SEC media days: Here’s why we’re watching
Sure, Southeastern Conference media days are a gabfest — but it’s football talk, and it’s the SEC, so we’re tuning in. Here are some of the best topics of discussion.
Meet the new bosses
Nearly half of the coaches representing their teams at Southeastern Conference media days will be first-timers, with five new hires and one retained interim coach all set to make their debuts in Atlanta. Though most will be familiar faces to SEC fans, such as Florida’s Dan Mullen, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt, it’ll also be a chance for new Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead and new Arkansas coach Chad Morris to introduce themselves to the league.
Embracing new offenses
With innovative offensive minds Fisher, Morris and Moorhead joining the league, it’s evident that the SEC West is moving away from its ground-and-pound past. The same can be said of the atmosphere in Gainesville, as Mullen will stake his reputation as a quarterback whisperer on fixing Florida’s post-Tim Tebow passing woes. And even LSU, long the last bastion of the fullback dive, appears to be moving toward a wide-receiver-heavy spread offense under new coordinator Steve Ensminger.
New beasts in the East?
An Eastern Division team won the conference championship game last year for the first time since 2008. With Georgia looking poised to repeat as a national contender, South Carolina seemingly on the rise after a 9-4 season, Florida and Tennessee rallying behind new coaches and Missouri helmed by a potential top-10 NFL draft pick at quarterback, the East could be as strong as it’s been in a decade.
The race for No. 1
The SEC is no stranger to No. 1 NFL draft picks, with Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford all snagging the top spot in the past decade. Early prognostications project an SEC-heavy top 10 in the 2019 draft and media days should signify the beginning of that race with top prospects Jarrett Stidham, Drew Lock and Devin White converging on Atlanta while fellow stars such as Ole Miss’ Greg Little and AJ Brown, Georgia’s Deandre Baker and LSU’s Greedy Williams continue their summer training sessions.
The make-or-break year
With so many first-time coaches at SEC media days, the “hot seat” questions should be fewer and further between in 2018. But that doesn’t mean certain coaches won’t be feeling the heat. LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason could all be heading into do-or-die campaigns, and it’ll be interesting to see how they address their teams’ shortcomings and chances to improve on the podium this week.
Who can catch Bama?
It’s the question everyone asks. Coming off the fifth national championship win of the Nick Saban era, Alabama looks reloaded for 2018, and might have the best quarterback room Saban has coached since his time in the NFL. Georgia nearly took down the Tide last season, and Auburn pulled off the upset at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But Alabama won the big trophy. Will any team be able to knock the Crimson Tide off its College Football Playoff perch, or will Saban and company cruise to yet another title?