SEC Media Day Storylines

HOOVER, Ala. -- SEC Media Days always signals the start of football season. This season however, there seems to be more off the field storylines around the event than what will take place on the field this fall.

Alabama Title Defense- You'll have to forgive me if I'm a little excited. This is my first time covering the event, and I've always heard stories of the Alabama fans who will do anything to get Nick Saban's autograph. Needless to say, you might find me people watching in the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel Wednesday morning.

The expectations around Saban's Crimson Tide this season will obviously be higher than any of his previous years in Tuscaloosa. He is bringing a veteran group of players with him to Hoover. Quarterback Greg McElroy and Heisman Trophy winning running back Mark Ingram will represent the offense on the podium, while linebacker Dont'a Hightower will represent the defense. Hightower was a highly touted sophomore last year before missing the season after tearing his ACL.

It will be interesting to see how the media handles Saban. Many of the questions will undoubtedly be about repeating as national champions, and hearing Saban deflect the talk is always exciting.

Florida in the Headlines- The story around the Gators Wednesday isn't one they want. The report came out Monday that alleged a representative of an agent paid former Florida center Maurkice Pouncey some time between the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl. His twin brother, Mike, is still expected to attend Media Days, so he deserves credit for still going. However, he should hear plenty of questions about it.

Meanwhile, Florida also breaks in John Brantley at quarterback this season. When one of the greatest players in college football history is gone, it's understandable that there are questions about how the Florida offense will look. It would have been good for Brantley to be on the podium to allow media members to put him as the new face at quarterback for the Gators, but the redshirt junior will not attend.

Coaches on the Hot Seat- It happens every year, but the focus of coaches on the hot seat will be on the leaders from two of the biggest programs in the conference. LSU head coach Les Miles has the hottest seat in the conference. In his two years since winning a national championship for the school, Miles' teams have gone 8-5 and 9-4. It's hardly the type of work that gets coaches fired, but the LSU faithful expected more, especially after a championship with the way they have recruited.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt seems to be quietly on the hot seat from fans. It's not because the program has dropped off, but more because they have failed to take the next step towards becoming a national power that competes for a national championship most years.

Vanderbilt Begins Interesting Year- Bobby Johnson caught the college football world by surprise by announcing last Wednesday that he would step down as the head coach of the Commodores. His 29-66 record wasn't impressive, but for the limitations put on the players he could recruit because of academics, Johnson actually had success. The 2-10 record in 2009 had expectations lower for this fall, but Johnson won't be the head coach.

Instead, Robbie Caldwell will take the reins of the Vanderbilt program, if only for this season. Weeks after planning for the upcoming season behind closed doors without much notoriety around his name, Caldwell will now head to Hoover with Chris Marve, Warren Norman and John Stokes.

Spurrier and Success- Steve Spurrier will head to Hoover with the most expectations around his South Carolina program since he took the job. He's always an entertaining interview with his blunt, sometimes witty responses. That's how he will be regardless of the expectations for his team.

With the national perception of Florida and Georgia being somewhat down, the Gamecocks look like they could challenge to win the SEC East. They return all of their key playmakers on offense and add in the country's top high school running back. This is the year that is perfect for Spurrier to put his team in a meaningful race.

Dooley Takes Over- The room with hundreds of media members Tennessee coach Derek Dooley walks into Friday will be unlike anything he has ever seen. Count this as a step towards seeing how he handles his job as the Volunteers head coach. You can guarantee there will be a question or two about Lane Kiffin thrown in there. Dooley now has to do his best with the mess Kiffin left. The Volunteers will break in five new starters on the offensive line this fall, and almost none of the players who will see the field have significant experience of playing time in the past. A new quarterback and running backs will also be in store for the Volunteers. Taking on Florida, Alabama and Georgia with the young players will be the big test, but his first test comes Friday at Media Days.
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