HOOVER _ Comments about the spread offense by University of Alabama coach Nick Saban appeared to ruffle Mississippi State's Dan Mullen on Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
Although Saban said the spread was difficult to defend, he also stated that's harder for NFL officials to evaluate players in that scheme - which is a popularly-held notion.
"I do think it's more difficult for the people in the NFL, which is really not our issue as college coaches, to sometimes evaluate players, a left tackle that never gets in a three-point stance, a quarterback who never takes a snap from under center, a runner that never gets the ball with his shoulders pointed down parallel to the line of scrimmage," Saban stated. "Some of those things are evaluation issues, which it's the player's choice when he chooses that, where he wants to go to college, the style of offense or defense he wants to play."
Mullen's response: "I'm not going to knock him. I don't know his personal record. I've coached the spread offense and I have a lot of more first-round quarterbacks drafted than he has in his career as a head coach. Develop them for the NFL, I don't know. In the last six years, I've had two of mine get drafted in the first round."
Mullen was referring to Alex Smith at Utah and Tim Tebow at Florida, both as part of Urban Meyer's staff.
"If you check the facts, I think the spread offense is developing the players for the NFL at a little higher rate than other offenses," Mullen added.
Alabama hosts Mississippi State on Nov. 13.
Season opener set
The Southeastern Conference announced the full slate of kickoff times and television schedule for the first three weeks of the season.
Alabama's opener against San Jose State on Sept. 4 will be its pay-per-view game of the season, and start at 6 p.m.
The Crimson Tide will host Penn State on Sept. 11, 6 p.m. on ESPN, and visit Duke on Sept. 18, 2:30 p.m. on ABC, as previously announced.
The Georgia State game, recently moved two days to Nov. 18, will be shown on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m.
Alabama players will report Aug. 4, with the first fall practices held the following day. A full practice schedule has yet to be released.
Injury report and roster notes
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who is listed on the roster as being a sophomore, will continue rehab on his knee through the first game of the season to keep his strength up, but added that he's close to 100 percent.
Hightower and quarterback Greg McElroy told reporters at that junior college transfer DeQuan Menzie, who sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon during the offseason, has been running 7-on-7s with teammates:
"He looked great," Hightower said.
Alabama's roster had listed new players with the following numbers, including those who arrived for spring: Ronald Carswell 80, Corey Grant 25, Alfy Hill 13, Adrian Hubbard 42, Brandon Ivory 62, Harrison Jones 40, Arie Kouandjio 59, Wilson Love 98, Keiwone Malone 7, C.J. Mosley 32, Nick Perry 27, Blake Sims 24, Brian Vogler 84, DeAndrew White 2, Jarrick Williams 20, Jay Williams 44, Cade Foster 43, Jalston Fowler 45, John Fulton 10, Brandon Lewis 95, Chad Lindsay 78, DeMarcus Milliner 28, Anthony Orr 53, Austin Shepherd 79, Phillip Sims 14, Petey Smith 38, Deion Belue 26 and DeQuan Menzie 24.
Incidentally, McElroy called White: "An incredible talent."
After Mississippi State lost to LSU on a quarterback sneak last season Mullen received a text from recruit Dylan Favre, the nephew of Brett Favre who is now on the Bulldogs' roster: "If I was your QB, I would have scored on that play."
New Kentucky coach Joker Phillips on his players: "Either they'll buy in or they won't be on our football team or be the best conditioned players on our team."
After noting that Lane Kiffin had returned to his "Western roots," SEC commissioner Mike Slive welcomed Tennessee coach Derek Dooley to the SEC, and "when I say welcome, I mean welcome." When asked if he would miss Kiffin, Meyer said he would leave that to the commissioner and then added with a smile, "No comment."
Saban plugs Gulf Coast
Saban recently visited south Alabama and urges people to support the Gulf Coast economy.
"I went to three places on the gulf, Grand Isle, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach," he said. "I did it very quietly to support the people. I don't think you really get sort of the full appreciation of what is happening on the gulf unless you see how it affects the people that are there, whether they're fishermen, people who make their livelihood by tourism, or whatever it is.
"I went to those three places to support all the people there, in some kind of way to help. My message would be that even though there may be oil around, if you want to help the people in those areas, still go there, still visit. There's plenty of things to do. There's plenty of people who would love to see you and provide you some hospitality."
Saban supports the rule proposal that would keep a school from being able to offer scholarships to recruits until the summer before their senior year. "These guys haven't even taken an ACT test yet. How can you evaluate are they even going to qualify?"
Slive touched on possible expansion, which nearly occurred during the offseason: "As it turned out, the paradigm shift never materialized, which afforded us the opportunity to remain comfortable in the position in which we find ourselves. In the future, there may well be continued interest in conference expansion by some. If that happens, we should take the opportunity to assess the values shared by intercollegiate athletics and higher education. This assessment needs to go beyond television sets, contract revenues, and market share. It needs to include the potential impact on conference cultures, on the lives of student-athletes, on the impact to our respective communities, and on the collegiate model as we have come to know and appreciate."
Running back Mark Ingram has taken out an insurance policy to help protect him heading into what could be his final year: "We thought it was a good thing to do, a good investment to make. Me and my family thought it was a good idea, so that's what we did."
Mullen refuses to call Ole Miss by name, instead referring to the rival as "The school to the north." "Just adds to our rivalry, to our kids, that they understand the importance of that game, to our fan base, that they understand the importance of that game," he said. "It means an awful lot to the people in the state of Mississippi."
Bowl Championship Series officials are keeping an eye on allegations that the Fiesta Bowl, which will host this year's national championship, made illicit campaign contributions. "We don't think that affects the BCS at all," said Bill Hancock, BCS executive director, who otherwise directed questions to the Fiesta Bowl. "A lot of people think the BCS is an entity, it's not. It's an event."