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SEC Media Days notebook: Aggies under 85% vaccinations
SEC MEDIA DAYS NOTEBOOK

SEC Media Days notebook: Aggies under 85% vaccinations

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Aggies under 85% vaccinations

If Texas A&M head football coach Jimbo Fisher had his way, his team would be above 85% for COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday, he joked Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days. But he stood by the wishes of players who have not yet decided to receive one of the vaccine shots.

“We’re not at 85, but we’re pushing that way and getting there and hopefully we’ll get to that point,” Fisher said.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday that six of the league’s 14 football teams had reached 80% vaccination levels. The conference’s threshold is 85%, and Georgia, Alabama and LSU have said they are above the threshold. A&M athletics director Ross Bjork said Tuesday that the Aggies’ vaccination process was a “work in progress.”

Defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal praised the work of A&M’s medical personnel in properly informing the student-athletes about COVID-19.

“I feel like our team has done a fantastic job of being able to stay safe with COVID,” Leal said. “Our trainers have done a fantastic job to tell us about the vaccinations and just filling us in on the pros and cons of it, the side effects, and it’s just been nice to have them around and let us know what it is that we need to do.”

12-team CFP important to Fisher

Fisher said he is in favor of the proposed College Football Playoff expansion from four to 12 teams.

Last season, the Aggies finished fifth in the final CFP poll. The current format leans too heavily in favor of the Power Five conference programs, Fisher said.

“Name me a sport in any collegiate level that, except for the top five conferences which are about 60 teams, where the other 60 teams have no chance to win the national championship?” he said. “There’s not a sport in our world that that can’t happen.”

Ultimately, the shift will help create parity in the sport, Fisher said.

“You can distribute the players out when you know you team’s making the playoffs,” he said. “I think the talent levels will balance out in different areas and different teams, and more guys will get great players knowing that we can stay home. We can go to the playoff, and we can go win a national championship. I think it’s very important. I think it’s needed. I’m all for it, 100%.”

Prayers asked for Bowden, Slocum

Fisher asked for prayers for Bobby Bowden, his long-time mentor.

The former Florida State head coach announced Wednesday he has been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition, according to a press release from the family issued by the school.

Fisher served as an assistant under Bowden from 2007-09 before taking over as head coach of the Seminoles in 2010 after Bowden retired. Fisher played for Terry Bowden, Bobby Bowden’s son, at Salem and frequently jokes that he’s considered a member of the family.

“Our lives and the Bowden family have intertwined so much,” Fisher said. “What they’ve meant to me ... he, Terry, Tommy, Jeff, all of them, the whole Bowden family, but how Bobby was and what he treated me like when I was coaching under him and what I learned. It’s sad. It really is. But if there’s anybody ready to be with the good Lord and if things come in time, it’s him, because there’s no one who preaches about the Lord and did more for people in that regard. He’s one of the great human beings that’s ever coached and one of the great coaches that ever coached.”

The legendary Florida State coach announced that he has been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition. COURTESY/SEC

Fisher also asked for prayers for former A&M head football coach R.C. Slocum, who was diagnosed recently with a form of Hodgkin lymphoma.

“R.C. is one of the great A&M people, and he’s doing a great job and I think fighting through it very well,” Fisher said. “Everything, from what we’re understanding, is going very well, so keep him in your prayers.

Vanderbilt’s Lea praises A&M’s Elko

Wherever A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko went throughout his coaching career, it seemed that new Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea was more than willing to follow.

Lea served under Elko as a linebacker coach at Bowling Green in 2012 then followed the defensive coordinator to Wake Forest in 2016 and Notre Dame in 2017.

“I learned more football than I ever could have imagined,” Lea said. “He’s a guy that there’s a shared ethos, a respect for people, a respect for the players, a certain style of coaching that has lifetime impact. I can’t say enough good about Mike Elko, who he is as a person, who he is as a tactician. He’s the smartest football coach that I know.”

Lea and A&M's defensive coordinator have worked together previously at multiple schools. COURTESY/SEC

Bowling Green ranked sixth in the nation in total defense in 2012, allowing an average 296.62 yards per game. At Wake Forest in 2016, Elko’s defense was ranked 40th in the nation, and his 2017 Notre Dame defense ranked 46th.

Lea inherits a Vanderbilt squad that finished 121st in total defense last season, averaging 487.4 yards allowed per game.

“Everything that I do at some level goes back to work that we did under [former Bowling Green head coach] Dave Clawson,” he said.

Leach excited for Kyle Field reprise

Second-year Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach is excited to return to Kyle Field for the first time this fall since 2008 when he was the head coach at Texas Tech.

“It’s one of the greatest places to play on Earth, and I said this when I was at Tech. That’s one of the Carnegie Halls of football there. Kyle Field, first of all, it’s gigantic and holds a ton of people. The grass is impeccable, and, of course, the Aggies are always highly motivated. It’s a fun place to play.”

Leach was 7-3 against A&M while at Tech.

“I’ve got some great memories of our games in Kyle Field over the years,” Leach said. “It was a fantastic experience. It helped that we won most of them.”

Leach almost went to Tennessee

Before Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt as its head coach in late 2017, reports had athletics director John Currie ready to hire Washington State’s Mike Leach, but Currie was fired and the Volunteers hired Pruitt to replace Butch Jones.

Leach stayed at Washington State until getting hired by Mississippi State.

“I talked to Tennessee, but that thing never ... well, nothing ever got nailed down,” Leach said. “Then pretty soon they had a coup d’etat there. You guys can sort that among yourselves, but that’s pretty well-documented. Oh, yeah, I didn’t end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me.”

What’s in a name?

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban was asked how he’d like the media to address him.

“Look, I respond to just about anything and I’ve been called just about everything, so it’s not something that’s really important to me,” Saban said.

The question came on the heels of Jackson State coach Deion Sanders walking out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day on Tuesday in Birmingham, Alabama, when a reporter addressed him by his first name.

“You don’t call Nick Saban, ‘Nick.’ Don’t call me Deion,” said Sanders, who later added “If you call Nick Nick, you’ll get cussed out on the spot, so don’t do that to me. Treat me like Nick.”

Saban was asked his thoughts while being interviewed by the electronic media after 31 minutes in the main room where he was referred to in questions as “Coach” three times, “Nick” three times and “Coach Saban” once.

“I think everybody should have the opportunity to sort of create or make the way their expectation is of how they get addressed,” Saban said. “It’s not something that’s really that significant to me.”

Et cetera

A&M senior defensive back Keldrick Carper was among 109 nominated for the 2021 American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team that accents community service and academics along with play on the field.

A&M junior running back Isaiah Spiller was named to the Doak Walker Award’s preseason candidate list. Spiller ranked third in the SEC last season at 103.6 rushing yards per game and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Walker Award.

— Eagle staff reports

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