POSTCARD FROM PARADISE
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — In honor of this weekend’s blog series, I sent actual postcards from Paradise.
Valley, that is.
I’ve determined now that Paradise Valley is actually a little hamlet just outside Scottsdale, where most of the College Football Playoff stuff is going on. I know because it has its own little municipal building and post office and everything. So I picked up some postcards at the “historic” Camelback Inn and mailed them from the Paradise Valley Post Office to my son and my father.
Can’t remember the last time I mailed a postcard. I’m sure they’ll get back to Georgia the week after I return.
Anyway, today was quite a busy day in Paradise. Or at least it was in Phoenix, where I was all morning at the chaotic event they call Media Day. It’s set up much like sports fans see every year at the Super Bowl, with a crush of media bouncing from podium to podium spread around the perimeter of a makeshift football field to interview the head coach and star players.
In the middle of the field, among a cluster of tables, gathers the rest of the team. And that means everybody, every player and assistant coach.
It was there in the middle of the field way down at the bottom of the Phoenix Civic Center that I met Mel Tucker. Right now he’s the assistant head coach and defensive backfield coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Come Tuesday he’ll be the Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator.
No, he didn’t say that straight out, nor did Kirby Smart or anybody else affiliated with Alabama’s fine program. But at least one Bama player did — thank you freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick — and pretty much everybody else sort of acknowledged it as a foregone conclusion.
Funny, though, that I’d have the rare opportunity to talk to Tucker face-to-face on this particular day (I’ll post a full feature on him tomorrow). He is, of course, a member of Nick Saban’s staff, and Saban has a strict “one voice, one message” policy, which means that nobody talks to the media but him.
That is, until the postseason.
Because the SEC and the NCAA takes over if you’re still playing after the last regular-season game, all coaches and players are required to be available for interviews at these events. And so there was nowhere for Tucker to hide as news that Smart had tabbed him to be his defensive coordinator had reached a crescendo about the time the Crimson Tide arrived in Phoenix on Friday.
Seth Emerson and I have been mentioning him in stories as a potential candidate since the day Jeremy Pruitt was named Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Maybe before, I’m not sure. But it was natural considering his extensive experience and the fact that he was passed over in favor of Pruitt at Bama.
Of course, Tucker’s a vet, so he wasn’t cracking no matter how many scribes asked him about his interest and/or actual impending employment by UGA. You’ve probably seen the non-committal comments so far but if not you’ll find them HERE.
So nothing’s certain until the ink is dry on the contract, but I expect Tucker to be in Athens sometime shortly after Smart gets there on Tuesday. And I think that will have a very positive impact on Georgia’s recruiting and, eventually, on its defense.
There was some speculation that Tucker might be interested in the head coaching job at the University of Texas at San Antonio, better known as UTSA. But the more supposedly-connected people I talked to in Phoenix Saturday morning the more I came away believing what they were saying about him being talked out of going after that gig in favor of doing the Georgia gig with Smart.
We shall see soon enough.
Meanwhile, the rain and overcast conditions finally burned off Saturday to reveal the beauty that is the southwestern desert in the winter time. It had rained for five days straight before that, which I was told was like the first time since 2008 or something that had happened in these parts.
But it has been breathtakingly beautiful today. You can really see now why they call this place Paradise. Then, again, I’m told I might re-think that in May or June with all those 100-plus-degree afternoons.
Here are some of the stories we filed from here Saturday. Hopefully you can find something that interest you therein:
STORIES FROM CFB PLAYOFF MEDIA DAY
- Alabama assistant Mel Tucker refuses to discuss if he’s coming to UGA
- Kirby Smart: No media interviews for UGA assistants
- Deshaun Watson on Kirby Smart: ‘I’m a fan of his’
- Kirby Smart getting a lot of exposure for UGA with Bama
- Kirby Smart getting to Athens ‘as fast as I can’
- Reports: Alabama’s Mel Tucker contacted for college head coaching job
- Clemson star: ‘Alabama is like a bully in middle school’
- Clemson OL thinks Christian McCaffrey, not Derrick Henry is nation’s best