Thursday Thoughts on the SEC

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IJune 25, 2009

In thinking about the SEC this week, I wanted to bring up the subject of curmudgeon crutches. It seems like two of the three new SEC coaches needed them to acclimate to both the head coaching role and the good graces of the fans.

In Knoxville, Johnny Majors has been seen at practice for the first time since losing his job to Phillip Fulmer. Maybe Majors didn’t come around during the Fulmer years because it took so long to recover from getting the knife removed from his back the last time he was around Phil.

In any event, now you see Majors moving back to Tennessee, talking it up with the fan base and being a Lane Kiffin cheerleader with every handshake. He's even been at practices giving some sage advice and having some coaching lessons with Kiffin as well as helping set a tone of tradition with the new players.

Kiffin's going to need all the help he can get and perhaps the biggest lesson he can impart on Lane is to hold his tongue as Majors has done for most of years since being knifed by Fulmer. 

Whatever the reason, it’s nice for Majors come marching home, or shuffling as the case may be. He’s a fine man with a lot to offer his new young friend.

At Auburn, Pat Dye was a fixture on the campus as soon as Tommy Tuberville hit the door. Dye never really liked Tuberville and Tuberville never felt there was anything Dye could teach him that he didn’t already know, so they stayed far apart.

I was there in Auburn for the Alabama-Auburn game the day Bobby Lowder arranged to put another hot stick in Tuberville’s eye by dedicating the football field Jordan–Hare Stadium, Pat Dye Field.

Tuberville never walked over to Dye to congratulate him. In his mind, he saw exactly what Lowder was doing. Tuberville's accomplishments have far outweighed Dye's, yet Tuberville doesn’t even have a urinal named after him.

I guess that's what happens when you flip off the most powerful man at Auburn.  Tommy went on to win that game, his fifth straight win against Alabama, so maybe he felt he had the last laugh.

But getting back to the crutch story, now Dye is everywhere blowing Chizik’s horn. To hear Dye tell it, Auburn's lucky Notre Dame didn’t fight them in a blood fight for him. According to Dye, Chizik can win football games, cure cancer and make mounds of Julienne fries.

Sorry Dye, but that 5-15 record still leaves room for a lot of doubt.

And with Auburn losing players at they rate they are this week, the problems are bound to get worse. Four players, sophomore safety Christian Thompson, redshirt freshman defensive end Cameron Henderson, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jomarcus Savage, and redshirt freshman wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis, have all left the team. There aren't many details on why or if they’ll return due to Chizik being on vacation.

All were expected to play significant roles with the Tigers this year. Maybe Auburn needs more crutches than just Dye.

Like Tennessee's Major, Auburn’s Dye is at practices, rallies and alumni meetings. Chizik has been very polite and eager (at least publicly) to have Dye around and to listen to all his advice.

Whether either man needs these crutches to win games remain to be seen, but they have certainly helped settle a nervous fan base and if that’s all they accomplish, that's quite a lot.

Is there not an old coach Mississippi State can drag out for old Dan Mullen? Where’s Jackie Sherrill when you need him. He's probably still at his job at the Longhorn Neutering Institute making steers out of bulls.

Speaking of Mullen, last week I thought Mullen needed a little publicity and said it looked like he'd have to do something really drastic to get it. Lo and behold, God has proven me wrong again. He and Mississippi State were featured in the series, "Under the Lights".

It was a very good step in getting out the message that "things are a changing" in Starkville. 


So naturally, since I was proven wrong by writing Mississippi State couldn’t get publicity, I had to rain on their parade in this weeks article Can Dan Mullen Get the Goods from the Coaching Staff by pointing out that maybe everything hasn’t changed for the better.


What ultimately cost Sly Croom his job was the offense’s inability to score some points.

When you lose to a pitiful Auburn team 3-2, it really shows just bad things had gotten.

Croom refused to fire his buddy Woody McCorvey, who’s a fine man and a friend of mine, but a coordinator he’s not.

Had Croom fired him early on and brought in a better coordinator, he may still be there.

What may have not changed is Mullen is bringing in yet another Alabama retread that’s seen better days in Les Koeninng. This is a guy who couldn’t get things going at Texas A&M after leaving Alabama.

Let’s hope Mullen cuts the cord a little quicker if in fact Les can’t get things going.

But hey, Dan’s supposed the man when it comes to offense, so maybe he’ll teach this old dog some new tricks.

For Mullen’s sake, I hope so.

Bobby Johnson is one of the nicest coaches in the SEC. If you’re doing an article on Vanderbilt, which I’ve done, and want to speak to him, he’ll answer the phone and your questions—no big head here. So it’s nice when good things happen to good men.

This week it was announced that Johnson will be inducted into the Furman University Athletics Hall of Fame during a ceremony on July 25.

