Three & Out - SEC Thoughts, News & Notes 3/11

Rich Brooks is getting much-deserved recognition

Barrett Sallee gives three off-season thoughts, comments or observations about anything and everything in the world of the SEC.

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A brief snapshot on what's going on this off-season in the nations' best football conference.

Kentucky Coach Honored
Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks will be honored by his home state later this month, when the Northern California Sports Association will name him to its Hall of Fame on March 28. Brooks, who hails from Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley, Calif., will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame at the organizations' annual Hall of Fame Dinner in Yuba City, Calif.

Brooks has had a long career as a head coach in both college and professional football. His first head coaching job was with the Oregon Ducks from 1977-1994. During his tenure with the Ducks, Brooks rebuilt the program to prosperity, taking the Ducks to bowl games in four of his final six years. His time at Oregon culminated with a Pac-10 championship in 1994, earning Brooks the Bear Bryant Award given to the National Coach of the Year.

Brooks then took over at the helm of the St. Louis Rams for two years, before joining Dan Reeves' staff on the Atlanta Falcons, where he was part of the 1998 Falcons NFC Championship team.

When Brooks took over at Kentucky in 2003, the Wildcats were stricken with severe probation. He has led the Wildcats to three straight bowl games, including an upset win over Clemson in the 2006 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, which was Kentucky's first bowl win in 22 years. Seemingly overlooked in the all-star coaching fraternity in the SEC, Brooks has quietly brought Kentucky football back to a competitive level in the always tough SEC East.

Kiffin Denies Gas Statement
Lane Kiffin sure is giving us a lot to talk about this off-season. As my colleague Phil Guidry pointed out in Wednesday's News Roundup, Kiffin again made a verbal gaffe, reportedly telling South Carolina signee Alshon Jeffery early on Signing Day that he would "end up pumping gas" if he committed to the Gamecocks.

Sadly, thanks to several other incidents this off-season, Kiffin's latest remarks shouldn't come as a shock to anyone inside or outside of Vol Nation.

This time though, Kiffin's fighting back. He told ESPN that "I never said that to Alshon, nor would I say anything like that… That's just not something I would say."

Sounds like Kiffin may be getting some advice from the higher-ups at Tennessee. You can't just run your mouth off with reckless abandon in the SEC, especially before you've even coached a game. Maybe Kiffin is telling the truth, and maybe he's not; but he's starting to at least attempt to censor himself. Baby steps.

Andre Smith Salvaged Draft Position At Bama Pro Day
Former Alabama OT Andre Smith had a lot riding on Wednesday's Pro Day. The 2008 Outland Trophy winner, which is given to the nation's best interior lineman, has seen his draft stock plummet thanks to a variety of incidents since he last played a football game.

From most accounts, Smith put up "just average" workout numbers in drills like the 40-yard dash, three cone drill and broad jump, but looked far better in his individual positional drills. It was an event that Smith put a lot of importance in after a few missteps in the off-season that had a lot of NFL scouts very concerned about Smith's dedication.

Shortly before Alabama took on the Utah Utes in the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl, Smith let his team down after reportedly having improper contact with an agent. The transgression forced Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban to suspend Smith for the bowl game. The Utes upset the heavily-favored Crimson Tide in that game, 31-17.

After that game, Smith, a junior at the time, declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft. But the drama wasn't over for Smith. At the annual NFL Combine held last month in Indianapolis, Ind., Smith drew the ire of NFL scouts when he abruptly, and without explanation, left the Combine on the day that offensive linemen participated in drills.

Will Smith's pro day performance salvage a first round pick? That won't be known till April 25 in New York City. But, he didn't hurt his stock on Wednesday. And for Smith, that's a huge step.

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Three & Out Archive:
Three & Out – SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 11, 2009
Three & Out – SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 7, 2009
Three & Out – SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 3, 2009
Three & Out – SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – February 28, 2009

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