Welcome To Media Days

SEC Media Days, which begins tomorrow in Hoover, used to be a great place to get some "meat" on the upcoming season. Now, it's a circus as coaches run a gauntlet of interviews that, by design, reveal little more than we already know but sets the stage for the fast-approaching football season.

In the past, I would count the days until SEC Media Days.

I still do, but the excitement for me has worn a little thin due to the predictability of it all.

In the last decade or so, coaches have become so bland with their comments and answers, and who can blame them?

Every media member there, and there will be over a thousand, is looking for the same thing - something unique, something prophetic, something volatile, something with some umph.

If they get any smidgeon of a controversial comment, it gets headlines and is blown way out of context and proportion.

Take USC's Steve Spurrier and his comment last year about how he wished one of his West opponents was Ole Miss instead of whoever he had. The Rebels were coming off a 2-10 season and had a new coach. Why wouldn't he want to play Ole Miss? But that comment stirred a ton of ire and controversy, despite the truth in it at the time and the fact that Hugh Freeze responded that he didn't blame the old ball coach for saying that.

Consequently, coaches are very cautious and guarded with their comments. This year's crop of head coaches - with the possible exception of Spurrier, who seeks and is good for a headline usually - will have been schooled and advised by their sports information directors on which areas to avoid or sidestep as to not "rile" anyone.

Having said that, it's time - after a long summer lull - for some news, of any kind.

We'll get some meat and potatoes, which we are all craving for, but most of it will not be new news.

Our coach, will most certainly be asked about the offseason rehab of several key players - QB Bo Wallace, OG Patrick Junen, WR Collins Moore, DE C.J. Johnson, DT Issac Gross, TE Christian Morgan, et al - who had offseason surgeries of one variety or another.

Nothing has really changed since we caught you up on that "stuff" last week except we heard, from the best inside source available, Archie himself, that Bo's arm held up real well at the Manning Passing Academy last week. He had slight, expected soreness, but his velocity was good and he was in good form.

Freeze will be asked about the eligibility of CB Nick Brassell. He will most likely reply that nothing has been finalized or determined yet, but he will stick to his stance that Nick is a longshot, something he has been saying since day one of the Nick Brassell watch. Funny, but few have been listening, it seems.

Freeze will be quizzed about the 2013 schedule. If he's not, he'll probably bring that up himself. He won't, trust me, say it's a cakewalk. How could he? Four out of the first five on the road at the likes of Vandy, Texas, Alabama and Auburn and when "he" comes home, he's got Texas A&M and LSU eyeballing him. Try that on and see how it fits.

The media will want to rehash the 2013 signing class and what impact he believes they will have on this year's team. Forget they are freshmen. Forget they are jumping up about six notches in competition from high school to the best college football has to offer. Forget they have no practical experience in the systems. Forget time management issues, homesickness, temptations of college life, a college class load, having every minute of every day accounted for. Forget there is little way to predict who catches on and adjusts quickly (see Trae Elston for example) and who will take longer (see Channing Ward for instance, who is now turningthe corner after a more "natural" maturation period.)

Freeze will say all those things as a reminder, but the questions will linger. "Will Robert Nkemdiche start?", to which there is no real answer just yet.

The good thing about Freeze, which I can't say for some of the other SEC coaches, is that he will answer direct questions without dodging or double talk. From that perspective, he is blatantly honest and direct. He's slick enough not to stick his foot in his mouth, but he'll be as real as anyone over there.

Smartly, every coach will do their best to tamp and temper fan expectations, even Nick Saban, who has led Alabama to three out of the last four national titles.

Coaches want optimism and enthusiasm, but unrealistic expectations can directly lead to them losing their jobs. Tamp, tamp, temper, temper.

This is a balancing act that is hard to achieve, but they are going to do their dead level best to keep things real without throwing a wet blanket over the fire of the fans.

The media will vote on All-SEC and an order of finish.

Ole Miss, as usual, will be picked fifth or sixth, most likely, in the West and we'll all move on after gnashing our teeth and telling everyone who will listen that the media "knows nothing," which is probably a half-truth.

Then, after tomorrow, we'll all move on to the real battleground - August practice and the season, where everything will be revealed and questions will be answered without speculation.

I still look forward to SEC Media Days, and will for as long as I am in this business. It gets the juices flowing for the upcoming football season.

I just know that there is a 99% certainty that nothing truly earth-shaking or dramatic is going to happen or be revealed.

But you can count on one thing. Someone, somewhere, looking for sensationalism, will take some off-the-cuff comment and turn it into a mountain instead of the molehill it is.

Welcome to the nuts and bolts of SEC Media Days.

It's a circus, but a necessary one.

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