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SEC Media Days are here–providing yet another way for the Southeastern Conference to beat its chest as the most dominant conference in the land. The four-day long media circus, hosted at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham, gives us a chance to hear from SEC coaches and players at a time in the summer when fans are counting down the days until kickoff and clamoring for any information they can find.
Here is a day-by-day preview of what to expect from the 2016 version of SEC Media Days.
Auburn Gus Malzahn
Florida Jim McElwain
Vanderbilt Derek Mason
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey
For the second year in a row Greg Sankey will lead off the event and though he isn’t the celebrity at media days that Nick Saban is, he is likely to be one of the more compelling speakers. Unlike many of the coaches, who may scoot around questions, Sankey will give answers.
Though there likely won’t be a lot of excitement or humor coming from Gus Malzahn, there are some intriguing story lines surrounding his team. First off, is newcomer John Franklin III the guy at quarterback–or is one of the choices from 2015? Are there enough playmakers around the quarterback position for the offense to return to the form Malzahn’s teams have shown in the past?
Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson will probably gives some quality quotes as he is getting prepared for his final college campaign. He has an NFL future, without question, but injuries have hampered his college career thus far.
Florida’s head coach Jim McElwain is quickly becoming one of our favorite coaches in the league. He’s not going to get everyone excited with his demeanor, but his honesty makes him someone to listen to each time he speaks. Whether he’s crafting up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on SEC Network or breaking down his quarterback battle, he usually has something interesting to say.
Jarrad Davis and Marcus Maye will likely give us some insight as to why they believe the Gator defense will be as good or better than their impressive showing in 2015.
Not many believed Derek Mason would succeed in the brutal SEC after leading Vanderbilt to a 4-8 finish in his first season as a head coach back in 2014. However, his team showed signs of promise last season and it is now clear that his defense-first mindset can work once he finds stability at the quarterback position. Kyle Shurmer has been named the starter for Mason’s third season in Nashville.
Mason is always well-spoken and that should lend him a hand as he might face more difficult questions this time around in Birmingham. Star running back Ralph Webb is tagging along with Mason to media days and there could be talk of him making a push at All-SEC honors.
Georgia Kirby Smart
Mississippi State Dan Mullen
Tennessee Butch Jones
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin
There will be no shortage of excitement on Tuesday. First up will be coordinator of SEC football officials, Steve Shaw, and he could, similarly to Sankey, be more informative than many of the coaches.
The first coach to take the podium will be Georgia alumna and new head man in Athens, Kirby Smart. With a freshman quarterback likely to see major playing time, recruiting battles aplenty against former boss Saban, and more arrests for Bulldog players this offseason, it should be tense start to Media Days for Smart.
For the first time in three years, Dan Mullen will have to discuss a quarterback battle. We won’t see Dak Prescott with Mullen on Tuesday and that absence is likely to be the source of much of the questioning for Mullen. However, Prescott’s departure could be overshadowed by the decision to let 5-star signee Jeffery Simmons enroll in Starkville after hitting a woman on the ground just a few months ago.
With Mullen will be three senior stalwarts in linebacker Richie Brown, defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson and receiver Fred Ross. Those guys will represent MSU well on Tuesday, but they also serve as a symbol for what the Bulldog program will look like on the field this season. They will be a squad loaded with talent, one that could have a shot at contending if a first-year starting quarterback surprises.
With the exception of Nick Saban and Alabama, Butch Jones and Tennessee could be the biggest celebrities at SEC Media Days. Not only are the Volunteers expected to take the SEC East in 2016, but they also just settled a Title IX lawsuit that is sure to bring out a lot of questions.
On top of that, all three players from Rocky Top who are coming with Jones – Josh Dobbs, Jaylen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton – are star athletes who have been around the league a few seasons now. There are those who believe Dobbs is the best returning quarterback in the SEC, and he could answer some questions about potentially winning the Heisman trophy. Additionally, Sutton could be the best corner in the league, and it was a bit of surprise that he returned to college for another season as he possess first round talent.
Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin is one of the many coaches who comes to Media Days with questions about his future in his current job. With all the quarterback troubles he’s had over the last year, Sumlin has found a capable option for 2016 in former Oklahoma signal caller Trevor Knight. However, he will still have to answer questions about the depth and attrition at the position. Meanwhile, he’ll be asked about his team’s chances at reaching their potential in 2016.
Alabama Nick Saban
Arkansas Bret Bielema
Kentucky Mark Stoops
Missouri Barry Odom
Wednesday will be “Alabama Day” and if you’re not a fan of the Crimson Tide, you’ll be sick of hearing “Roll Tide” by the end of the day. But hey, you will get to hear from the GOAT, Nick Saban, and depending on his mood, it could be a joyous or excruciating time when he is at the mic. He’s not going to surprise us and come out in a clown suit, but he will show Coca-Cola some love and remind us all why we can’t get enough of him.
Defensive end Jonathan Allen, tight end OJ Howard and safety Eddie Jackson could each be the best at their respective positions in the league, so there is sure to be a take-home line or two amongst the group.
We could get our lovable replacement for “the head ball coach,” Steve Spurrier, in Bret Bielema. Please let his career last forever, because he always says the best things. Surely you remember him calling kneel downs “borderline erotic” at Media Days last year. So how on earth will he follow that up in 2016? We don’t have the answer, but we’ll be watching to find out.
The questions could be tough on Mark Stoops on Wednesday. After all, Kentucky fans are ready to see a winner on the gridiron in Lexington. So even though Stoops is entering just his fourth season as a head coach, there are those who feel there has been more than enough time to evaluate the job he’s done. Close losses, disappointing losses and not being able to turn the corner and get in a bowl game have Wildcats’ fans frustrated.
Barry Odom might not grab headlines going into the week at Birmingham, but he could leave with plenty. His hiring in Columbia, replacing longtime Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, has not garnered much attention, but if you’ve heard him speak you know he has something special about him. We expect that he will be the pleasant surprise of the week.
LSU Les Miles
Ole Miss Hugh Freeze
South Carolina Will Muschamp
On Thurday, there will be a little bit of everything. First up will be the “mad hatter,” Les Miles. Though there will be actual interesting football questions to be asked, Miles will more than likely make more noise with a humorous one-liner. We expect, after coming close to being fired last fall, he will be loose and show that he feels there is nothing to lose in 2016.
However, there is a serious concern whether or not Brandon Harris can take this team to where it should be – Atlanta in December. Also, can Leonard Fournette win the Heisman or will he share the backfield with his talented, younger counterparts? Maybe Fournette, himself, will be able to answer that as he will be in Birmingham
After Miles, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will be next up on the dais. He mind find himself in frustrating territory as there could be an overload of questions from the media revolving around the current NCAA case. But that is certainly not all the Rebels have to discuss, considering Freeze’s team has a real shot to be in Atlanta and Chad Kelly has a real shot to win the Heisman Trophy. There will likely be plenty of questions about those things as well.
Chad Kelly and Evan Engram are no strangers to the spotlight, and we expect they will represent Ole Miss well. This is the second year in a row for Engram to attend SEC Media Days. D.J. Jones is a well-spoken guy and we look forward to hearing what he has to say as well.
Finally, after a year away from Media Days while the defensive coordinator at Auburn, Will Muschamp is back. This time he will have garnett and black on and will have to answer questions about replacing Steve Spurrier, not as the talk of Media Days, but as the head coach in Columbia. We can only hope that he brings his sideline-like intensity to the podium.
If you want to catch all of SEC Media Days, you’re in luck. The SEC Network will televise the four-day event in its entirety. For the schedule of appearance and television info, click here.