Players and Coaches We Can't Wait to Talk to at 2013 SEC Media Days
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The wait is over.
The SEC released the full roster of players who will be headed to Hoover, Ala., next week for the annual circus known as SEC Media Days.
As opposed to last year when several stars stayed home—including AJ McCarron, Tyrann Mathieu, Aaron Murray, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney—the stars will be out in full force this year at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham—The Wynfrey Hotel.
Clowney, Murray, McCarron and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will all make the rounds next week, with several other players and coaches who will surely entertain the assembled media.
Who are the players and coaches we can't wait to interview? Our list is in this slideshow.
8. South Carolina QB Connor Shaw
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Connor Shaw is the forgotten quarterback in the SEC. The man with the 17-3 record as a starter finds himself in the unique spot of still flying under the radar from a national perspective, despite being on a Top 10-caliber team.
With everyone focused on Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray and AJ McCarron, Shaw is making his second trip to Hoover with a ton of questions to answer.
How healthy is he from offseason foot surgery? How will he handle it if head coach Steve Spurrier rotates Dylan Thompson into the game to take snaps in specific situations? Will he take more steps to keep himself healthy when he takes off with the football? What was Spurrier's reaction to him skydiving this summer?
All are good questions for the rising senior who is a big piece of the Gamecock puzzle this season.
7. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban
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Nick Saban typically uses the grand preseason stage to set forth some sort of agenda.
Expect the man who once called street agents "pimps" prior to the 2010 season to be quite vocal when he makes the rounds at the Wynfrey next week.
What will his primary topic be?
Speed of the game.
Saban and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema have made no bones about their desire to slow down hurry-up offenses. It seems to be an underrated talking point right now. But offense sells, and Saban and Bielema are fighting a losing battle.
Because of that, expect Saban to come out strong against hurry-up offenses and argue both the player-safety and fairness angles.
Plus, you know, speaking with the head coach of the first dynasty of the BCS era is always a good thing.
6. South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier
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Steve Spurrier is always good for a nice one (or eight)-liner, so expect them early and often when he makes the rounds.
Will the Head Ball Coach come out strong and join LSU head coach Les Miles in opposing permanent cross-division rivalries? Is he relieved that the Georgia game was moved back to the second week of the season, where [he says] the Bulldogs typically have a boatload of suspensions? What's this offseason been like with the spotlight shining bright on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney?
Perhaps most important—how's his golf game?
Spurrier holds court better than any coach or player in the country, and expect more of the same next week. He's usually very forthcoming with his feelings on his team, and his comments next week will be a good indicator of just how good he expects the Gamecocks to be.
5. Alabama QB AJ McCarron
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With back-to-back BCS National Championships under his belt, McCarron could go down as one of the most decorated college quarterbacks of all time.
But something tells me that won't be the primary topic of conversation when McCarron meets with the media.
His relationship with Katherine Webb and thoughts on Brent Musburger's comments during Alabama's 42-14 thrashing of Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game will certainly be asked early and often. While those are silly questions and irrelevant to the 2013 season, seeing how McCarron answers them in the circus-like atmosphere over and over again will be interesting.
Oh, also, there's the whole three-peat thing, his talented and deep wide receiving corps and the possibility of becoming more of a pass-oriented team to discuss. Something tells me those topics of conversation will end up in the backseat, though.
4. Georgia DE Garrison Smith
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You'd think that the player from Georgia people would most want to see would be quarterback Aaron Murray.
The Bulldog at the top of my list to chat with is defensive end Garrison Smith.
Smith played well at times last season, stepping in for an injured Abry Jones to the tune of 57 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.
But the future is what's important, and Georgia's future on defense doesn't include Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo and a host of other talented former Bulldogs.
Is this unit better-suited to stop the run? Who will be the next wave of stars for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham?
Those are the questions that need to be answered, and Smith is the man for the job.
3. LSU Head Coach Les Miles
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Love him or hate him, LSU head coach Les Miles is always entertaining.
Whether it's eating grass, discussing the chest of recruits or kissing players, Miles is press-conference gold.
Expect the Mad Hatter to be asked early and often about permanent cross-division rivalries, which he has strongly opposed when given a hot mic in the past.
But that's not the biggest storyline for the Mad Hatter this year at Media Days.
LSU is entering the season flying under the radar a bit, with Alabama and Texas A&M stealing most of the headlines. That's probably exactly where Miles wants the Tigers to be.
Whether he embraces the talk of LSU going through a rebuilding year or takes offense to it, it should make for quite a fun few hours.
2. South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
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Normally, a guy who spent about two months with ESPN SportsCenter's "Best of the Best" highlight in the offseason would be the top attraction in Hoover.
That's not the case for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
But serving as the first runner-up isn't a bad consolation.
What are Clowney's thoughts on a defensive player being a legitimate favorite for the Heisman? Should he be a favorite after last season when he posted 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks? Does he have Michigan running back Vincent Smith's helmet on his bookshelf? Did he ever honestly give sitting out the 2013 season a second thought?
If that last question gets asked more than once, will he form tackle the questioner?
There will be plenty to talk about when the best player in college football makes his rounds.
1. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
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"Are you out of control?"
"When did you lose control?"
"What is control?"
"Will you tweet about control?"
In reality, Johnny Manziel's offseason hasn't been much of a roller coaster. The rising redshirt sophomore angered critics by doing things that pretty much everybody on the planet would do if they were put in his situation.
Courtside at NBA games? Sign me up. Online classes? I work from home and love my 11-step commute. Cabo San Lucas, Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl? I'm in.
Manziel's world tour angered some, though, and he will sit face-to-face with many of those people next week when that tour takes him to Hoover. Expect Manziel to be forced to answer the question of "how focused he really is" 50 or 60 times before he departs Hoover.
The truth is that, when put in front of a controlled environment—even if is controlled chaos like SEC Media Days—Manziel is very forthcoming and polished, which will make for good quotes.
Get your popcorn ready.