SEC Media Days: 14 Burning Questions for Head Coaches Going into 2012
SEC Media Days features a podium for some of college football's most colorful coaches to answer trending topics.
Coaches such as Nick Saban, Les Miles, Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier are larger-than-life personalities, and when they step up to the mic, a compelling soundbite is only a few spoken words away.
Most likely Saban will greet the media with an annoyed demeanor, Miles will be all smiles, Richt will say something thought provoking and Spurrier is a lock for saying something outlandish and fascinating.
But every coach in the conference will have to answer a burning question surrounding their team and the conference. These are those questions.
Nick Saban: How Do You Replace 4 First-Round Picks on Defense?
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If anybody can replace four first-round draft picks on defense, it's Nick Saban.
Saban has built his own farming system for the NFL at Alabama, and when a player heads to the pros, he seems to find a replacement who's just as good.
But even though that might be the case, replacing four studs like Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrick is much easier said than done.
With the first game of the season coming against Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines, Alabama's new faces on defense can't afford to make mental errors. Can't you see Saban turning redder than an apple already?
John L. Smith: Is Winning the West Still a Legit Possibility?
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Can the Arkansas Razorbacks contend without Bobby Petrino?
This is the question that has been pondered by many SEC fans. The Hogs' offense is left without Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Petrino, but they still possess one of the scariest offenses in the league.
The biggest reason for that, of course, is because they still have Tyler Wilson gun-slinging under center. But can they really compete with LSU and Alabama given all of their off-field struggles?
As if losing Petrino wasn't bad enough, the Razorbacks had to suspend three players for being charged with residential burglary, with one of those players being Marquel Wade. It's looking more and more like 2012 will be an uphill battle for the Hogs.
Gene Chizik: Clint Moseley or Kiehl Frazier?
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Just in case anyone doubted Cam Newton's abilities, 2011 was a quick reminder of his greatness.
To say Auburn struggled at quarterback last season would be putting it nicely.
Clint Moseley completed 61 percent of his passes last season, while throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions. As for Kiehl Frazier, he only attempted 12 passes but had two interceptions to show for it. With neither Moseley nor Frazier looking spectacular in 2011, fall camp will decide the starter.
Frazier is the more athletic of the two and could provide the Tigers with a dual-threat option at the position, but it remains to be seen if he'll be the starter.
Will Muschamp: Is This Defense Good Enough to Win a Championship
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Defense will always win championships.
Because of this repeating cliche in college football, the Florida Gators have a chance to win the SEC East. But is this defense really good enough to win the division?
Even more so—is it good enough to win the SEC? Well, losing a player like Ronald Powell in the spring isn't a great start, but this defense is still packed deep with talent. Safety Matt Elam, linebackers Jonathan Bostic and Jelani Jenkins and defensive end Sharif Floyd are all spectacular athletes who have potential to make noise.
The offense has yet to find an identity, so for Muschamp to have a successful season, he'll have to rely on his defense. As a former defensive coordinator, he should be just fine with that.
Mark Richt: Is Isaiah Crowell Replaceable?
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This is a lethargic question, but you already know it'll be asked.
The media tends to go with what's trending, and right now, Isaiah Crowell being dismissed from the team is a hot topic.
Can Crowell be replaced? The obvious answer to this question is yes. The Bulldogs still have Ken Malcome, Brandon Harton and freshman sensation Keith Marshall.
And let's not try and pretend the Bulldogs don't have Aaron Murray at quarterback still. The Bulldogs will be fine after losing Crowell, but that doesn't mean Richt won't have to answer a million questions on the matter.
Joker Phillips: How Many Wins Will It Take to Save Your Job?
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Have you ever skipped a shower after a workout because you were in a rush and threw some cologne on so your stench might go by unnoticed?
That was basically Joker Phillips last season with the Kentucky Wildcats. After a grueling workout in 2010 that saw the Wildcats go 6-7, Phillips' young squad in 2011 served as his cologne.
Though their 5-7 odor was still noticeably bad, it was forgivable because Phillips was building toward the Wildcats' future with Max Smith as quarterback. The cologne he used was no Sex Panther by Odion, but the bitter smell of defeat hasn't killed Phillips reputation, yet.
Now that it's 2012, it's time for the Wildcats to take their shower. Phillips might be entering his third season with the Wildcats, but make no mistake about it—he needs to rack up some wins to avoid his seat getting any hotter.
Les Miles: If You Could Do It All Over, Would Have Played Jarrett Lee in BCS NC?
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The future is bright for LSU, but the BCS National Championship game still warrants a discussion.
Les Miles has to know this is coming. The second he steps to the podium, the media will bombard him with questions regarding LSU's lackluster performance in the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the title game.
The question everyone wants a definitive answer to, though, is if he could do it all over again, would he have played Jarrett Lee?
