SEC Media Days storylines

HOOVER, Ala. -- The unofficial start to football season begins Monday when SEC Media Days get under way at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham.

THE LONE NEW GUY: Florida coach Jim McElwain is the only first-year head coach in the league. He knows what the SEC media is like thanks to his time at Alabama, but Monday will be a brand new experience for McElwain. Over 1,000 credentialed media members will flood the halls of the Hyatt Regency Birmingham, and he’ll be whisked around the multiple TV, radio and print media rooms.

Some coaches in the past have been noticeably surprised by the large amounts of people that attend the event. McElwain shouldn’t be one of them. He’s media savvy for only spending three years as the head coach at Colorado State and should handle himself fine on Monday, but it’s always interesting to see how a coach acts at a podium in front of the large number of media members he’ll see on Monday.

Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and receiver Brandon Powell will join McElwain. The Gators are scheduled to begin their media obligations at 3:30 p.m. EST. Portions of the event will be shown on the SEC Network and Fightin’ Gators will have plenty of coverage from the hotel.

LEAGUE DOMINANCE: After being the unquestioned best conference in college football in recent years, the national media now seems to be wondering whether or not that will continue. The SEC’s lone playoff participant -- Alabama -- was eliminated by Ohio State last year, and the Buckeyes beat Oregon in the national title game.

So where does the league stand going into the 2015 season? That’s a question that will likely fill the halls of the Hyatt Regency Birmingham this week. The SEC’s less than stellar showing in the postseason will be a topic of conversation, and the league has opportunities early in the season to prove it is still on top.

THE UP AND COMERS: They had different levels of success last season, but Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee are all viewed as the teams that can take the next step this season. After making the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl last year, it’s hard to expect Ole Miss to make a jump higher than that. However, they bring back a lot of talent in their junior class and are a team that could still see significant improvement this year if the quarterback position can be more productive.

Arkansas and Tennessee did it differently last year. They didn’t have the success that Ole Miss did, but they had some late-season momentum that has others predicting big years. Don’t be surprised if Tennessee event gets a few votes to win the SEC East when the media predictions are released on Thursday. The Volunteers return a lot on both sides of the ball from a team that was inexperienced last year and took its lumps.

Arkansas is a team that has found an identity and sold out to it. The Razorbacks will be physical and lean on the run game under Bret Bielema, who has turned his offensive linemen into starts in his short time in Fayetteville. The 2015 Arkansas media guide even has a picture of its offensive linemen on the cover. Bielema leaves no mystery about the type of team he’ll have. The challenge now is whether or not they’ll be able to take the next step on the field.

TWO SOPHOMORES IN ATTENDANCE: No one was surprised by LSU running back Leonard Fournette attending SEC Media Days. But Florida sophomore receiver Brandon Powell? For an offense that lacks a star, it’s a creative idea by the Gators. Powell looked like a receiver prepared for a breakout during the open portions of spring practice, and this decision shows the coaches also have confidence that will happen.

It’s a bold move either way, but it’s also a good idea to get a young player used to being one of the faces of your offense. Especially when he’ll be facing much tougher audiences when the Gators go on the road this fall.

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