HOOVER, Ala. —In the past, the third day on the SEC Media Days schedule was the final hurrah, the day the event wrapped up and the media circus left town. But this year is the first where this marvel of information about SEC football is a four-day party.
No one’s going home as soon as the last coach leaves the dais on Wednesday. There are still more coaches and players to come on Day 4, on Thursday. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here are five storylines to watch as contingents from Missouri, LSU and Arkansas kick off their unofficial preseasons at the Wynfrey Hotel:
LSU head coach Les Miles is going to want to talk about his offense, and how the Tigers plan to replace veteran leaders at quarterback, running back and at wide receiver. That might not be the easiest, or most pleasant, conversation, but he’d rather talk about that than any kind of NCAA investigation into his time with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Or is Day 3 at SEC Media Days the perfect time for Miles to have his say?
The NCAA is looking into possible rules violations that occurred at Oklahoma State, partially during the 2001-04 seasons when Miles was coaching there.
When reports came out in September of last year that brought possible rules violations to light, Miles wasn’t happy with the accuracy level.
"We did things correctly," Miles said late last year. "But I wasn’t there at every place all the time. That being said, the things we did, we did right. At some point in time, I’m going to watershed the issues and have my say."
Whether or not Wednesday in Hoover, Ala. is the right time for Miles to exorcise the demons of this investigation is anyone’s guess. Smart money is on the line that he likely won’t bring the investigation up, and if he does, he won’t "have his say." But we’ve guessed about what Miles is capable, and willing, to say at SEC Media Days in the past, and been dead wrong.
Anything could happen.
Zach Mettenberger finished third in the SEC in passing yards last season after he threw for 3,082 yards. He finished his career with 5,783 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes.
Mettenberger is now with the Tennessee Titans in the NFL.
LSU had two receivers in the top 10 last season in conference receptions, Jarvis Landry at No. 2 with 77 and Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 7 with 59. They finished third and fourth, respectively, in receiving yards last season as both topped 1,000 yards.
Beckham was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft to the New York Giants, while Landry was taken by the Miami Dolphins in the second round.
Jeremy Hill finished second in rushing yards last season in the SEC with 1,401 yards. He added 16 touchdowns. Hill is now with the Cincinnati Bengals, after being selected in the second round.
LSU’s offense scored 35.8 points per game in 2013, and ran like a well-oiled machine with all that talent at the skill positions. The Tigers seem to always lose players to the NFL and bounce back the following season because of good recruiting and coaching. But it’s rare for an offense to have to replace its two top receivers, its signal caller and its running back, all in the same season.
How will LSU fare on offense?
On Day 1 of SEC Media Days, Commissioner Mike Slive addressed the media in what has become akin to a football version of an annual State of the SEC address. Since Monday’s opening act, it’s been nothing but players and coaches talking to the media.
On Wednesday, the conference’s coordinator of football operations, Steve Shaw, and Justin Connoly, senior vice president of college networks for ESPN, will address the crowd.
While the 10-second rule and targeting are sexy topics of debate, the only way a rule change can be addressed this year is if it has to do with player safety. The next round of unfettered rules-change talks won’t occur until 2015.
But don’t think for one second these two topics won’t be brought up with Shaw on Day 3.
One of the better quotes from last year’s SEC Media Days came from Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.
"I’m not a comedian," Bielema said after a member of the media told him Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn thought coaches might be joking that the hurry-up offense in the SEC led to more injures.
The skirmish between Bielema and Malzahn last year was one of the unexpected highlights of the event.
In Bielema’s second trip to SEC Media Days, is there a chance he tries to win over the media horde without picking a fight? If he wants to stay away from non-football topics, Arkansas’ two-headed combination at running back might be a good place to spend some time. Who couldn’t come off pleasant while speaking about Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams?
After a 5-7 season in 2012, Missouri wasn’t looked at as a favorite to play in Atlanta for the SEC championship a year later. But that’s exactly what happened after the Tigers won their first seven games, and 11 of their first 12.
Missouri lost to Auburn in a title game that matched two unlikely foes.
Auburn is a team that’s expected to compete again for the opportunity to make the trip back to fight for a conference championship. No one really knows what to think of Missouri.
Can quarterback Maty Mauk, who made four starts last season when James Franklin was lost to injury, lead this team on another run? He was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team, even though he was a backup most of last year.
Can this Missouri offense thrive without the big-time playmaking abilities of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from the team and recently transferred to Oklahoma?
Could last year’s East representative in the SEC Championship Game be in for a massive fall from grace?
These are all questions that keep Missouri fans, and its coaching staff, up at night.