Jordan Jefferson had 53 passing yards and one interception in the loss while failing to get his team across the 50-yard line. This should make for a nice transition toward multiple Zach Mettenberger questions. What's the over/under for Mettenberger questions? Ten?
Dan Mullen: Is Tyler Russell Championship Material?
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Can Tyler Russell be the player Mississippi State fans long for him to be?
He'll have to be if the Bulldogs want to survive the SEC West, let alone win it.
Sharing playing time with Chris Relf in 2011, Russell threw for 1,034 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Relf's no longer with the team, so 2012 will be Russell's year to step up and be the man.
Mississippi State's attack will feature a run-heavy offense again this season, but Russell will need to establish a threat throwing the football to beat those SEC West giants.
Gary Pinkel: Is James Franklin the Best Quarterback in the SEC?
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James Franklin is a talented quarterback, but he's not the best that the SEC has to offer.
The SEC is home to some of the best quarterbacks in the nation, with Wilson, Murray, Mettenberger, AJ McCarron and Tyler Bray all calling this conference home.
But I have a feeling Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel will make a strong case for Franklin as the best. After all, Franklin dominated the Big 12. Oh wait, was that supposed to impress somebody?
Against Big 12 defenses or not, 2,865 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions is quite an accomplishment. It really is. Add in 981 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns, and Pinkel might have a valid argument.
Hugh Freeze: How Will Losing Nick Brassell Affect the Program?
Losing a player with as much potential as Nick Brassell cuts deep.
Brassell could play offense or defense, and as a freshman in 2011, he did both. And before Hugh Freeze gets to take his new toy out for a spin, it's gone missing.
Brassell was declared academically ineligible, and he will transfer from the school. One player doesn't make a football team, but at this point for Ole Miss, it's certainly going to hurt losing what limited playmakers are on the roster.
Combine that with a schedule that has them on the the road battling Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Arkansas, and this could be a cold season for Freeze.
Steve Spurrier: Can We Expect Lattimore's Carries to Be Somewhat Reduced?
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Steve Spurrier is always the highlight of SEC Media Days.
The man doesn't hesitate to tell it like it is. With this state of mind, it caused him to make headlines last year after poking fun at Dan Mullen's jet. So it's easy to see how tempting it is to lob a softball for Spurrier to knock out of the park.
But with a tremendous amount of talent returning for the Gamecocks in 2012, the Head Ball Coach deserves a question involving his team's offense.
Connor Shaw returns to the team at quarterback as the starter after getting valuable experience last season, while Marcus Lattimore returns from his season-ending knee injury. So with a capable quarterback and ultra-talented running back returning to the offense, can we expect a more balanced offense? Or will Spurrier continue to grind it out with Lattimore on the ground?
Derek Dooley: Can Tyler Bray, Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter Save Your Job?
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For Tennessee's sake, the offense better be capable of winning football games. Heck, even more so for Derek Dooley's.
Dooley inherited a mess at Tennessee when he arrived, and though his Volunteers have battled teams closely, he has an 11-14 record to show for it. That's not going to earn you any favors in the eyes of the Tennessee faithful.
But Dooley has a saving grace. Shaped in the form of a three-headed monster, Tennessee's offense should be one of the best in the SEC East.
Dooley's job security could be safe with a breakout season from Bray, a healthy Justin Hunter and the leading receiver in the SEC last season, Da'Rick Rogers.
Kevin Sumlin: Can a High-Powered Offense Win in the SEC?
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Kevin Sumlin was a big fish in a small pond.
His offensive attack at the University of Houston garnered mainstream appeal, as it should have. But now, he's swimming with the sharks at Texas A&M. It's easy to become fish food when sharks are 6'4", 250-pound defensive ends who run a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
Sumlin will have a new face at quarterback in Jameill Showers, but he'll have familiar faces split wide in Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu. Those returning receivers should make Sumlin giddy, as they accounted for 1,846 receiving yards in 2011.
But still, the past six SEC champions and BCS national champions, I might add, all had dominant defenses. So can a predominantly offensive team win a championship in a conference where defense reigns supreme?
James Franklin: Do You Really Hire Your Assistants Based on Their Wives?
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America has lost its sense of humor.
No longer can any popular image make a harmless joke, and unfortunately, James Franklin had to find that out the hard way.
This summer, Franklin made a light-hearted remark that was taken completely out of context. Coachingsearch.com reported that Franklin told Nashville's 104.5 FM The Zone that he will not hire an assistant until he sees his wife, and if she doesn't look the part, then they won't get hired.
Franklin was obviously joking, but good ol' America's sensitivity forced Vanderbilt's head coach to apologize. There's a good chance Franklin takes a nice ribbing during SEC Media Days.