpit recently named a list of finalists, but as everyone knows, nothing is final in recruiting until signing day.

The four-star safety from Houston Lamar released his top 10 three weeks ago, but two new programs have entered the mix.

“I just got offers from Florida State and Michigan, so I may need to look at my top 10 again,” Delpit said. “Those are two big-time programs and I want to check them out. I need to weigh my options with all these offers coming in.”

In addition to FSU and Michigan, Delpit has gained offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and Southern Cal in the past two months. All five of those schools made his top 10 along with Baylor, LSU, Miami, Oklahoma and TCU.

Noticeably absent were the in-state Aggies and Longhorns, but the nation’s No. 11 safety isn’t tied to Texas.

“Distance doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’ve lived in different places, so I could go anywhere. I’m just taking my time and trying to find the school I feel most comfortable with.”

Right now that school is LSU, and understandably so. The New Orleans native was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Houston, but he still has family back home in Louisiana.

The U.S. Army All-American (watch presentation) visited LSU three times this spring.

“Obviously I grew up liking LSU,” Delpit said. “My family likes the school and I’m close with the coaches there. It’s just a good fit.”

Based on the visits he’s taken thus far, Florida likely sits near the top of Delpit’s leaderboard. He visited the Gators last month for their spring game.

“It was actually better than I thought it would be,” Delpit said. “Their DB’s coach (Torrian Gray) knows his stuff and coach (Jim) McElwain is doing big things at Florida. I’ll definitely be back for another visit.”

Delpit said he also wants to take trips to Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. The 6-foot-3, 181-pounder plans to make his decision after seeing more schools.

“I don’t have a set timetable,” Delpit said. “I just need to take some visits and I’ll figure out it out from there.”

Unless otherwise indicated, recruiting rankings and ratings come from the 247Sports Composite. 

Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi.

Three-star LB recruit on Florida trip: ‘It’s the best visit I’ve been on’

britt
K.J. Britt with Florida coach Jim McElwain.

GAINESVILLE — K.J. Britt has taken four visits thus far in his recruitment, all of which have been to SEC schools.

His most recent trip to Florida stood out above the rest.

“It’s the best visit I’ve been on,” said the three-star linebacker, who traveled to UF last weekend. “I was fired up about the whole trip. The coaches took their time out with me. They showed me and my family around and just catered to us.

“Florida is a special place, so any time you can go six, seven hours away and still feel like you’re at home, it’s awesome.”

Britt, a 6-foot-1, 230-pounder from Oxford, Ala., had previously visited Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee. His interaction with Gators coach Jim McElwain was the highlight of his time in Gainesville.

“Coach McElwain took me in his office and he talked to me and my family about life,” Britt said. “Then he included that I had an offer from Florida. It was a great feeling.

“Getting an offer from a head coach is different from anybody else. He told me I fit into their program mentally and athletically and he wants me to be a Gator.”

Britt also enjoyed watching UF linebackers coach Randy Shannon at practice. He followed him around during position drills and even jokingly asked if he could jump in for one rep.

“I’d love to get coached by him,” Britt said. “He has such high prestige. Just his track record at Miami, coaching legend after legend, it’s impressive.”

Britt currently holds 24 offers and named Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Michigan, Ole Miss and Tennessee as his favorites. He plans to reveal a leader soon, but is in no rush to make a decision.

http://twitter.com/K_Britt10/status/708734947578810372

Florida’s Lamical Perine: ‘Every time I talked to Nick Saban I got nervous’

Lamical Perine (Photo by Zach Abolverdi)

When you’re a football recruit committed to an out-of-state program, there can be some pressure when the top school in your home state starts coming after you.

If you’re an Alabama prospect and Nick Saban is personally calling your phone, well, it’s quite a pickle to be in.

That’s the predicament running back Lamical Perine faced last November when the Crimson Tide offered him after he had been committed to Florida for six months.

“Every time I talked to Nick Saban I got nervous,” Perine said. “It was just a tough spot for me to be in, and you never know what he’s going to say. He knows how to recruit.”

Despite Alabama’s efforts, Perine decided to stick with the Gators and shut down his recruitment publicly. He said turning down Saban was not easy.

“We talked and I told him my heart wasn’t at Alabama and that I was sticking with Florida,” Perine said. “But he wasn’t giving up. He told me he still wanted me to come on an official visit, but I had already been up there so many times. I didn’t need to.”

The following is a Q&A with Perine in the second edition of our Florida recruiting rewind series.

Q: If you could give a junior ONLY one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be? 

A: “Honestly just to take all your visits, don’t just go to a school for coaches and try to make the best decision for you.”

Q: What school came in second? What could they have done a little better?

A: “Alabama. I feel like they could have recruited me harder early on. When I went on my visit, I just didn’t feel like I was at home. They didn’t make me feel comfortable.”

Q: What was the most creative thing a school or coach did to get your attention? 

A: “Probably Florida. On my official, me and coach Skip literally hung out the whole time. We really had fun and he just felt like family to me. He looked into me a lot and recruited me. He checked on me every other day during the recruiting process.”

Q: What was the biggest rumor about you that wasn’t true?

A: “Everybody said I was going to de-commit and go to Alabama. Then at one point, people thought I was flipping to South Alabama. Both of those rumors weren’t true.”

Q: What’s the biggest secret you kept during the recruiting process?

