SEC Three & Out: Saban's Statement
Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Posted Feb 29, 2012

CFN SEC columnist Barrett Sallee examines the offseason in the SEC.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

Three & Out returns every Thursday in 2012 to keep fans up-to-date on the latest news and notes from the SEC. This week, we get ready for spring practice with a look at Nick Saban's statement on recruiting, the start of LSU spring practice and the future of SEC scheduling.

Nick Saban offering four-year scholarships to football recruits will do to oversigning websites what Metallica did to Napster - bring them to their knees.

Saban has become the poster-child of oversigning, thanks to his use of creative (and, some would consider unethical) roster management tactics - most notably oversigning followed up with the use of medical hardships. While medical hardships may still be in the fold, Saban struck back at the critics on Tuesday when it was revealed that he would follow the trend set by Florida and Auburn, and offer four-year scholarships at Alabama.

Will this calm the critics down? Doubtful.

Saban will still have to use some roster management techniques to get his roster down below the limit of 85 scholarships. But the move does limit the techniques other schools can use to lure recruits to campus.

Was the idea of four-year scholarships beneficial to Florida and Auburn this recruiting season? Absolutely, and it was only going to become more of a factor in the future. If you criticized Alabama's tactics before, you have to commend the Tide for offering four-year deals; which is a big deal for high school recruits looking for assurance that they won't be processed out of Saban's program curing their time in Tuscaloosa. If the well-being of the student athlete is what's truly important to oversigning zealots, then Saban's motives shouldn't matter.

LSU's long offseason of tumult following its BCS Championship Game debacle wasn't so long after all. The defending SEC champs return to practice this Friday, kicking off the spring football season in the SEC.

What's the biggest question heading into spring practice for the Tigers? How will new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger kick start an offense that, the last time we saw it, was stuck in neutral on college football's biggest stage?

Is Mettenberger ready for the big time? Les Miles obviously didn't think so last season, otherwise he would have leapfrogged Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee long before the Tigers got to the Superdome. But now that he's got a season in Baton Rouge under his belt, Mettenberger should be comfortable enough in this offense to turn things around in 2012.

People remember Mettenberger for an offseason arrest in 2010 that eventually led to his dismissal from the Georgia football program. But Mettenberger was neck-and-neck with Aaron Murray in 2010 for the starting quarterback role in Athens, and some thought he even outplayed Murray that spring.

Clearly he has the talent, and he has plenty of weapons to work with at LSU. Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue all established themselves as solid running backs last season; and all four of them return in 2012. A quarterback's best friend is a solid running game, and LSU certainly has that.

Some will say that Mettenberger's inexperience will come back to haunt him. That's simply incorrect. The last three national champions, and four of the last five, have had first-year starters taking the snaps. Talent is talent, and Mettenberger has plenty of that to work with both with himself and his supporting cast.

SEC athletic directors met in Nashville on Wednesday to discuss, among other items, expanding the SEC schedule to nine conference games. No decision was made on the future of the SEC football schedule yet, but the ADs will meet next week in New Orleans to continue the talks

Spoiler alert: the nine-game schedule will happen.

SEC coaches may not want it to happen. SEC players may not want it to happen. Certain SEC athletic directors may not want it to happen. But this has to happen.

If the SEC sticks with eight conference games, traditional rivalries like Tennessee vs. Alabama and Auburn vs. Georgia will likely disappear unless the ADs come to a compromise on what to do regarding cross-divisional scheduling. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity suggested last week on Barnhart and Durham on WQXI 790 The Zone in Atlanta that the conference could play six divisional games, one permanent cross-division game and then rotate single cross-division games on a six-year cycle.

That's a nice theory, and would be a good compromise - but it won't happen.

The SEC expanded to 14 teams in order to make more money, and the primary way to do that is to revise the television contract. ESPN and CBS already want better games on Weeks 1, 2, 12 and 13; and one way for the SEC to create more (and better) inventory is by mandating a nine-game conference schedule. It'd just be good business.

It won't be well-received. Adding an additional conference game will guarantee seven more losses for SEC teams; but this has never been about competition. It's about money, and another conference game per team will absolutely help the SEC cash in with the networks.

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

2012 Offseason Three & Out Archive
Three & Out - March 1, 2012
Three & Out - February 23, 2012
Three & Out - February 16, 2012
Three & Out - February 9, 2012
Three & Out - February 2, 2012
Three & Out - January 23, 2012
Three & Out - January 16, 2012

Click here for the 2011 Three & Out Archive
Click Here for the 2012 column archive

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