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SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS NOTEBOOK

Private punishment

HOOVER — Speaking at SEC media days Thursday, Alabama coach Nick Saban did not reveal what punishment three Crimson Tide players who were arrested July 14 after an incident outside a night club.

Defensive linemen Brandon Fenney and Brandon Deadrick and running back Roy Upchurch landed in trouble following an altercation in front of The Legacy bar on the Tuscaloosa strip. Saban said their punishment will be handled “internally.”

According to cornerback Simeon Castille, the players have already been dealt with and the team is ready to move on.

“It has been handled,” Castille said, declining to give specifics. “It has been taken care of. We were trying to get ready for our season and that is what we are doing.”

Fanney and Upchurch were charged with disorderly conduct, while Deadrick was charged with criminal mischief, resisting arrest and giving police a false name.

UA’s defensive line troubles

During spring practice, Nick Saban said that the Crimson Tide’s defensive front was its weakest link.

Saban addressed the issue Thursday, saying that the team has made some progress.

“We don’t have a lot of depth at that position,” Saban said. “We don’t have a lot of size. You know we’re going to have to adapt the way we do things probably to be able to persevere this year.”

Meanwhile, starting center Antoine Caldwell said that Alabama’s 3-4 defensive scheme could make up for this perceived lack of depth.

“The 4-3 is predictable in terms of you are going to block,” Caldwell said. “You can blitz from a lot of different areas with the 3-4.”

Nick Saban jokes

When asked about leaving the Miami Dolphins to coach Alabama and receive a salary of $4 million a year, Nick Saban managed a joke that drew some laughter in the main interview room.

“Well, I actually took a pay cut,” deadpanned Saban, who made an estimated $4.5 million a year with the Dolphins.

Vandy’s high hopes

Vanderbilt wide receiver Earl Bennett doesn’t want to get to just any old bowl game. Instead, he wants to get to a Bowl Championship Series game.

“By playing hard and staying focused, we feel like we can go to a BCS bowl game this year,” said Bennett, who is 943 receiving yards away from breaking a school career record.

Vanderbilt was five points away from a six-win season last year, losing by three to Alabama and two to Arkansas. The Commodores finished the season with a 4-8 record.

The 2005 season hurt even more. Vanderbilt started 4-0 before losing the next six games, including a two-point loss to Middle Tennessee State and an overtime loss at Florida.

“It’s very difficult,” Bennett said. “You go out and play hard and don’t come up with a win. But I feel like this year we’ve worked hard enough that we can win and get over the hump.”

Coach Bobby Johnson agreed.

“We got a little buzz going around Vanderbilt,” Johnson said.

The Commodores look to capitalize on eight home games this season, a veteran receiver in Bennett and nine more returning starters on offense.

Unhappy LSU fans

There is still some anger in Baton Rouge over Saban’s arrival in Alabama. At least according to Saban.

Saban said that someone slashed the tires of his administrative assistant while she was at a wedding in Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile Saban still spoke about how he has the utmost respect for LSU, despite the constant shots thrown his way by Tigers fans and LSU coach Les Miles.

On national signing day, Miles used an expletive to describe Alabama. Also, at Saban’s first media gathering as Alabama coach, he mentioned that he had recruited most of Miles’ players.

“We have no ill feelings towards anybody,” Saban said. “It was not our intention to create any of this by us leaving there.”

MSU looks for breakthrough

Michael Henig kept saying it, hammering the point home: “We lost four games by three points.”

The Mississippi State quarterback and Alabama native knows that last year — through the countless injuries — was just short of being the breakthrough season for Mississippi State, a school that has not been to the postseason in six years. The Bulldogs lost by just a field goal to Tulane, Georgia, Kentucky and Ole Miss.

“If we make one play, we win seven games and go to a bowl,” Henig said.

Injuries have plagued the Bulldogs since Sylvester Croom was hired in 2004. His teams have been beaten and battered, especially last season. Four times in 2006, Mississippi State lost its starting quarterback to injury.

Henig, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound Montgomery native, was knocked out in the first game of the season. Backup Tray Rutland entered but was replaced after two games by Omarr Conner. When both Conner and Rutland got hurt during a lopsided loss to West Virginia, a healthier Henig came back into the picture.

“I need to slide a lot more,” Henig said.

Meyer prefers text messaging

Florida coach Urban Meyer is not exactly a believer in old technologies.

Meyer is considered a pioneer in using cell phone text messaging as a recruiting tool. He was known to send out hundreds of messages to recruits a day.

But with the NCAA’s ban on sending text messages to recruits about to take effect, Meyer ratcheted up his criticism during media days.

“That’s how you communicate nowadays,” Meyer said. “If you want to go back and use the rotary phones, too, say coaches can only use a rotary phone. I don’t understand that at all.”

- Josh Cooper and Ross Dellenger

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