SEC Football Media Days notes: Coaches differ on spread QB's NFL worth

HOOVER, Ala. — The marketability of a spread quarterback in the NFL was a topic of contention between Nick Saban and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.

First, Saban said it was difficult for pro scouts to evaluate college players who operated in the spread while in college since the trend has not been embraced at the next level.

Mullen, who brought the spread to Florida before taking the Mississippi State job before the 2009 season, disagreed.

“I’m not going to knock (Saban),” he said when asked for a response. “I don’t know his personal record. I’ve coached the spread offense, and I have had a lot more of first-round quarterbacks than he has in his career as a head coach.”

Mullen cited two first-round picks he coached in the past six years — Tim Tebow at Florida and Alex Smith when he was the quarterbacks coach at Utah.

Saban recruited future No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell who was a backup quarterback in 2004 during Saban’s last year in Baton Rouge before leaving for the Miami Dolphins job.

Bama opener is pay-per-view

Game times were set for the first three weeks of the season Tuesday afternoon. The only news for Alabama involved its season opener with San Jose State.

It will kickoff at 7 p.m. on Sept. 4 and will air only on pay-per-view television. The Tide played just three regular-season night games a year ago, but already has at least two lined up for this fall. Its Sept. 11 visit from Penn State will be the 6 p.m. game on ESPN and there is a strong possibility the Oct. 2 game with Florida will land in the 7 p.m. CBS time slot.

The other new time announced was for the Nov. 18 game with Georgia State which was moved to a Thursday. ESPNU will air the game live starting at 6:30 p.m.

Saban puts title in past

Immediately after taking the podium, Saban made sure the year was in fact 2010.

After asking the rhetorical question in a somewhat sarcastic tone, he was firm in delivering his point — last season is over, and nothing the Crimson Tide accomplished in 2009 matters anymore.

The undefeated season, SEC Title and National Championship along with various individual awards made the season historical, Saban said. But they offer no definition for what’s to come this season.

“You know, we’re not really defending a championship,” Saban said. “I’m sure somebody is going to ask me, ‘How are you going to defend the championship?’ The championship is a part of history and we’re not going to defend anything. I think we’re not into repeating.”

Although the Crimson Tide returns key variables from last year’s team — including Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy and wide receiver Julio Jones—this is a very different team, Saban said, regardless of how many familiar faces are returning.

“If you look at us, none of us are wearing our rings,” McElroy said. “We understand that whatever happened last year isn’t going to give us an advantage this year.”

While the offense remains virtually intact, Alabama’s defense incurred losses up front, at linebacker and in the secondary. In total, the Crimson Tide sent seven players to the NFL draft, with only two defensive starters holding over.

Still, the team is projected by most to win the SEC once again and compete for back-to-back national titles.

All that expectation comes along with a bulls-eye for opponents.

Through all the hype and hoopla Saban’s message is clear: The 2010 version of the Crimson Tide must forge it’s own identity.

“Even if we had all the same ingredients back, it would be difficult to manufacture the same kind of team chemistry,” Saban said. “That’s one of the great things about college football, is there’s always a lot of new opportunity for a lot of new people because you have turnover on your team.”

Georgia game times

Georgia’s season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 4 in Athens will be televised by the SEC Network with kickoff set for 12:21 p.m.

Other game times that have been previously set include South Carolina in Columbus (Sept. 11) and Arkansas in Athens (Sept. 18) both at noon on either ESPN or ESPN2. The Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 30 will be televised on CBS-3 at 3:30 p.m.