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SEC Football: 7 Biggest Storylines Heading into SEC Media Days

Brian LeighFeatured Columnist IVJune 24, 2016

SEC Football: 7 Biggest Storylines Heading into SEC Media Days

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    Conference media days are a warm and welcome sign that college football is not as far away as it seems. The first major conference to hold its annual media event, the SEC, will host players and coaches at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. from July 16-18.

    Coming off its seventh consecutive BCS National Championship, the conference is more arrogant than ever before. But no one can deny they've earned that air of superiority, and anybody whom it offends is welcome to beat them and take it away. That's just easier said than done.

    This should be a year of turnover for the SEC, as just five players (including a punter) return from last year's all-conference first team. Between that, a gaggle of new coaches and a Heisman winner who enjoyed an interesting summer, media days will not be wanting for intrigue.

     

Kevin Sumlin's Future at Texas A&M

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    Sumlin will deliver the usual platitudes when asked about his future at A&M, so there probably won't be much in the way of story development. But even so, this is sure to be one of the major topics in Hoover next week.

    According to The San Antonio Express-News, here's how Sumlin described his situation back in June:

    I've never coached in the NFL. I've had plenty of opportunities to do that, both as an assistant coach and even as a head coach. But there's a reason I coach college football, and we've got a lot of work to do here. We're still playing catch-up, and we finished third in the SEC West last year.

    Maybe later—some time later [I'll move to the NFL]. But it won't be anytime soon. My family likes living here and I like living here. Heck, we just got here. 

    Chip Kelly played coy much of last season before defecting to the Philadelphia Eagles, so the media can be forgiven for continuing to push on Sumlin. Fair or not, so long as the NFL remains interested in his services, journalists will remain interested in how he reciprocates.

    Sumlin's offense—again, much like Kelly—has made him a hot commodity among professional football teams. The sport is changing rapidly, and guys like Sumlin, guys who appear to be ahead of the curve, are hotter now than they might ever again be.

Jeremy Hill Charged with Battery

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    Jeremy Hill led LSU with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore last year and was being counted on to carry a similar load in 2013. But now that appears to be a long shot.

    After an April 27th bar fight in Baton Rouge, the 20-year-old Hill was caught fleeing from the scene and arrested. Coach Les Miles suspended him indefinitely days later, and now that he has been formally charged with simple battery, that suspension seems likely to be a long one.

    Especially since Hill was already on probation, stemming from a guilty plea in 2012 to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile. The terms of his probation have since been amended to include a 6 p.m. curfew and an order to stay out of bars.

    In Hoover, the SEC media will have plenty of questions to ask concerning Hill—the length of his suspension, the chance of his expulsion, etc., etc.. Miles better come prepared to answer all of them.

How Will James Franklin Handle the Vanderbilt Sex Scandal?

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    In June, Vanderbilt suspended four players from the football team as police investigated whether a sex crime took place on campus.

    Since those reports, though, very little information has come to light. The players have  yet to be named or charged, leading stations like Nashville News 2 to question whether police are delaying the investigation (and if so, why?).

    Between the dearth of explicit details and inconsistencies in the story's timeline, the Vanderbilt Sex Scandal gets more curious by the day. Even if more information emerges before the media days, the incident is sure to get talked about more than any on-field concerns.

    Coming off a program-restorative 9-4 season, this is a big step backward for the Commodores. 

Johnny Manziel's Offseason Activities

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    Manziel was not allowed to talk to the media for most of his freshman year, but once the leash was taken off, he became something of an Internet celebrity. Whether it was cryptically tweeting about looking forward to leaving College Station or partying shirtless in Cabo, Manziel was constant fodder for sports tabloids throughout the spring and summer.

    Some think the fame has gone to his head. But Manziel is a notoriously hard worker, and as he's sure to relay countless times at the podium in Hoover: He can't wait to get back on the football field.

    He never got into any real trouble this offseason, but Manziel drew ire from plenty of sports curmudgeons—guys who want their college athletes to be squeaky-clean robots instead of actual 20-year-old kids.

    It should be fun to watch Manziel handle that line of questioning.

Who Will Be Auburn's Starting Quarterback?

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    Another question that's likely to get asked but not answered in Hoover: Who will be Gus Malzahn's starting quarterback at Auburn this year?

    His second-to-last QB before leaving was Cam Newton, and all he did was win a Heisman Trophy and a national championship and then get selected first in the NFL draft. So at least the new guy won't have big shoes to fill or anything...

    It's  being pegged as a four-way race, including two quarterbacks who started games last season (Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace) and two who weren't even on the team (Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson).

    Last year marked the sixth consecutive season Auburn has had a new leading passer, a feat the school hadn't managed since 1962-67. Only Frazier can stop that number from inflating to seven.

    The media won't expect answers, but they'll sure be expecting some sort of update.

Four New SEC Coaches

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    Almost 30 percent of the league gets a new head man in 2013: Bret Bielema at Arkansas, Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Mark Stoops at Kentucky and Butch Jones at Tennessee.

    Of that quartet, only Malzahn has any experience with the SEC. He, of course, was the offensive coordinator on Auburn's national championship team in 2011, before defecting to the head job at Arkansas State.

    Other than that, though, everyone else is new. This is their first and best chance to establish a rapport with local media, to establish what kind of ship they'll be sailing and what type of captain they will be.

    All four new coaches will make their debut on the second day in Hoover.

Two Arrests in Texas A&M Starting Secondary

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    The Aggies have been mum on the cases of Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven Jr., projected starters in the secondary who were arrested on counts of misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief.

    Kevin Sumlin won't have anywhere to hide in Hoover, though, where the nature of their punishment will be a hot topic. They were suspended from team activities for the time being, but with Alabama scheduled to visit College Station in Week 3, losing a pair of starters for longer than two games could be a risky move, especially for an A&M secondary that isn't loaded with depth.

    Everett, a cornerback, finished 2012 with 56 tackles, two interceptions and one defensive touchdown. The second of those interceptions was a highlight of A&M's season, sealing the Aggies' 29-24 upset of No. 1 Alabama with a 4th-and-goal route-jump. It was one of just three interceptions AJ McCarron threw last season.

    Raven played sparingly in 2012, but he is expected to assume a much larger role going forward.

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