The SEC is set to usher in a new era.
Tuesday marks Day 2 of SEC Media Days, a spectacle that has blossomed in recent years to span the course of four days before each team kicks off preparation for the season on approach.
Now, each day usually covers the typical topics. Departing players need to be replaced, off-field incidents need to be addressed, new coaches perhaps must seize the bull by the horns and turn a program around.
But not Tuesday.
Tuesday, Kevin Sumlin must walk to the podium in front of hundreds of hungry media members and break down how to replace Johnny Manziel. He's not alone in what will be a brutal, revealing sequence of events, but he's by far the highlight.
Here's how to catch the show.
SEC Football Media Days Information
When: July 14-17
Where: Hyatt Regency Birmingham—The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Tuesday, July, 15
Session I: 9 a.m. to noon
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier; A.J. Cann, Offensive Guard; J.T. Surratt, Defensive Tackle; Dylan Thompson, Quarterback
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen; Jay Hughes, Safety; Benardrick McKinney, Linebacker; Dak Prescott, Quarterback
Session II: 1 to 4 p.m.
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin; Deshazor Everett, Defensive Back; Drew Kaser, Punter; Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle
Tennessee: Butch Jones; Mack Crowder, Offensive Line; A.J Johnson, Linebacker; Curt Maggitt, Defensive End
Butch Jones Gets Grilled About Turnaround and a Certain Arrest
Flanked by senior linebacker A.J. Johnson, who figures to be one of the top at his position taken in next year's NFL draft, Butch Jones will have plenty to answer for in the face of about 1,000 credentialed media members on Tuesday.
Last season was Jones' first with the Volunteers after leading Cincinnati for three seasons, two of which resulted in bowl berths (he coached one). Tennessee won just two games in the conference last year and finished a miserable 5-7 overall under his direction.
As of late, Jones has reached deep into every avenue possible to make sure the team turns things around, even by grabbing "legacy" recruits, players who are second-generation athletes whose families have played for the school. He has already spoken highly of the strategy, per Nick Cole of USA Today:
The legacy players are critical. We talk about being a Vol for life, and Vol for life encompasses everything. (It is great) to be able to bring back our former players and now their sons to be a part of something special. They understand the tradition and the pageantry but also the expectations that are placed upon them when you sign to play football at the University of Tennessee.
Jones is building something tangible with the approach, his latest get being defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who possesses a last name many NFL enthusiasts will recognize—he is the son of Oakland Raiders general manager, Reggie.
Unfortunately, the focus won't just be on hope for the future—Johnson has some questions of his own to answer.
Thanks to 324 career tackles and a bevy of impressive film, Johnson flirted with the idea of leaving for the NFL but instead opted to return to Tennessee. According to The Associated Press, via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com, Johnson was arrested in February for allegedly purchasing alcohol for an underage person and resisting arrest. The charges were since dropped, but questions linger.
Jones told Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
I’ll handle all punishment inside. I’ll handle it inside and [determine] what is appropriate. I think lost in the whole mix is … we have great character kids if you look at our academic success that we’ve had, if you look at our community service hours.
For Jones, it's the first major issue of this ilk he has had to deal with during his tenure at Tennessee, so how he and the team reacts, especially in the face of media scrutiny, is certainly something to monitor.
Steve Spurrier Faces Flurry of "Life After..." Questions
While no stranger to questions, Steve Spurrier sure faces a lot of them heading into the 2014 season.
Gone is quarterback Connor Shaw, who threw for 1,400 or more yards and 14 touchdowns in each of his final three seasons with the team. Speedy deep threat Bruce Ellington is gone, too.
It's even worse on the defensive side of the ball, with names such as Kelcy Quarles, Victor Hampton, Chaz Sutton and Jimmy Legree all on to greener pastures.
Even amidst all of the issues, though, Spurrier is sure to entertain as always. This is perhaps best captured by journalist Lisa Horne:
SEC Media Days = FOUR days. I think that's overkill...unless Steve Spurrier gets a whole day to himself. That would be acceptable.— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) July 14, 2014
With quarterback Dylan Thompson and a host of others expected to carry the mantle after an 11-2 season, as many questions as that will produce on Tuesday, it's nothing compared to what one Kevin Sumlin will have to deal with.
Johnny Manziel's Shadow Reigns Supreme
It's funny because in reality, Texas A&M returns a wealth of talent on the offensive side of the football.
Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams averaged a minimum of 5.3 yards per carry last season. Tight end Cam Clear is still around. Cedric Ogbuehi, after being one of the most dominant tackles in the nation a year ago, will flip to the left side of the line.
Yet, who he protects—one of Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill—is hard to figure out.
Plus, with all due respect to Drew Kaser, Sumlin's decision to bring along a punter does nothing but make things more confusing.
KAGSluke of KAGS-HD Sports provided a close look at the mammoth of a stage Sumlin will field questions from on Tuesday:
Sumlin is no fool, and Manziel's contributions to the school on a broad level have made his job a bit easier in the recruiting department. But schematic and experience changes remain, and there's nothing that will make his life easier in the face of hundreds of reporters Tuesday.