A: I really didn’t have too many secrets. The biggest secret probably was Alabama offered me, I start getting kind of nervous. I knew they were going to come after me hard and there would be a lot of pressure on me.

Q: What is the funniest thing any HEAD coach said to you during the entire recruiting process?

A: “Definitely coach Mac, but I don’t know exactly. He said a lot of funny things. It’s just so many I can’t even think of one. ”

Q: What was your biggest regret during the recruiting process?

A: “I probably should have taken more official visits. If I went on all of them, I would have had a better experience with the recruiting process.”

Q: What was the funniest story that happened on one of your recruiting trips?

A: “Probably at Florida. Me and Quincy Wilson were laughing about his 247Sports photo. He had a funny-looking haircut. He doesn’t have it anymore, though.”

Q: Describe the impact of cost of attendance on your recruiting?

A: “No, I never about it. I never looked at it like that. When I went to schools, I checked out the fan bases and saw which fans cheered hard.”

Q: Which school disappointed you the most during recruiting? 

A: “Auburn. They said I was too slow, so they weren’t really looking at me because I wasn’t their type of running back. I wasn’t really worried about it, though.”

Q: Which college would you have considered more seriously if they had offered you earlier in the process?

A: “Probably UCLA. I took a visit up there and it was nice. It just something different. The weather doesn’t get lower than 70. The wind blows all the time and there’s nice ladies out there.”

Q: How much negative recruiting was out there? 

A: “A lot, honestly. When I didn’t choose Alabama after I got offered, I heard it from their fans. A lot of Florida State fans talked trash, too. I didn’t hear anything from coaches.”

Q: Which head coach of a team that you did not sign with was the nicest? Which coach was not the nicest? 

A: “Coach (Mike) Bobo from Colorado State. He knew I was committed to Florida and he was like, ‘I understand, man.’ He just wished me a great future. I really didn’t have a coach who wasn’t nice to me.”

Q: If you were in charge of the NCAA, what’s the one rule you would change with recruiting?

A: “Probably the recruiters pushing players to go to a school. There were just rapid phone calls. They should lower the amount of times you can call a person.”

Gators’ Jim McElwain hires quality-control coach from Alabama

Ryan Smith (far left) is the latest addition to Florida’s support staff. (UF communications)
Ryan Smith (far left) is the latest addition to Florida’s support staff. (UF communications)

GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain has made another hire to his support staff.

His latest addition is offensive quality control coach Ryan Smith, who was on Nick Saban’s staff in the same capacity last year for Alabama’s national championship season.

For Smith, 39, this is his second stint in Gainesville. He had his first head coaching job at Gainesville High School from 2008-10, leading the Hurricanes to their deepest playoff run in 30 years in his final season with the team.

“Ryan Smith got the Gainesville football program restarted,” said Larry Savage, the high school sports editor for The Gainesville Sun. “The Hurricanes used to be successful, but they had been in a lull when he took over. Ryan came in and really shook things up. He put some great teams together.”

Smith coached DeLand in 2011 (9-2 record) before taking over Taylor County High in his hometown of Perry, Fla. After two seasons there, Smith moved to Alabama for the defensive coordinator position at Chickasaw High under veteran coach Ronnie Cottrell, a former Alabama and Florida State assistant.

Smith then landed his job with the Crimson Tide, which wasn’t surprising to Savage.

“He’s a good motivator and players play hard for him,” Savage said. “He knows talent, honestly. Nick Saban probably told McElwain that. He’ll help McElwain with things he sees on the field.”

With the hiring of Smith, McElwain has now filled the three quality control openings on his staff.

He replaced offensive coaches Marquel Blackwell and John Garrett with Smith and Bret Ingalls, who joined UF last month after spending the past seven years as an assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints. Keith Murphy is the new special teams quality control coach following the departure of Marc Nudelberg.

Blackwell, Garrett and Nudelberg all landed assistant coaching positions at other schools, something McElwain is proud of.

“It’s pretty cool,” McElwain said. “Part of why you do that is to help guys grow in the profession. To see them have an opportunity to go and get jobs from those spots, that’s why we do this. That’s actually something I learned kind of through coach Saban. It’s our responsibility as coaches to help guys get into the profession and be able to move on and keep expanding your network.

“I know I’m excited for those guys. It’s a chance to get better. Not that the guys that were here aren’t good, but it’s a chance to continually evolve. It’s a chance to learn. It’s a chance to get a new set of eyes. It’s great for the coaching profession.”

2016 SEC spring practice and spring game dates to know

Spring football is already here for some SEC football teams.

 Jacob Coker #14 of the White team calls a play against the Crimson team during the University of Alabama A Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Jacob Coker #14 of the White team calls a play against the Crimson team during the University of Alabama A Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

A total of four SEC schools (Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt) have already started spring practice. Most of the others begin over the next few days.

Here are the SEC spring football dates to know:

School First spring practice Spring game
Alabama March 11 April 16
Arkansas March 29 April 23
Auburn March 1 April 9
Florida March 9 April 8
Georgia March 15 April 16
Kentucky March 8 April 16
LSU March 7 April 16
Ole Miss March 2 *No spring game
Mississippi St. March 9 April 16
Missouri March 8 April 16
South Carolina March 15 April 9
Tennessee March 7 April 16
Texas A&M February 29 April 9
Vanderbilt February 22 March 25

* Ole Miss will not host a spring game this year while natural grass is being put in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.