The “What If” Machine: Unfiltered Gus at SEC Media Days
USA TODAY Sports
Every SEC football fan is aware that SEC Media Days kicked off this week. And its back in Hoover after a short layover in Atlanta. Birmingham, which is the home office for the Southeastern Conference was called “The Home of College Football” even before the SEC became the greatest conference in sports. The return of Media Days to Birmingham was inevitable and, to be sure, just feels right.
This week has historically had some great moments but most had little to do with SEC football. That’s a bit ironic, considering that Media Days is the “unofficial kickoff” for football season. Some of the great moments surround some of the greatest to coach the game. But often they were not about anything on the field. Whether it was Nick Saban torching Paul Finebaum with a four-letter word and giving him a dressing down fit for boot camp to Phil Fulmer taking question through a phone interview while the podium stood empty to avoid subpoena (which was later served at SEC Media Days anyway) to Hugh Freeze’s filibuster, there is always A-Class drama for the A-Class Conference known by its chant. After all, in the SEC, “It just means more.”
Occasionally there have been some decent things said by players or coaches that actually relate to the upcoming season. Most are about predictions for the season, but the truth of the matter is, after the announcement of whom is being sent for each program, there is little discussion about the game.
For coach Gus Malzahn, this is just another day. Some coaches are labeled “tight lipped” but Gus is in his own class when it comes to coachspeak. It’s a shame, too, because thousands of fans attend the event in the hopes of an autograph while reporters and sports personalities hope to catch a bit of lightning in a bottle. The rest of us sit at home hoping for some real insight into the upcoming season, but yet we will all just have to wait.
But we can dream …
Let’s pretend, just for a moment, that Gus was somehow, knowingly and voluntarily, served injected with truth serum. He comes to the podium ready to answer all of your real questions. What would you ask coach Malzahn if he had to answer forthrightly? Here are some of the questions I’d just have to ask, and how I believe he would answer.
“Going back to the National Championship Game following the 2013 season, what happened at half-time? What was discussed? What was the decision making process to throttle back on Florida State?”
“Well, you know, we just thought gosh, we got them on the ropes right where we want them. We were playing so well that we just thought our luck couldn’t hold out if we kept pressing. We were playing the best 30 minutes of football we had ever played and we just didn’t think it could last. So we (the offensive staff) decided that we would play super conservative. Nick Marshall had only thrown seven interceptions all year and, we just felt like he was due to throw one. We couldn’t let that happen, so we quit trying.”
“At what point did playing six different people at quarterback sound like a good idea against Clemson and why?”
“Well, you know, at the time no quarterback had separated himself, and we just felt like this was a game we could afford to lose. We thought we knew what we had in Sean White and Jeremy Johnson, and we just didn’t know how John Franklin would play in a real game. The other plays? We were just trying to show the defense something different and praying we caught them in a bad look. Obviously, we didn’t, but we kept trying anyway.”
“What was the single most heart-breaking play you’ve experienced since coming to Auburn as a head coach?”
“Going back to the 2015 Iron Bowl, it’s 12–6 Bama with a little over five minutes left in the third quarter. The stadium is really juiced. Defense is playing lights out. The offense has been struggling, as they have all season, but it really feels like we are one play away. Bama has the ball in a second-and-four. Coker drops back to pass, and Carl Lawson comes clean through the offensive line, and Coker makes him miss. Byron Cowart is right there. Coker makes him miss and then throws a 40-yard bomb for a touchdown. Bama goes on to win that game, but not before we finally manage to put up a touchdown that should have won the game.”
Those are just a few questions I’d love to ask Auburn’s coach. Please take a few seconds to comment below and add your own, and I will answer how I believe he’d answer.