Notebook: Saban looks forward to renewing friendships

University of Alabama coach Nick Saban and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio got a head start on the Capital One Bowl on Thursday morning when they attended a coaches' press conference in Orlando.
"I have a great relationship with Michigan State, I was there 10 years, two five-year stints, made a lot of friends from Tom Izzo to Lou Anna Simon, who is the president of the university, and Mark was a coach for us and did a fantastic job," Saban said. "He's done just a fabulous job with his team, what they've been able to accomplish this year and how he's built that program to national prominence.
"I'm looking forward, actually, to being able to see a lot of the acquaintances and relationships that we had. I never really look forward to competing with my friends, but this is a great opportunity for our university."
From 1995-99, Saban went 34-24-1 with Michigan State, where he was also the defensive coordinator and secondary coach (1983-87). He's never faced his former team before, but has continued to follow the Spartans throughout the years.
"Probably as much as any team as team in the country," he continued. "I do the same with Michigan State basketball because we spent so much time there. In two stints you almost feel like it's your school, or where you went to school."
The game between the No. 15 Crimson Tide and the No. 7 Spartans, the co-Big Ten champions, will also be a little different because Dantonio was on Saban's staff as the secondary coach -- and the two worked side-by-side during practices.
"We've had a storybook season and they're the defending national champion," Dantonio said. "There are a lot of plusses (to the matchup)."
The teams had one common opponent this season, Penn State. Alabama won at Bryant-Denny Stadium, 24-3, on Sept. 11. Michigan State won at home, 28-22, on Nov. 27.
"They're a football team that lost two of their three games by four points, total," Dantonio said about Alabama. "When you look at BCS-type teams, and teams that we would have played had we gotten the opportunity to play in the BCS, I don't think you could pick a better team than Alabama.
"I don't know if they've even been underdogs this season."
SEC All-Freshman Team
Alabama had four players named to the SEC All-Freshman team, as voted by the league coaches.
Only Florida had more selections with five.
Here's the entire team:
(*-Ties / Coaches could not vote for their own players)
Pos. Name School Ht. Wt. Hometown
TE Jordan Aumiller Kentucky 6-4 230 Danville, Ky.
OL Ja'Wuan James Tennessee 6-7 313 Suwanee, Ga.
OL D.J. Fluker Alabama 6-6 330 Foley, Ala.
OL Wesley Johnson Vanderbilt 6-5 280 Nashville, Tenn.
*OL Alvin Bailey Arkansas 6-5 323 Broken Arrow, Okla.
*OL Gabe Jackson Mississippi State 6-4 305 Liberty, Miss.
C Travis Swanson Arkansas 6-5 305 Kingwood, Texas
WR Ace Sanders South Carolina 5-7 166 Bradenton, Fla.
WR Justin Hunter Tennessee 6-4 183 Virginia Beach, Va.
QB Aaron Murray Georgia 6-1 209 Tampa, Fla.
RB Marcus Lattimore South Carolina 6-0 218 Duncan, S.C.
RB Mike Dyer Auburn 5-9 215 Little Rock, Ark.
AP Trey Burton Florida 6-2 222 Venice, Fla.
DL Jacques Smith Tennessee 6-2 248 Ooltewah, Tenn.
DL Barkevious Mingo LSU 6-5 237 West Monroe, La.
DL Sharrif Floyd Florida 6-3 301 Philadelphia, Pa.
*DL Byran Jones Arkansas 6-2 310 Junction City, Ark.
*DL Kwame Geathers Georgia 6-6 325 Georgetown, S.C.
*DL Corey Lemonier Auburn 6-4 227 Hialeah, Fla.
*DL Walker May Vanderbilt 6-5 235 Birmingham, Ala.
*DL Sam Montgomery LSU 6-5 245 Greenwood, S.C.
LB C.J. Mosley Alabama 6-2 225 Theodore, Ala.
LB Jelani Jenkins Florida 6-1 223 Olney, Md.
*LB Ronald Powell Florida 6-4 248 Moreno Valley, Calif.
*LB John Propst Tennessee 6-1 220 Hoover, Ala.
DB Tyrann Mathieu LSU 5-9 180 New Orleans, La.
DB Nickoe Whitley Mississippi State 6-0 200 Jackson, Miss.
DB Kenny Ladler Vanderbilt 6-1 200 Stone Mountain, Ga.
*DB DeMarcus Milliner Alabama 6-1 182 Millbrook, Ala.
*DB Alec Ogletree Georgia 6-3 224 Newnan, Ga.
PK Zach Hocker Arkansas 6-0 170 Russellville, Ark.
P Cody Mandell Alabama 6-4 201 Lafayette, La.
RS Andre DeBose Florida 6-0 192 Sanford, Fla.
Meyer reaction
Florida media asked both coaches for their reaction to Urban Meyer's decision to step down at Florida on Wednesday.
"Urban Meyer has done a fantastic job at the University of Florida, probably unmatched in college football with what he's accomplished there," Saban said. "I think Urban is great for the college football game. He's a good friend. We certainly wish him well, he and his family, and hope they have a lot of happiness and this is the think that he wants to do.
"His work ethic and the quality he put on the field, year in and year out, is probably unmatched in college football and a tribute to the job he did as a head coach there. ... I think the game is better with him rather than without him."
Dantonio had a slightly different take, especially after missing two games this season due to a heart attack and blood-clot issue.
"The pressures of college coaching are immense," he said. "It's a 24-7 job. I had to back off 15 hours a day and get to eight with my situation. But unless if you're all in it's very difficult to continue doing that, and I takes a toll on your family and the people around you."
McElroy honor
As reported elsewhere on BOL senior quarterback Greg McElroy was named the SEC football Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.
McElroy, who is 23-2 as a starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, graduated in three years with a degree in business marketing and is finishing his graduate degree in sports administration this fall. He completed his undergraduate work with a 3.82 grade point average and has a 4.0 GPA in graduate school.
He was selected as the ESPN Academic All-American of the Year and was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship.
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama
Offensive Player of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Peterson, DB, LSU
Special Teams Player of the Year: Patrick Peterson, RS, LSU
Freshman of the Year: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Jacobs Blocking Trophy: Lee Ziemba, OL, Auburn
Coach of the Year: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina