SEC Media Days: Full Rundown, Roster and Analysis of What to Expect
SEC Media Days rivals the largest of red-carpet rollouts, with literally thousands making the trek to Birmingham—both those that are involved in the event and fans alike—to the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., during the three mid-July days.
Media days are always looked to as the unofficial start to college football season, usually landing great quotes from coaches and players and producing insight into the pending changes that are coming in college football.
Usually, it is slight changes in clock management or recruiting limits that get the most chatter, but this season the new playoffs system and the addition of two new teams will get the focus of the questions and answers from players and coaches.
Some surprise omissions occurred for player selections, with Aaron Murray of Georgia and A.J. McCarron of Alabama not making the trip. Other big names that will be missed are Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, offensive leader James Franklin from Missouri and Tyrann Mathieu from LSU.
Who’s missing isn’t really going to matter by Thursday—there will be plenty to talk about from the group that makes the trip to Hoover.
As the week for SEC Media Days approaches, here are the expectations and attendees for the event for each school.
**Teams listed in order of SEC Media Days appearance
South Carolina Gamecocks: Tuesday, July 17
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Head Coach: Steve Spurrier (8 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Ace Sanders WR, Jr.; Connor Shaw QB, Jr.; D.J. Swearinger FS, Sr.
The media has to be chomping at the bit in excitement as Steve Spurrier takes the podium the first day of SEC Media Days. Spurrier is always one of the most brutally honest of coaches—sometimes taking other teams and coaches out in the process.
What will come out this year is going to be interesting, to say the least, but don’t expect a ringing endorsement of his present quarterback, Connor Shaw. Spurrier is bringing Shaw along to Media Days, but that won’t save Shaw from hearing his name and possible negative comments from his head coach.
Ace Sanders is another visitor with the Gamecocks that could be an interesting quote machine. Sanders is full of personality and is one of the most dangerous threats in the SEC at receiver.
When Shaw takes to the podium, I would expect easy questions that will help him dig out of the likely hole that Spurrier pushed him in.
Expectations for Spurrier quarterbacks are always high on the field, and those expectations will follow Shaw to Media Days this coming week.
Texas A&M Aggies: Tuesday, July 17
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Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin (1 yr.)
Player Attendees: Luke Joeckel OT, Jr.; Sean Porter LB, Sr.; Ryan Swope WR Sr.
The Aggies land on the first day of SEC Media Days alongside their new SEC brethren the Missouri Tigers. Reporters will be on the edge of their seats preparing to get as much information as they can about the teams new to the conference.
Not only will the Aggies be joining the SEC, but they make the leap with an entirely new coaching staff, with Kevin Sumlin making his way down the road from Houston after 2011.
Kevin Sumlin is a strong personality but a quiet leader in the spotlight. Don’t expect much information surrounding the new offense to come out or for the questions about defensive change to mount great replies.
Sumlin will look to stick to simple, very undetailed answers.
His players will likely do the same on stage, but players tend to slip at times. Look for both Ryan Swope and Sean Porter to be blasted with questions about the new offensive and defensive schemes that came with their new coach.
The Aggies face a tough road as they step into the Southeastern Conference this season—it all begins at SEC Media Days.
Missouri Tigers: Tuesday, July 17
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Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (12 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Elvis Fisher OL, Sr.; E.J. Gaines CB, Jr.; T.J. Moe WR, Sr.
Missouri will take center stage on day one of SEC Media Days. Being a new entrant, the Tigers can look at it in one of two ways: Either be happy that it is over quickly, or cringe at the thought that the Tigers will be front and center when every reporter in the room is fresh for the week.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel will be asked about the shift to the SEC, and he will give the standard answer of, “We are happy and proud to be in the toughest and strongest conference in the country,” when in reality he is thinking, “Did the administration really make this schedule?”
It will not be an easy transition for the Tigers this season, but having a leader on offense like T.J. Moe will help Missouri bring home some needed victories. Moe is a senior receiver on the Tigers offense and will be one of the three athletes present in Birmingham.
Missouri will get the full SEC welcome-mat treatment in the next few days, but once the season starts, the friendly handshakes and joking banter will shift to hard hits and grueling losses.
The Tigers need to enjoy this trip while they can—the season looks as though it is going to be a long one.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Tuesday, July 17
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Head Coach: James Franklin (2 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Jordan Rodgers QB, Sr.; Zac Stacy RB, Sr.; Trey Wilson DB, Sr.
James Franklin is one of the most exciting young coaches in college football.
Unfortunately, right now he is coaching a team that does not have a rich tradition of being extremely successful.
Franklin has brought a new wind to the sails of the Commodores.
Already, in just his one season on the sidelines and after signing Brian Kimbrow in the 2012 class, Franklin has shown that he can occasionally land star in-state recruits.
Franklin brings attitude and pizazz to the stage and does not shy from the spotlight or from confrontation. Last season he had some on-the-field words with Georgia's defensive coordinator at the conclusion of a hard-fought and passionate game.
Outside of Franklin the most intriguing member of the Commodores that is landing in Hoover this week is Zac Stacy. Stacy burst onto the scene last season for the Commodores, rushing for 1,193 yards and 14 TDs.
With Stacy's coming to SEC Media Days, there will be a number of questions that will come his way about repeat performance now that defenses will know that he is a threat.
It will also be interesting to hear how Jordan Rodgers handles questions, as he finished the season with only a 50 percent completion rate and more interceptions than touchdowns, with 10 INTs and 9 TDs.
Vanderbilt may earn more headlines than expected in this year’s SEC Media Days.
Questions always need answers.
Florida Gators: Wednesday, July 18
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Head Coach: Will Muschamp (2 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Jon Bostic LB, Sr.; Mike Gillisee RB, Sr.; Lerentee McCray LB, Sr.
The Florida Gators bring the most interesting lineup to the table on Wednesday. The interest isn’t necessarily in the attendees but in whether the Gators can achieve or exceed expectations in their second year under Will Muschamp.
The coach eloquently known as “Boom” for his excitable mentality and verbiage on the sideline will be in front of the press and will own the podium for a few short minutes. The biggest question likely to come for Muschamp will be, “With the defensive talent on roster, should you contend for an SEC East title?”
His answer will be an emphatic, "Yes."
But the bigger question is the offense. How will the Brent Pease-led Florida offense look? Mike Gillisee may be able to answer some of those questions—although those answers aren’t likely to be very specific.
The Gators also bring two of their stud linebackers to the media session, but most of the defensive mentality is understood and noted.
SEC country knows Will Muschamp; it’s Brent Pease and his new position as offensive coordinator that will steal the show—and Florida's Media Days time allotment.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Wednesday, July 18
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Head Coach: Dan Mullen (4 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Johnthan Banks DB, Sr.; Gabe Jackson OL, Jr.; Tyler Rusell QB, Jr.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs land on the middle day of the week and aren’t likely to draw a ton of attention. The Bulldogs are expected to be mediocre this season, but Dan Mullen can usually come up with a bit of personality from time to time.
The most interesting part of the discussion with Mullen will involve reporters trying to get him to mention how much better State is than Ole Miss. Mullen has reached in the past with signing-day comments that appeared to jab at the recruiting tactics of Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, so the hope is that he will reach out again with just as much eloquence.
Johnthan Banks was an obvious player selection for Mullen and the Bulldogs, but Tyler Russell will draw the majority of the focus for State.
Russell has built playing experience since he was a freshman but has not quite done well enough to make it appear as if he is ready to lead the Bulldogs to the next level in the SEC West.
Russell did throw for 1,034 yards in off-again-on-again-type work, but this season he has to be more efficient than his 53.5 completion percentage of last season.
Look for Russell to draw the most attention for State players but to offer few answers beyond, “We have work to do, but we will get there.”
Arkansas Razorbacks: Wednesday, July 18
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Head Coach: John L. Smith (1 yr.)
Player Attendees: Knile Davis RB, Jr.; Tyler Wilson QB, Sr.; Tenarius Wright LB, Sr.
Arkansas falls into the middle of the pack in the SEC Media Days schedule—likely the best position for the hottest seat in the room this coming week.
Arkansas’ new head coach, John L. Smith, will surely be asked some interesting questions about his new team and the adjustments that have taken place so far this summer.
Bobby Petrino did the Hogs no favors—especially with the questions looming in this year’s Media Days.
Tyler Wilson will be one to watch as he takes the stage on Wednesday. Wilson is one of the best signal-callers in the conference and is still looking to take his Arkansas Razorbacks to a championship before he finishes his career.
The appearance of Knile Davis on the list of three players is no surprise—after a major ankle injury in fall camp last year, Davis’ rehab mentality and work ethic have vaulted the junior into a leadership role with the Hogs.
Davis’ return is also being closely monitored by SEC defenses. He was expected to be one of the elite backs in the country a year ago.
Knee surgery and rehab later, it will be interesting to see how Davis fairs behind the microphone and, more importantly, on the field.
Arkansas was a team that was highly regarded in the SEC West heading into the 2012 season before the Harley slide.
How the Razorbacks will fair under Smith is still a question mark that will follow the team beyond SEC Media Days' question-and-answer sessions.
Kentucky Wildcats: Wednesday, July 18
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Head Coach: Joker Phillips (3 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Matt Smith C, Sr.; Collins Ukwu DE, Sr.; Larry Warford OG, Sr.
Kentucky's will be one of the sessions in which the crowd may fizzle a bit—it will be refill-the-coffee time.
There isn’t a lot of expected news that is coming out of Lexington surrounding the football team, and that is both good and bad for Joker Phillips.
Phillips will enter his third season with the Wildcats facing tough questions about the future of the program and its direction.
The Wildcats bring three players to Hoover that are not extremely well known—two are offensive linemen—but there will be plenty of questions about future of the program for them to answer.
Joker Phillips may be at his last SEC Media Days as a head coach if he doesn’t improve on last year’s numbers. Defense isn’t the biggest issue; offense is. Phillips will undoubtedly be asked about his quarterback situation, and no firm answer will be given.
Sorry, Kentucky fans, but until Phillips—or someone—gets the Wildcats relevant in football, they will be the de facto break period for those covering the event.
Phillips should take notes from James Franklin at Vanderbilt if he is looking for inspiration on how to rejuvenate a program.
Auburn Tigers: Wednesday, July 18
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Head Coach: Gene Chizik (4 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Emory Blake WR, Sr.; Corey Lemonier DE, Jr.; Philip Lutzenkirchen TE, Sr.
Auburn heads into SEC Media Days as the late-session attendee on Wednesday. The Tigers will bring along the seeming inventor of coach-speak—Gene Chizik—two seniors and a junior.
Under Chizik, upperclassmen aren’t always the attendees, and with Auburn's low number of seniors over the past four seasons, it makes a lot of sense to see juniors making the trip.
The three Tigers that are making the trip will all handle the microphone well, but Philip Lutzenkirchen would be the one of the three to watch. Lutzenkirchen has a huge Twitter following and is known to be the most charismatic of the three Tigers.
Gene Chizik always finds a way to answer questions without exactly answering them, leaving the interviewer—and most likely the coach, too—confused as to what really started the discussion in the first place.
Chizik typically gives speeches to start his pressers and then cordially responds to questions without giving real answers.
Don’t expect much from Auburn on Wednesday—unless Lutzenkirchen has brought back his summer mustache tradition.
LSU Tigers: Wednesday, July 18
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Head Coach: Les Miles (7 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Odell Beckham Jr. WR, So.; Zach Mettenberger QB, Jr.; Eric Reid SAF, Jr.
The LSU Tigers are one of the youngest teams in the SEC this season—they are also one of the most talented.
Les Miles is always great behind a podium, and anyone not looking forward to hearing what he has to say about this year’s Tigers team has obviously never been to the site dedicated to his wonderful phrases and confusing attempts at coach-speak.
LSU is one of two teams that will bring a sophomore to Hoover, with Odell Beckham Jr. making the trip for the Tigers. Despite his youth, he is a leader for the Tigers offense and one of the most dangerous receivers in the country.
The player for LSU that will undoubtedly receive the most attention is starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger has taken a long route to LSU but stands as the leader of an offense that lacked any threat at quarterback last season.
Mettenberger appears to be the missing piece for a very potent LSU offense and is expected to perform big for the Tigers.
The media will be heavy with questions for Les Miles simply for the quotes, but when they approach Mettenberger, it will be for answers.
Will Mettenberger be the missing piece for the Tigers this season?
Les Miles sees him maturing and seems to think so, as he told ESPN.com in April:
We’ve always had the opportunity to throw…now, we may turn to those weapons more readily because this offense fits (Mettenberger’s) style of play more pointedly.
No matter if anything newsworthy comes from LSU’s day or not, I simply can’t wait for Les Miles to take to the podium.
Grab popcorn people; it’s that good.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Thursday, July 19
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Head Coach: Nick Saban (6 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Barrett Jones C, Sr.; Damion Square DE, Sr.; Michael Williams TE, Sr.
When first looking at the list of Crimson Tide attendees, it is impossible not to notice that the Tide’s starting quarterback—A.J. McCarron—is not attending.
Nick Saban kept with senior attendees—a common theme under his leadership as the Tide’s head coach.
There isn’t much that will be missed without McCarron attending, as the Alabama players are always very careful with their interviews.
Every player that was selected for the Crimson Tide will represent the school well, but Barrett Jones stands out from the pack. Jones has been a guard in his time in Tuscaloosa, most recently shifting to the starting center position. Jones is showing versatility and will display the quick wit on stage that allows him to be one of the most liked and successful Tide players.
Although there may not be many interesting lines from the Tide players, Nick Saban is always good for a quote or two when placed in front of a microphone and eager reporters.
With Alabama's landing on the last day of SEC Media Days, most questions will have already had time to be answered multiple times about the new playoff concept and new entrants, but stick around for the final morning media session, as Nick Saban will surely chime in on the playoff scenario.
Tennessee Volunteers: Thursday, July 19
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Head Coach: Derek Dooley (3 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Tyler Bray QB, Jr.; Ja’Wuan James OL, Jr.; Herman Lathers LB, Sr.
Derek Dooley is the one coach that enters SEC Media Days on the hot seat—guaranteed.
That may seem like a strange prediction, but Tennessee fans are not happy with the current state of the UT football program, after last season’s 5-7 mark, which included only one conference win.
A player that will make the trip with Dooley is Tyler Bray—the stud signal-caller whose injury in October of 2011 really hurt the Volunteers on offense.
If Bray stays healthy in 2011, the Vols look dangerous.
Dooley will not give anything substantial to the media with his answers at the podium, but the hope is that Bray will. Bray has been known to be a bit questionable with his comments in the past, and there isn’t a doubt that a media member from around the Gainesville area will try to get the party started.
Herman Lathers is another player that will be a good option from the podium for the Vols, as he lost last season to a broken ankle suffered during the summer of 2011. He is ready for his 2012 return and should be a force for the Vols defense this season.
The Tennessee session may be one of the least intriguing of the day if Bray doesn’t drop some great Florida quotes on us. Bray will surely be instructed to watch his words, but he has been known to walk to the beat of his own drum.
Let’s hope he makes it interesting.
Ole Miss Rebels: Thursday, July 19
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Head Coach: Hugh Freeze (1 yr.)
Player Attendees: Mike Marry LB, Jr.; Donte Moncrief WR, So.; Charles Sawyer DB, Jr.
Ole Miss will be one of two teams that will carry sophomores to the SEC Media Days this fall.
Sophomores are not mainstays at the event, but the appearance of Donte Moncrief on the list of attendees from Ole Miss makes sense.
The Rebels are a young team and are somewhat in the midst of a quarterback battle—no signal-caller was making the trip. Moncrief was a very bright spot in an otherwise dull offense a year ago and could shine brightly under the new Hugh Freeze offense.
Last year was not a good one for the Rebels on offense or defense, so finding leaders is a must. These three are obvious picks from the coaches as guys that can lead the Rebels to some wins this fall.
Hugh Freeze will be one of three new coaches appearing on the stage, so how he reacts to the media circus will be interesting. Coming from Arkansas State, Freeze has never seen anything on the level of SEC Media Days.
Hopefully he turns into another SEC quote machine—there just simply aren’t enough Spurrier’s out there.
Georgia Bulldogs: Thursday, July 19
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Head Coach: Mark Richt (11 yrs.)
Player Attendees: Abry Jones DE, Sr.; Jarvis Jones LB, Jr.; Tavarres King WR, Sr.
No Aaron Murray? What is that about Mark Richt? It really won’t matter when the questions begin to pour in about which player—or coach for that matter—will step up and lead the Bulldogs back to the SEC title game.
Mark Richt has become one of the staples of SEC Media Days, as he has been with Georgia for over a decade. The longest-tenured coached in the SEC, Richt has seen this pony show before and understands how to play the media game.
Of the three players that are making the ride to Hoover with Georgia, Jarvis Jones will be the most intriguing. This season Jones looks to repeat his All-American status with the Bulldogs, with the hope being that his electricity on the field translates to the podium.
Tavarres King will also draw attention—he is the biggest offensive threat that the Bulldogs have for Aaron Murray to utilize on the outside. Yes, Malcolm Mitchell had a great season—665 yards and four touchdowns is impressive—but Mitchell is far from a proven option in the Bulldogs offense.
Look for King to answer the questions about the Georgia offense that Murray would have been asked, with some of those not being the easiest to answer.
Richt will also face questions about the recent dismissal of arguably the Bulldogs' best running back—Isaiah Crowell—and the solutions that will be in place to the obvious depth problems at running back found in Athens.