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Alabama-Virginia Tech in Georgia Dome could still happen in 2009.


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Alabama-Virginia Tech in Georgia Dome could still happen in 2009

By Tony Barnhart | Monday, July 28, 2008, 06:50 AM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Let’s start the week with some (hopefully) tasty leftovers from SEC Media Days:

1: Alabama-Virginia Tech in Atlanta could still happen: Virginia Tech has agreed to play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 29, 2009. The school put out a release saying that efforts were being made to secure Alabama as the opponent. Alabama plays in this year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff against Clemson on Aug. 30.

At the time Alabama officials indicated the odds were against the Crimson Tide coming back to Atlanta in 2009. But on Thursday I met briefly with Crimson Tide Nick Saban and he told me that the deal could still get done.

Alabama is scheduled to go to Tulane in 2009 as a part of a contract that called for Tulane to play multiple games in Tuscaloosa in exchange for one game in New Orleans. Saban said if Alabama could move the Tulane game to another season and pick up another home game then he would be willing to come to Atlanta and play the Hokies.

“If we don’t do that then we can’t come (to Atlanta) because then we would have only six home games in 2009,” Saban said.

Don’t be surprised if ESPN/ABC, which will televise the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, gets involved and puts together a deal to make Tulane happy enough to move the game.

2: Saban may be traveling to Baton Rouge alone: Saban knows that when he returns to LSU this season, chances are he will not receive a warm welcome. For reasons I still don’t understand, some LSU fans are miffed that after two years in the NFL Saban returned to college football as the head coach of Alabama.

Because of security concerns, Saban says he will probably travel separately from his team when they go to Baton Rouge on Nov. 7. When I talked to Saban about it, he took a light-hearted approach.

“I was hoping I could get one or two players to ride with me but maybe not,” Saban said. “Looks like I may be going alone.”

LSU coach Les Miles doesn’t believe Saban has anything to worry about.

“We respect Alabama and are looking forward to the competition,” he said.

Yeah, right. Fans in Baton Rouge have been known to shake the buses of teams they DON’T hate. That will be an interesting week.

3: Spurrier still in charge of the offense: Much was made of Steve Spurrier’s announcement in the spring that he would turn a lot of the offense over to his son, Steve, Jr.

“He’s been with me 11 years and he knows it as well as I do,” Spurrier told me last Friday. “I just need to free up some of my time to do some other things.”

But understand that this does not mean that Spurrier is going to give up calling the plays, especially at crunch time. What Spurrier plans to do is put Steve, Jr., in charge of a lot of the preparation during the week. There is a lot of time-consuming detail work in putting together an offensive game plan and getting it on paper. Spurrier found that he was getting bogged down by it and not looking at the big picture of his program. “Bubba,” as he is known in the family, will do that work and still make recommendations from the coach’s booth upstairs during the game.

But when it’s third down at the opponent’s 10-yard line in a tough game, I still believe the guy in the visor will be calling the play.

4: Nutt says he’s in a better location: New Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt told me that he is excited about his new recruiting base compared to his old recruiting territory in Arkansas.

“There were 70 guys in Mississippi who signed Division I scholarships this year,” Nutt said. “We’re closer to Alabama. We’re closer to Georgia. We’ve got to go into Georgia because Mark Richt can’t sign them all. We’re closer to Florida.

“Arkansas was a pretty tough place to recruit because we were far away from things.”

Nutt wasn’t trying to knock Arkansas, just recognize that at Ole Miss he doesn’t have to travel as far to get good players. But this will come up again on Oct. 25 when Nutt takes his team to Fayetteville to play Arkansas.

5: Tuberville is on the DL: Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville always comes to media days early to get in a little golf, do some alumni functions, and spend some time on radio row at the Wynfrey Hotel. But Tuberville just had double hernia surgery and was moving a little slowly when I saw him.

“Yeah, couldn’t get in my golf but I’ll be back at full speed in a few weeks,” he said. “This is something that I needed to take care of.”

While Alabama has been making most of the recruiting headlines in the state, Tuberville said that the decision to install a spread offense for this season has already paid off with prospects.

“We needed to do something to score more points and to give our recruiting a shot in the arm,” Tuberville said. “I think hiring (OC) Tony Franklin and putting in this offense has done both. We’ll find out pretty soon.”

Tuberville said he already has 20 commitments for his 2009 signing classes. “I’ve never had that,” Tuberville said. “Not even when I was an assistant at Miami.”

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