Caldwell Column: Previewing SEC Media Days

The annual Southeastern Conference Football Media Days will run Monday through Thursday in Hoover and several topics will likely receive plenty of attention.

Jeremy Johnson (above) has two collegiate starts heading into the 2015 season.

Auburn Well Represented

Auburn’s three player choices of Jeremy Johnson, Jonathan Jones and Kris Frost are very good representatives for the program heading into the 2015 season. Johnson could be one of the most watched players in the entire country this season as his play will likely have a big impact on how well Auburn fares.

Kris Frost will be a senior for the Tigers this season.

Maybe even more important to the team's won/loss record will be the play of guys like Jones and Frost on defense considering the Tigers' struggles on that side of the ball last season. With Will Muschamp back on the Plains and heading into his first season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator since 2007, the Tigers’ defense is definitely something to watch and that makes Jones and Frost two players the media will want to hear from this week in Hoover.

Mr. Quarterback

While guys like Joshua Dobbs, Patrick Towles, Dak Prescott and even Brandon Allen should get attention for the All-SEC quarterback, Johnson is my odds-on favorite to be picked as the first team player at that position this year. Even though he lacks starting experience, Johnson has shown he can get the job done in the SEC and with plenty of talent surrounding him the junior should be on track for a big season. With the history of Gus Malzahn’s quarterbacks performing well, Johnson has every chance to be the best QB in the league this season.

Probably the most frequent question both Johnson and Malzahn will get on Monday in Hoover at SEC Media Days concerning Auburn's offense is just how committed are the Tigers to throwing the football more in 2015? When Johnson has played the last two years Auburn has been much more pass-oriented, something that could continue this year.

All-SEC Picks

The Tigers should have several players on both sides of the ball who get plenty of attention for the preseason All-SEC team. In addition to Johnson on offense Duke Williams should be a shoo-in for first-team honors with offensive linemen Avery Young and Alex Kozan also strong possibilities.

On defense Carl Lawson will likely lead the way with Montravius Adams, Kris Frost, Cassanova McKinzy, Jonathan Jones, Tray Matthews and Rudy Ford all strong possibilities to get votes as well.

Rounding out the list is kicker Daniel Carlson. Following a strong season a year ago he should be one of the top players at his position in the league in 2015.

2015 Points Of Interest

There are normally several hot topics when SEC Media Days roll around and this year will be no different. Last summer it was pace of play and safety on the field that dominated the talk, but this year it will likely be two off-field topics that capture attention. The first of those is the discussion of a possible early signing period for college football.

With more attention given to college football recruiting some coaches are pushing for an early signing period in an attempt to lessen the pressure on prospects and their families (and on the coaches, too). While it’s an interesting idea I don’t think it would change any of the pressure they currently face, only speed up the process. With the importance of adding top talent each year a must to stay in the race for the college football playoffs year in and year out, the pressure is always going to be there in recruiting if you have a signing period in July, September, December or like it is in February.

For a long time I was a fan of having an early signing period, but the process is seriously flawed because of the time and energy it would take for both prospects and schools each fall during the season. It’s already busy enough for both, but throw an early signing period into the mix and you have an explosive concoction. Throw in the turnover that we have each year in college football in November and December and it’s a recipe for major headaches for players and schools having to let players out of their LOI’s following a coach leaving or getting fired.

The second issue is perhaps even more pressing because it involves student-athletes who have gotten the job done so well in the classroom that they graduate in four years or less. The graduate transfer was once a rarity, but more and more players are now going straight through college on a year-around basis and graduating in four years or less. When a redshirt season is thrown into the mix that leaves them with a fifth year of eligibility and an opportunity to basically become a free agent. While it’s great for the kids to finish their degrees and then take additional classes, there is no question it is becoming a sore subject in college football.

It has worked out very well for some players in the past such as Russell Wilson, who was headed for second-team status at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin where he had a big finish to his college career, setting the stage for him to become an NFL star.

However, what used to be a last-chance for players to get the opportunities they are looking for in some cases has turned into players abandoning programs that stuck by and developed them for four years. At the moment it’s just something colleges have to deal with, but you wonder how much longer it will be before schools begin to give guys a break in the summer to try to keep them around for that fifth year.

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