The college football season is nearly upon us, but first one of the biggest heavyweight conferences open their media days slate.
Monday is only Day 1 of a long week in Hoover, Alabama, but presents some of the most interesting storylines. With the opening of a new regime in Vanderbilt and some trouble for a potential Heisman candidate, the opening slate of interviews should be entertaining to watch.
Before things get underway on Day 1, here's a look at the full schedule, participants and predictions for Monday. All information provided by SEC Sports.
SEC Football Media Days Information
When: July 14-17
Where: Hyatt Regency Birmingham—The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Monday, July, 14
Session I: 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m. ET
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive
Auburn: Gus Malzahn; Reese Dismukes, Center; Gabe Wright, Defensive Lineman; C.J. Uzomah, Tight End
Session II: 3:40 p.m.-5:40 p.m. ET
Florida: Will Muschamp; Jeff Driskel, Quarterback; Dante Fowler, Defensive End; Vernon Hargreaves III, Cornerback
Vanderbilt: Derek Mason; Adam Butler, Defensive Line; Steven Scheu, Tight End; Andrew Williamson, Safety
Auburn Participants Will Be Drilled About Nick Marshall Issues
At major college conference media days, there's no hiding from the firestorm of questioning.
Auburn's Nick Marshall was recently cited for marijuana possession and his teammates will have plenty of questions to answer with the media leading up to the season. Joel A. Erickson of AL.com provides details on Marshall's citation:
Marshall, the returning quarterback who was supposed to be part of Auburn's SEC Media Days contingent on Monday, was pulled over due to a possible window tinting violation at 12:45 p.m. on Highway 96 in Reynolds.
According to (Reynolds police chief Lonnie) Holder, the officer detected an odor of marijuana coming from the car, and upon search of the vehicle, police found "8-or-9" grams of marijuana, which is less than an ounce.
Needless to say, Marshall will certainly be a popular figure on Monday. It was announced Sunday night that Marshall will be absent at the SEC Media Days on Monday, per Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports, so every participant for the Tigers will have to carry the load.
Auburn comes into the season with plenty of optimism after winning the conference last year. But after the departure of Tre Mason, the Tigers will have to rely more heavily on Marshall in the rushing and passing game.
Marshall passed for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 1,068 yards and another 12 touchdowns. After a phenomenal season last year, Marshall comes in with similar buzz as Johnny Manziel during the 2013 SEC Media Days.
Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report compared the two in a recent column and notes what he believed Marshall should have done on Monday:
Being a leader and owning the moment will make those columns published Monday night and the radio fodder that follows seem silly and outlandish.
Marshall should take advantage of the cards he dealt himself, not fold when the stakes are high.
After early talk that Marshall might be a Heisman candidate, the Auburn standout comes into the season with controversy surrounding him. Without the quarterback in attendance, it will now be up to his teammates and coach to respond to the coming criticism.
Opening of a New Era for Vanderbilt
While some programs come in with high hopes for this season, Vanderbilt is beginning a rebuilding process after losing three of their leaders.
Just a year after the Commodores finished 9-4 (4-4 SEC), they now have to move forward without new Penn State coach James Franklin, leading receiver Jordan Matthews and quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. That's a tall task for anyone, but new coach Derek Mason is ready to lead the charge.
The former Stanford defensive coordinator brings a tough style of football to the Vandy program and doesn't hold any punches about his expectations. Mason spoke about the future for the Commodores, per Fowler:
If I don't look at doing that, then why am I here. My expectation is no different than coach [Nick] Saban's. I want to win every game and I want to play for a national title."
... Leadership. Who are [the leaders]? ... I think James had created a culture of winning. All those other aspects and processes were -- some were in place and some were lacking. What you have to look at is the infrastructure and look and see what you don't have and say to yourself: 'How do we get it?'
The questioning about those leaders will likely be one of the biggest topics for Mason on Monday.
Last season, Matthews was a force in the SEC and more than doubled every other receiver on the team with 112 receptions, 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. He's now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and Vandy is left with a huge void.
Losing Matthews is a massive blow, but having instability at quarterback might be even more difficult to fix. One candidate for the position is ex-LSU signal-caller Stephen Rivers, who announced his decision to attend Vanderbilt on June 4:
Philip Rivers' younger brother hopes to take the reins away from the rest of the quarterbacks, but the battle is still not over heading into the SEC Media Days. Expect that to be a main talking point throughout the day.
In an environment where he can make some serious buzz, there's a slight chance Mason could make the announcement on Monday. But with plenty of time to keep fans lingering, the new coach might keep his cards close to the vest in Hoover.
With five other signal-callers looking to take the starting role, including sophomore Patton Robinette and junior Josh Grady, reporters will be whispering about the QB battle. How Mason and his players respond to those questions will define his first SEC media frenzy.
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