football Edit

Five takeaways from Wednesday's session at SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. – The first three days of SEC Media Days are in the books with players and coaches from Alabama, Texas A&M, Missouri and Kentucky getting their shot with the media on Wednesday. Here are our five biggest takeaways.

SEC TAKEAWAYS: Monday | Tuesday

1. Saban advocates for smoother draft process


As college football’s most decorated head coach, Nick Saban hasn’t shied away from challenging rules or procedures that he doesn’t think benefit his players or college football. Over the past few years he’s commented publicly on the NFL Draft process and advocated for more contact between schools, players and the NFL when it comes to players leaving early for the draft.

He addressed the issue again on Wednesday, saying he’s very much in favor of the new rules allowing NFL teams to take measurements of prospects before they are draft elgible.

“If a player's not going to get drafted or have a first-round grade, then how do you know that if you don't give the NFL access to know what the guy's speed is, what his character is, what his – all the measurables that they want," Saban said. "So we want to get the best information to them so they can give us the best information about where a player's going to get picked so our players can make a good decision whether they go or stay.”

Saban’s pro-player stance is exactly why elite players and their families choose Alabama over other programs. The “football factory” label doesn’t appeal to some, but pretty much every prospect dreams of going to the NFL. Alabama’s ability to win games as well as develop prospects and produce high draft picks, combined with stances like the one Saban showed on Wednesday is exactly why the Tide have been able to have such long-sustained success.

2. Elam controversy

Matt Elam
Matt Elam (USA TODAY Sports Images)

SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy drew the ire of Big Blue Nation after he made some disparaging comments in regards to Kentucky senior defensive lineman Matt Elam on Tuesday. During a discussion about Kentucky’s defense on SEC Network, McElroy said that Elam was “lazy and as underachieving a player as I’ve seen in this league in some time."

The comments caught the attention of the gathered Kentucky media in attendance, so when the Wildcats took the stage on Wednesday it was a hot topic, especially among the players. Kentucky linebacker Courtney Love said, "When one guy gets called out, that’s all of us getting called out.”

The thing is, this isn’t the first time that Elam has become a lightning rod for the media. Back in his days as a recruit he was given five-star status by one rankings service, finishing ranked as a top 25 player. But on he was listed as a mid-three-star and wasn’t even ranked nationally at his position.

Looking back at Rivals' evaluation of Elam at the time, he was viewed as a developmental prospect at best. So while McElroy has the right to criticize him, it’s worth noting that when there are large gaps in recruiting rankings among the different services, they can’t be ignored. Elam should have never had the pressure of being a five-star recruit, especially given his performance as a high school prospect. Some fans are quick to point out that rankings don’t matter, but it’s clear that they can follow prospects well into the college ranks.

3. There is no quarterback controversy in Lexington

Stephen Johnson
Stephen Johnson (USA TODAY Sports Images)

After taking over the starting job following Drew Barker’s injury early last season, Stephen Johnson won’t have to worry about a competition with Barker to open the year as the main man for the Wildcats. Johnson told reporters on Wednesday that he’s been assured he’s the starter and has assumed the leadership role that goes along with that role.

Obviously Johnson’s inclusion in the event shows just how important he is to the team and its success and coach Mark Stoops had nothing but praise for him during his time with the media. With Kentucky rolling on the recruiting trail and trying to build off of a bowl game, stability at quarterback will help set the tone for the team heading into the season.

4. Five-stars on display

Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley (USA TODAY Sports Images)

While a lot of talk was going about Elam and his failure to live up to his high school ranking, a trio of former five-stars took center stage during Wednesday’s time with the media. Alabama lead the way with former five-star junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley and former five-star defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. The duo was followed later in the day by former five-star wide receiver Christian Kirk, who represented Texas A&M.

The trio is a perfect example of five-stars not only panning out on the field, but becoming the leaders for a program. Often rankings are judged by on-field production or draft selection, but it’s safe to say the three players are rankings success stories, even before they play the 2017 season.

5. Reporters are obsessed with the new sideline rule

Seemingly every coach or player has received a question about the new “point of emphasis” on coach sideline behavior that will be implemented this fall. The NCAA is cracking down on coaches coming onto the field and with the fiery personalities in the SEC it only makes sense that it might lead to some penalties this fall.

But pretty much every coach has downplayed the issue, especially Alabama coach Nick Saban, who said that if the rule was properly enforced in the past it wouldn’t even be a topic for discussion. As is the case with most officiating points of emphasis, the new penalty will likely be called a few times early in the season and then fade into the background. It will be fun to watch each coach get restrained by a designated staff member (commonly referred to as a pull-back guy), especially during heated SEC matchups.