July 19, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
HOOVER, Ala. –Auburn defensive end Dee Ford said at Southeastern Conference Media Days that the Tigers have been transformed by summer workouts under first-year strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in summer workouts,” Ford said. “I’ve definitely changed my whole body without even knowing it. I feel like I’m working without even working because I’m having fun, but of course I’m a workout junkie.”
That feeling, Ford said, goes through the entire team.
“Our bodies have changed,” Ford said. “We have more guys that are able to contribute that didn’t contribute last year. We have a lot of guys that are ready to turn it on.”
Breaking down preseason order of finish
It came as no surprise that Alabama was the runaway pick to win the SEC West Division and overall championships. And it came as no surprise that Georgia – loaded at every position on offense – was picked to repeat as East Division champion.
The Media Days voters predicted struggles for all four new coaches. Auburn and Gus Malzahn was picked fifth in the West. Arkansas and Bret Bielema was picked last in the West. Tennessee and Butch Jones was picked to finish fifth in the East. Kentucky and Butch Jones was picked to finish last in the East.
Following is how the points broke down. First-place votes are in parentheses.
WEST DIVISION: 1. Alabama (225) 1681; 2. Texas A&M (11) 1333; 3. LSU (7) 1324; 4. Ole Miss 883, 5; Auburn 579; 6. Mississippi State 516; 7. Arkansas 488.
EAST DIVISION: 1. Georgia (149) 1570; 2. South Carolina (75) 1474; 3. Florida (19) 1300; 4. Vanderbilt 858; 5. Tennessee 694; 6. Missouri 577; 7. Kentucky 331.
Alabama 182; Georgia 38; South Carolina 18; Texas A&M 4, LSU 1.
As reported Thursday, six Auburn players were included in preseason All-SEC team, though none of them made first team.
Running back Tre Mason, center Reese Dismukes, defensive end Dee Ford and kicker Cody Parkey were second-team selections. Cornerback Chris Davis and punter Steven Clark were third-team selections.
Fullback/H-back Jay Prosch is highly respected throughout the league, but there’s really not a place on the preseason ballot to logically put him.
Vandy’s Franklin mum on dismissed players
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin would not discuss four former players who were dismissed from the team after allegations of sexual improprieties.
Franklin said he could not comment because the legal process was ongoing.
Asked if Vanderbilt would be willing to take chances on some recruits with questionable character in order to build on the momentum of last season’s nine-win season, Franklin answered like any other coach would have answered.
“I can’t speak for other places or other institutions, but not at Vanderbilt,” he said. “It’s never been that way in the past. It’s not that way presently. It will never be in the future. That’s not what we’re all about.”
Can anyone imagine a coach answering such a question by saying something like “Sure, we would. Character isn’t important if a player is good enough?” We don’t think so.
Saban pushing for a nine-game schedule
Alabama coach Nick Saban said again Thursday that the best way to protect traditional cross-division rivalries, particularly Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia, is to play nine conference games. LSU coach Les Miles has complained loudly and often about the inequities in SEC scheduling.
“There can never be an equal path to the championship,” Saban said. “Unless everybody plays everybody, that's the only equal path to championship.
“I understand where Les Miles is coming from. I coached at LSU. We played Florida every year, too. So if anybody understands it, I understand it. They may not have that same tradition.
“My question is, is do other coaches understand our circumstance? Do they understand the Auburn-Georgia circumstance? Do they understand the other teams in our league that do have rivalries that are cherished by the fans?”
Murray says he’s not afraid of Clowney
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray didn’t bat an eye when asked about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s statement that Murray is afraid of him. He said he is not afraid of Clowney or any other player.
“I respect him,” Murray said. “That’s the big difference. He’s an unbelievable athlete, probably the best player in the country. You have to have a special game plan for him.”
Wesley Johnson makes decision pay off
In the summer of 2008, it seemed offensive lineman Wesley Johnson of Nashville would eventually sign with Auburn. Hugh Nall, the offensive line coach, saw him in camp and was so impressed he offered him on the spot. But in the end, Johnson decided to stay home and play for Vanderbilt.
Johnson said Thursday at SEC Media Days that he made the right call. The Commodores went 9-4 last season.
“We always believed we could be where we are,” Johnson said. “We kind of expected it, but looking back on it all, it’s very special.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: