Ten things to expect from SEC Media Days: wide-eyed newbies, over-flowing optimism and more.
By STEVE EUBANKS FS South
The steamy days of summer bring out the optimism in everyone.
And why wouldn't fans of college football in the South teem with positive expectations? Every team is undefeated. And if you listen to players and coaches, they all have a chance to stay that way.
SEC Media Days, a three-day extravaganza in Birmingham, Ala., where all the Southeastern Conference head coaches and a handful of players from each team make the rounds in front of hundreds of journalists and fans, begin on Tuesday, July 17. It is there that the spin will reach super-collider proportions.
Last year, if the untrained observer had passed through the gauntlet of radio remotes and television news crews, he might have left thinking that Vanderbilt or
Tennessee had national championship teams. Certainly, representatives from both those program painted a bright and sunny picture.
But they weren't alone. Florida players talked about the goal of playing for another championship, and the Auburn people rejected the notion that losing half their team to graduation or the NFL would inhibit their success.
There were a few nuggets of reality for those savvy enough to read the tea leaves. When asked how he thought troubled quarterback Stephen Garcia would respond in his senior season, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier sighed, shook his head, and said, "I don't know." Of course, Garcia was dismissed from the team after five games.
When Mark Richt was asked about Isaiah Crowell, he said, "He'll get a chance to prove himself, but so will everybody else." Crowell proved himself to be effective on the field but unmanageable off of it. He was dismissed from
Georgia earlier this month.
LSU coach Les Miles spent all week glad-handing and back-slapping, never losing his Cheshire cat grin as he told everyone how much he liked his team.
More of the same can be expected from the forthcoming sessions. But here are a few things to look for:
• The representatives from Texas A&M will be surprised by the size of the frenzy in Birmingham. But the folks from Missouri will be shocked. Texas media events are big, so
Aggies at least have some idea what they're getting into. Mizzou has less of a clue. The wide-eyed wonder on the faces of their coaches and players will be worth the price of admission.
Alabama will play to the Alabama standard. That was the theme three years ago, two years ago and last year. You can rest assured that Nick Saban will say it this time around, as well. And he will have his players trained like ventriloquist dolls to utter the same lines over and over again.
• Richt might lay the hammer down. Two years ago, Richt answered more questions about player arrests than he did about his active roster. With the dismissal of Crowell, and the suspension of several other players, including starting safety Bacarri Rambo, expect more discipline questions for the Georgia head coach. And expect Richt to become annoyed before it's over.
• Spurrier will make news. He can't help himself. Whether it's floating another pay-for-play proposal or taking a shot across the Georgia or Tennessee bow, the Ol' Ball Coach loves the spotlight and will use Media Days to his full advantage.
• Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will be asked a thousand times if he has to win big this year to save his job. In reality, the answer is most likely "no," but that won't stop the question.
• The first interview begins at 1 p.m. local time on July 17, and by 1:01 you can expect Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to have already been asked about his "hot wife" assistant coach comments. That answer, whatever it is, will be worth hearing from the horse's mouth.
• Auburn's Gene Chizik and Florida's Will Muschamp will be asked about their quarterback situations, which have not changed since the spring, and, barring any unforeseen injury or extenuating circumstance, will not change until summer practices begins.
• Hugh Freeze will have to answer for the 246 verbal offers he made to a litter of high school players from all over the country. But he will also speak in glowing terms about his team and his vision for Mississippi.
• Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen will be asked how many games they think they need to win to remain secure in their positions: an absurd question but one that will spawn scores of stories throughout the week.
• And, once more, Miles will smile like a riverboat gambler on his way to the tables. It's a tradition.
Beyond that, coaches will talk about so-and-so's progress or such-and-such's injuries, while the players — carefully selected for their ability to stay on message — will make everyone believe that this is their year.
For one team, that will no doubt be true. But in July, nobody, not even the coaches, will know which one.