burning questions heading into SEC Media Days
Southeastern Conference Football Media Days is referred to as “Kickoff 2012.”
The run-up to the college football season begins Tuesday in Hoover, Ala., as coaches and players from the now 14 team SEC gather to be poked and prodded on print, TV, radio and Internet platforms — invariably, though with many of the same questions.
What can we hope to learn about the upcoming season? Here are five burning questions:
Can anyone upstage Steve Spurrier?
When Spurrier was coach at Florida, he usually came to Media Days armed with a bristling arsenal of barbs, ready to skewer everyone from his opponents to former SEC Commssioner Roy Kramer.
When he started at South Carolina in 2005 Spurrier toned down his act to go along with a program that had decidedly lower expectations. Asked in 2006 if he still supported a college football playoff, Spurrier replied, “I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Now it’s the SEC’s turn to worry about Spurrier’s team once again. The Gamecocks have gone from seven to nine to 11 wins the last three seasons, and with a healthy Marcus Lattimore back at running back, dependable Connor Shaw at quarterback and players like Jadeveon Clowney roaming the defense, the Gamecocks look like a preseason top 10 lock.
With a strong team at his back, will Spurrier be at his quip-flinging best again this year? We can only hope.
Can the LSU contingent convince everyone they’re over it?
LSU’s representatives at Media Days — coach Les Miles, quarterback Zach Mettenberger, safety Eric Reid and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (one of just two sophomores slated to speak) — will no doubt be peppered with questions about how much (or little) they have recovered from LSU’s humbling 21-0 loss to Alabama in January’s BCS national championship game.
Likely the Tiger theme will be the turning of a new chapter with Mettenberger taking over at quarterback, but he shouldn’t be surprised if someone makes a snide comment about crossing the 50-yard line. Media Days is in Alabama, after all.
Can John L. Smith convince everyone it’s business as usual for the Razorbacks?
No college team west of Penn State has endured more shocking offseason upheaval than Arkansas, which jettisoned head coach Bobby Petrino after that April Fool’s Day foolishness with a motorcycle accident, his mistress and a mangled attempted cover-up. Re-enter former Michigan State head coach John L. Smith, who U-turned to Fayetteville (he was an assistant there before briefly taking the Weber State job) after Petrino was fired. Arkansas still returns a potent tandem in quarterback Tyler Wilson and oft-injured tailback Knile Davis, but can Smith make anyone believe the Razorbacks will climb the twin peaks of LSU and Alabama in the SEC West without Petrino’s play-calling acumen?
Will A&M, Missouri find SEC culture shock?
Folks at Texas A&M and Missouri have been giddy about the prospects of joining the SEC — moves finally made official on July 1 — for months.
But now things begin to get real, starting with college football’s busiest preseason media day session. There are autograph seeking fans in the lobby — along with rows of radio shows going live each day — and literally hundreds of media members clamoring for quotes. Yes, they have a media day in the Big 12 and it’s a big deal, but nothing like what the Aggies and Mizzou are about to see. At least they get it over with on Day 1 (Tuesday).
What will Mike Slive do next?
Having already secured the type of BCS playoff format he wants starting with the 2014 season, soft-spoken SEC Commissioner Mike Slive re-established himself as the biggest power broker in college sports.
What will Slive turn to as his next objective? More SEC expansion? Setting the terms for the way the playoff selection process is determined? A big reveal for a long-anticipated SEC TV network? Slive may have much or very little as he opens media days Tuesday with his usual “state of the conference” address, but be sure virtually everyone in attendance will be listening.