Johnson was at Furman for 24 years, the last eight as head coach. He led the Paladins to four playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2001 Division I-AA national championship game.

Should Johnson continue to have seasons like this past one at Vanderbilt, he may easily be a two-time honoree.

Good seasons and bowl games haven’t come easily for the Commodores and the fact that Johnson has done it there proves he can do it anywhere.

And by the way, I’ve been watching the level of recruits Johnson’s bringing in and it may be possible that they won’t wait another 25 years to play in a bowl.

Beware Vandy, Johnson may not be a job hopper, but someone’s sure to “come a calling”.

I had a fan write me and ask me why I never talk about Kentucky.

I guess it’s because like everyone else in the SEC, I just sort of lose them in the shuffle. They’re sort of like the silent kid in the family that never gets noticed. I’ve always thought of them as the SEC’s middle child, never the best, rarely the worst, and always out of mind and sight.

But this week is a special week. Bear’s boys are all coming home to Kentucky for a reunion. Players who played for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant are coming back relive the glory of those days. Yes for you youngsters out there, Bryant was also the best coach to ever coach at Kentucky.

During his eight seasons there, he complied a 60-23-5 record after taking over a team that was simply pitiful. He led them to their first four bowl games and wins at the prestigious Sugar and Cotton Bowls and even had a team that won the SEC title and shared the 1950 National Title with three other schools with an 11-1 season by snapping Oklahoma’s 31 game winning streak in winning the Sugar Bowl.

Coach Bryant said he knew it was time to go when they bought the basketball coach a new car and gave him a cigarette lighter.

Ever since, the football program in Kentucky has just been an afterthought.

Put that on your list of dumbest moves ever by a university.

All this month, there have been high school football camps going on in campuses all over the SEC. This used to be a way for coaches to earn a little extra money. Now it’s turned into to recruiting tool.

It’s a great way for coaches to evaluate talent and for kids to see what life may be like at that particular campus and some high school boys attend more than one.

While Kiffin and company may rip off their shirts and dance for them, others choose to put them through drills that not only enhance their abilities but show coaches what potential they may have for positions outside the ones they’ve played in high school.


Alabama finished a week with three more signings for their 2010 class. Pretty soon any recruit will be looked at as “The people Bama didn’t want” by the Tide fans as Nick Saban is quickly closing in on the number he can sign.

Most teams don’t waste a scholarship on a punter. Bama did just that this week because Lord knows they need one. Bama’s punt defense was among the SEC’s worst last year. Jay Williams, a senior from Thomasville, Ala., will join iron leg field goal specialist Cade Foster from the same Texas high school that Bama quarterback Greg McElroy went to, as the first two specialists ever offered scholarships in the same class.

It seems like Saban wanted to take care of those chores for the next four years in one class. Williams is a phenom who created quite a stir with his summer camp visits. He was instantly offered by Florida and others after seeing him boom punts all over the stadium.

Foster can not only kick a ball, but the returnee’s butt as well as he is also a starting linebacker and jarring tackler for his high school team. It’s hard to love a kicker but this is a guy that would make the “All-Madden Team”.

Speaking of Alabama recruiting, Nick also signed yet another 2011 commit. Word has it he’s been checking sonograms and is hot on the trail of a yet unnamed fetus for the 2028 class.

Does this guy ever quit recruiting?

If I didn’t mention your team this team this week, then take it that no news is good news sometimes as I love to revel the garbage.

Oh, and speaking of garbage, Jillian McCarney, daughter of Florida’s new defensive line coach, had her charges of battery on a police officer, disorderly house, and being a total $#@&! reduced to Interference with Official Acts and Disorderly House.

Ok, I made up the charge about "being a total $#@&!", but it sure fits.

I guess her guarantees are as solid as her manners since, according to police at the time of her arrest, she told officers her father would fight them and threatened violence against them several times as well as cursing at and verbally assaulting the officers.

For all you fans who fortunately have children who don’t do this and don’t understand the charge of “disorderly house”, it’s not turning down the stereo when asked nicely by police and not keeping your rowdy drunk friends from puking outside your walls.

According to the police report, Jillian asked the officer, "Do you know who my dad is? He is Dan McCarney."

Jillian told the officer she "guaranteed all her charges will be ‘dropped' because her name is ‘McCarney' and they have 'a lot of money.'"

Despite several months of plea dealing, good old boying, (her grandfather is the former police chief of Iowa City where the incident took place) and legal wrangling by high-priced lawyers, poor little Jillian got the gavel dropped on her.

Oops! Seemed she did pay a fine and have this on her record. Isn’t she the little darling you’d like to bring home to meet momma?

That’s my SEC thoughts for this week. See you next Thursday for more.


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