The Players We Want Every Team to Bring to SEC Media Days
The circus is a few scant weeks from hitting the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.
No, we aren't talking about the kind with clowns and trapeze artists—although some revelers in the lobby hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite SEC stars may be festively dressed.
SEC media days—the unofficial kickoff to the football season—will take place July 14-17, with every head coach, commissioner Mike Slive and three players from every team making the media rounds during the extravaganza, which expanded from three to four days this year.
Who will each SEC school bring to the event?
Here are our picks for who should be there.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Jacob Coker, running back T.J. Yeldon and safety Landon Collins.
Collins and Yeldon should be easy choices. Each is the focal point of his side of the ball, and while Yeldon does find himself in a bit of a position battle with fellow running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, he has still rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa. A free day of national exposure is a nice reward, even though some questions players face at SEC media days are tedious.
The real intrigue here is at quarterback. Will Jacob Coker make the rounds with the Tide? No. But he should.
The reason is simple: He's a mystery. Everything about him is an unknown. From his on-field talent to his relationship and competition with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to his personality off the field, nobody knows much about Coker.
Let's change that.
Bringing a quarterback who hasn't started a game may seem like a stretch, and let's be honest, it kind of is. But LSU brought Zach Mettenberger to SEC media days in 2012 before he ever started a game.
Do it, Alabama.
Who Should Attend: Running back Alex Collins, quarterback Brandon Allen and defensive end Trey Flowers.
This one is easy for Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. Arkansas lacks star power, so bring the stars that do exist and let them shine bright.
Collins broke the 1,000-yard barrier as a true freshman, while Allen has already been named as the starting quarterback and is back at 100 percent after a nagging shoulder injury hindered him in 2013.
Flowers is back after flirting with the NFL, and the 6'4", 267-pound senior deserves some publicity for his work. He has 11 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss over the last two years, and if Arkansas' defense is going to take a step forward this year, it's going to be on the heels of another tremendous campaign from Flowers.
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Nick Marshall, wide receiver Sammie Coates and defensive tackle Gabe Wright.
Marshall is the star of the Tigers offense and a bona fide Heisman contender, so he's a natural choice. The senior dual-threat star was raw coming into last season and still led Auburn to within 13 seconds of the national title. The world needs to know his thoughts on last season, his progression as a passer and the "Malzahn 2.0" offense.
Coates is an obvious choice too, because while Auburn's offense is going to be a run-first team again in 2014, Coates' ability to stretch the field and keep defenses honest will be a major piece of the Tigers' 2014 offensive puzzle.
Wright is the most notable defensive player on the roster. His versatility as both a defensive tackle and a defensive end in the "Rhino" package will appease folks who yearn for some decent X's and O's talking points during the media circus.
Who Should Attend: Offensive tackle La'el Collins, cornerback Tre'Davious White and quarterback Anthony Jennings.
LSU's defense will drive the bus this year, and while defensive end Jermauria Rasco may be a good choice, let's hear from a defensive back. An obvious choice would have been safety Jalen Mills, but he was suspended indefinitely earlier this month. So we'll go with White, a guy who could evolve into a superstar by season's end.
For an offense that's lacking star power, Collins, who doesn't exactly play a glamour position, shines the brightest. You'll see his name littered in preseason All-SEC teams and All-American teams, and if the new LSU quarterback is going to succeed, Collins will have to be a star.
But just who will that quarterback be?
LSU has a policy preventing freshmen from speaking with the media, which eliminates the possibility of true freshman Brandon Harris making the rounds. So let's hear from the other contender—sophomore Anthony Jennings. How is the battle going? How has Jennings progressed during summer workouts? How close is Harris? Jennings can answer those questions.
LSU brought former quarterback Zach Mettenberger before he made a start, and while he already had the job locked down, it was still an out-of-the-box decision.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Jameon Lewis and cornerback Jamerson Love.
Mississippi State lacks a bit of star power, so its stars need to shine under the bright lights of media days.
Prescott is an obvious choice. He's a dark-horse Heisman candidate, and one way to legitimize his Heisman candidacy is get live microphones in front of him early and often. The dual-threat beast is a perfect fit for head coach Dan Mullen's offense, and it'd be great to hear his thoughts on the evolution of that offense now that he's had a full offseason of work as the unquestioned starter.
Lewis may not be a known commodity, unless you saw him play down the stretch, but he is the SEC's leading returning receiver (64 rec., 923 yards, five TDs). That alone should earn him an invite.
Love is another potential superstar for the Bulldogs. With 27 tackles and three picks last year—one of which was returned for a score—he's the next in line for a Bulldogs defense that has a recent track record of producing stars in the secondary.
Ole Miss Rebels
Who Should Attend: Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, safety Cody Prewitt.
What? No quarterback Bo Wallace?
The offense isn't the most intriguing aspect of this year's Ole Miss team, so having Treadwell in the mix would be more interesting. He's taking on more of a leadership role now that Donte Moncrief is gone, and coupled with head coach Hugh Freeze, the duo is more than capable of filling the media in on the progress of the offense.
This defense should be a lot of fun, which is why Nkemdiche and Prewitt should get invites. Nkemdiche is a full-time defensive tackle now and is one of the brightest stars on that side of the football. Prewitt is a reigning AP All-American whose versatility as both a safety and perhaps a linebacker or nickel allows plenty of flexibility within the Rebel defense.
Texas A&M Aggies
Who Should Attend: Running back Tra Carson, offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and cornerback Deshazor Everett.
Of course, it'd be great if either sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill or freshman quarterback Kyle Allen would make the rounds. But considering head coach Kevin Sumlin has a "no freshman" policy, Allen is out. And given Hill's offseason arrest for public intoxication, he's probably out too.
In their stead, send Carson and Ogbuehi. Carson is a bruising running back who is one of the most underrated players in the SEC, and Ogbuehi is a potential first-rounder if he performs up to his potential in 2014.
The big question is on defense. Why not bring Everett—the man who sealed the Alabama win in Tuscaloosa two seasons ago with a goal-line interception—back to the state as the front man for A&M's defense? He's one of the leaders of that secondary, a potential first-team All-SEC performer, according to Phil Steele, and needs to be a star this year for the Aggies.
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Kelvin Taylor and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
This one's easy.
After a leg injury ended Driskel's season early last year and two-plus years playing in an offense that doesn't suit his dual-threat abilities, he's finally at home in an offense thanks to first-year coordinator Kurt Roper. He's been through this before and is very forthcoming. Hearing his thoughts about the new offense is can't-miss television for media days.
Taylor would be a lot of fun too. The son of former Gator Fred Taylor emerged late last season, and depending on the direction Roper's offense takes, he could be this year's Tre Mason. B/R's own Randy Chambers pegged Taylor as a Heisman dark horse, and after topping the 90-yard mark twice in a painfully one-dimensional offense, he is on the brink of stardom.
The Florida defense is a known commodity, so the sophomore Hargreaves—a reigning third-team AP All-American—is a natural choice. Head coach Will Muschamp will cover a lot of the defensive bases, so Hargreaves can team up with his head coach to plug those holes or advance that narrative.
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Hutson Mason, wide receiver Chris Conley and linebacker Leonard Floyd.
Yes, this leaves running back Todd Gurley out. But Georgia isn't running a Heisman campaign for him, according to Seth Emerson of Macon.com, and his stats will do the talking.
Mason is a natural choice. Even though he's gone into a self-imposed social media hibernation, according to The Associated Press (h/t USA Today), he's going to be the face of this team once toe meets leather. Media days provide a nice warm-up to the spotlight that will burn bright this year.
Instead of Gurley, let's get Conley there. He's always forthcoming with the media, easy to talk to and produced a Star Wars movie in the offseason. Why wouldn't he be invited?
Linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Jordan Jenkins are great with the media, but Floyd deserves the spotlight on the defensive side of the ball. He burst onto the scene last year with 55 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Of the stars of the Georgia linebacking corps, he's the one opposing offensive coordinators fear the most.
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Patrick Towles, defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree and defensive end Za'Darius Smith.
Towles has the inside track at winning the quarterback job, and while freshman Drew Barker could unseat him, it'd be great for Towles to give a little insight into the pressure he feels, the development of the offense and how good the Wildcats can be if everyone stays healthy.
Dupree and Smith provide one of the most underrated one-two punches at defensive end in the SEC. The duo passed up on the NFL to return to college and continue the rebuilding effort in Lexington. Like a lot of lower-tier SEC programs, star power is a must, and Dupree and Smith are two of the stars of Kentucky's defense.
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Maty Mauk, defensive end Markus Golden and linebacker Kentrell Brothers.
Mauk is an obvious choice. He got a taste of what it's like to be the face of the offense last year when he filled in for an injured James Franklin in the middle of the season. Now it's his show, and he faces a ton of pressure after losing his three top wide receivers (including Dorial Green-Beckham) and running back Henry Josey from last year's squad.
But Missouri's run to the SEC East title was paced by a defense. That defense was able to generate pressure with four and take advantage of mistakes from opposing quarterbacks.
Golden had 6.5 sacks last season and will move into a more prominent role on the defensive line now that Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are gone. Brothers was one of the stars of last year's squad, picking off three passes and making 70 tackles. Hearing how the new-look defense has progressed from one of its stars and one of its up-and-comers would be a lot of fun.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Dylan Thompson, running back Mike Davis and defensive tackle J.T. Surratt.
Head coach Steve Spurrier wants his stars to succeed in the face of pressure, and that's precisely why Thompson and Davis will be in Hoover. Davis is a bona fide Heisman contender, and the spotlight could boost his candidacy before the season starts.
Thompson is the unquestioned starter at quarterback, and part of his responsibilities as the leader of the team are to pass the praise and shoulder the blame when things don't go right. A run through the Wynfrey in mid-July will go a long way toward preparing him.
The biggest question on South Carolina's defense is its defensive line, so why not bring its one returning starter to Hoover? Surratt is the one certainty in a land of mystery up front for the Gamecocks, and he can offer tremendous insight into where his team stands heading into fall camp.
Who Should Attend: Quarterback Justin Worley, defensive end Corey Vereen and linebacker A.J. Johnson.
Johnson is an obvious choice. He's the star of the linebacking corps, a known commodity and someone who the Vols can trust in front of the media.
Worley and Vereen are part of what make the Vols a mystery, and it'd be great to hear from them.
Worley finds himself in a battle with Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman for the top spot on the depth chart at quarterback, and head coach Butch Jones was high on him this spring.
"Justin Worley has really improved greatly, from leadership to his ability to make all of the throws, particularly the deep balls," Jones told B/R this spring.
Vereen has the most experience of any of the potential starters along the revamped defensive line. Sure, he only had 13 tackles and a sack a year ago, but a good defense creates opportunities with pressure. It will be up to Vereen, among others, to generate that pressure.
Who Should Attend: Running back Jerron Seymour, linebacker Kyle Woestmann and linebacker Caleb Azubike.
Seymour may be the best running back you've never heard of, after rushing for 716 yards and 14 touchdowns last year for the 'Dores. Now it's time you get to know him. The leader of Vandy's deep and versatile running back corps stands at just 5'7", but he packs a mean punch at 200 pounds.
Woestmann and Azubike each moved back to linebacker in Vandy's new 3-4 defense, and it'd be great to get their perspective of its progress. The 'Dores won four straight to close out the regular season due in large part to the defense, and considering the absence of former receiver Jordan Matthews and a new quarterback under center, it might need to carry the load early in 2014 as well.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.