SEC Media Days Draws Ever Closer

A few years ago my doctor was setting up an appointment for me to return for a regular check-up. The calendar said it should be in mid-July. “Well, we can’t do it then,” he said. “You’ll be at SEC Media Days.”

Every college football conference has some version of Southeastern Conference Media Days, but as in so many other areas, the SEC is the biggest and baddest. Something north of 500 sports reporters, from bloggers to top national pundits, will be on hand in suburban Birmingham beginning a week from Monday (July 13) to hear from the 14 SEC coaches, plus three players from each school.

It’s so entrenched in the minds of SEC football fans that it forced a delay in a doctor’s appointment; not because it was on my mind, but because it was on the doctor’s.

The student-athletes, as the SEC always refers to football players, who will be attending have been announced by a few schools, and all will be revealed in the next few days. LSU will send sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. Georgia is not sending tailback Nick Chubb. Neither is sending a quarterback, primarily because they don’t know which student-athlete will win the quarterback job.

We don’t know for sure who Alabama Coach Nick Saban will select to accompany him. The Crimson Tide is on the docket for Wednesday, July 15, at the Hyatt Regency-Wynfrey in Hoover. Because Bama is in the same situation as so many SEC schools in not knowing (or, at least, announcing) the first team quarterback, don’t look for that position to be among Alabama’s representatives.

It’s unfortunate when the quarterback is not available. In most cases, the quarterback is in the best position (literally) to shed light on the team. Some quarterbacks, such as former Bama star Greg McElroy (who is now on the journalist side with ESPN and the SEC Network and Sirius Radio), have been particularly insightful and useful. Others, including A.J. McCarron, not so much.

Even if we had not suspected it, we have confirmation as to one player who might be expected to accompany Saban.

This year the SEC announced that it is “bringing a new element” to Media Days. The announcement said “each school will send at least one student-athlete with a compelling story outside of his athletic endeavors. The conference is calling the initiative ‘Beyond the Field: Stories of the SEC.’”

This will be the first Media Days event as SEC commissioner for Greg Sankey, who has replaced Mike Slive. In a statement on “Beyond the Field,” Sankey said, said, “The athletic achievements of the SEC continue to be well-documented, but many of our student-athletes lead interesting lives or have intriguing stories that happen away from the field of play. This is an opportunity to tell stories of academic achievement, personal ambition, community service, determination in the face of adversity and character of mind. These student-athletes are the chapters of a larger book that is the story of the Southeastern Conference.”

The release also revealed that Alabama’s representative sharing his story will be senior linebacker Reggie Ragland.

Ragland would have been an easy guess to be one of the Crimson Tide players next week. Another one is senior center Ryan Kelly.

It is difficult to predict the third player Saban will name for the interviews. Sportswriters who cover Alabama on a daily basis would probably suggest cornerback Cyrus Jones, who is always pleasant and informative. Defensive end Jarran Reed, who like Ragland passed up a likely early round NFL draft position to return for his senior season, is another good interview, as is fellow defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. It could be junior tight end O.J. Howard or wide receiver Chris Black.

Or someone else.

Alabama will share its Wednesday at Media Days with Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas. Although only accredited reporters are allowed into the interview areas, fans -- particularly Alabama fans -- often clog the lobby of the hotel for reasons known only to themselves.

When the event begins a week from tomorrow, Sankey will give a “state of the conference” welcome. First day coaches and players will be from Auburn, Florida, and Vanderbilt.

Tuesday’s lineup has Steve Shaw, supervisor of officials going over rules, followed by South Carolina, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Tennessee.

The final day, Thursday, will have Georgia, Ole Miss, and LSU.

About 10 per cent of the media members will also vote on a pre-season All-SEC team and provide a pre-season poll. A few of the coaches will mention how often we get it wrong (although Alabama was the correct choice last year). My thinking is the media gets it right, but sometimes the teams that should win don't live up to our expectations.

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