A common theme among many who annually attend Southeastern Conference Media Days is that it is an exercise in futility, primarily because the 14 head coaches who will be facing questions from the 500 or so sportswriters, broadcasters, and Internet bloggers know how to answer those questions without giving any actual information.
These are excellent coaches, and they (or their subordinates) will also have coached up the three players representing each school so that they, too, are fluent in coachspeak. (Oh, to have a few Laremy Tunsil types to tell all!)
This huge shortcoming notwithstanding, SEC Media Days ordinarily provides interesting stories beyond the final media guesses at a preseason All-SEC team and the preseason poll.
The interest level is most likely to come from interesting questions. Ordinarily, at least one reporter is working on a theme and will have the same question for every coach. These could involve some theme, such as the early signing day for football, how to make the games go faster, whether the SEC should join the rest of major college football and play nine conference games, etc. (As for that last, no matter what the coaches say, most except for Alabama’s Nick Saban are against having another tough game.)
Here are a few of the issues we think my come up in Hoover when SEC Media Days are held Monday-Thursday. Incidentally, that Thursday lineup that includes Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze may be most interesting for the questions because they involve Question
No. 1 – The series of questions involving the NCAA investigation and charges against Ole Miss football and against Freeze have been answered with hardball by the administration at Mississippi, in full support of Freeze. But how much will this investigation impact the Rebels on the field and in recruiting, and can Freeze really survive?
No. 2 -- Freeze is obviously on the so-called hot seat as one of the SEC head football coaches who is thought to be working to preserve his position, but Nick Saban’s process has had an effect on job secutity in the league. Not entirely because of Saban maybe, but certainly to some extrent, the decade of dominance by Bama has resulted in Saban ascending to dean of SEC coaches. This year there is a consensus of opinion that no fewer than fiveleague coaches are on this hot seat (and that’s without including Vandy and Kentucky, always possibilities). Four of the five are with Alabama in the SEC Western Division. Our ranking of high temperatures on the coaching seats would begin with Freeze, followed by Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, Buth Jones at Tennessee, Bret Bielema at Arkansas, and Gus Malzahn at Auburn.
No. 3 – Are transfer quarterbacks the future of SEC football? Although Alabama has won most of its championships with men recruited and developed by the Bama coaching staff, the 2015 national championship was accomplished with transfer Jake Coker from Florida State. Now the SEC has a smattering of these transfers. Auburn, for instance, hasn’t had any recent success with a quarterback developed by its staff, but has had very good results with transfers Cam Newton and Nick Marshall. Now the Tigers are trying it again with Jarrett Stidham from Baylor. Florida has made it to the SEC Championship Game the past two years without much offense, and now counts of former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.
No. 4 – Who will be the preseason All-SEC quarterback? Partly because there are usually more media members from the state of Alabama than anywhere else, this looms as an Alabama vs. Auburn battle – the Tide having Jalen Hurts returning from a freshman season in which he was both the 2016 All-SEC quarterback and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the Tigers having a transfer in Stidham. But there are quality quarterbacks at Mississippi State (Nick Fitzgerald), Arkansas (Austin Allen), Missouri (Drew Lock), South Carolina (Jake Bentley), Georgia (Jacob Eason), and Ole Miss (Shea Patterson).
No. 5 -- In recent years, winning the SEC Western Division has been followed by winning the SEC Championship Game. Last year Alabama defeated Florida 54-16 in the SEC title game. What is going on here? Has the Nick Saban influence raised all SEC West boats? Is it going to take Saban’s retirement in eight or so years to make the East relevant?
We have questions. It remains to see if we get answers, but there should be some thought-provoking issues.