Five questions entering SEC Media Days, Day 1

With 14 coaches, scores of players and hundreds of media members descending on the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., for the start of SEC Media Days, the football news will be coming fast and furious for the rest of the week. Here are five questions that should be answered on Day One:  

Have Missouri players and coaches learned anything from their last appearance on this stage?

Things didn’t go well for Mizzou in its first Media Days outing. For starters, Gary Pinkel chose the largest media boiler room of the year to offer an off-the-cuff defense of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno just one week after the Freeh Report became public.

“He was a great man, a good man,” Pinkel said of Paterno, who was harshly indicted in Louis Freeh’s report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal. “I’m sure he would, maybe if he could do it over again, he would have followed up on a few things. But don’t take away all this guy did, and to sit there and blame him for all this, I think is wrong.”  

That comment drew criticism from all quarters, even some back home. Missouri State Representative Sara Lampe put out a written statement chastising Pinkel and calling his support of Paterno “indefensible.”

As if that fumble was not damaging enough, several Missouri players shrugged at the suggestion that they didn’t know what to expect in the SEC. Receiver T.J. Moe joked about it, and in so doing provided the quote of the week: “They’ve also got prettier girls (in the SEC), the air’s fresher and the toilet paper’s thicker.”   

Missouri finished the season 5-7 overall, 2-6 in the conference. Here’s hoping Pinkel and his players are a little better prepared this time around.

What will Clowney say? 

Will a defensive player win the Heisman? That will certainly be one of the questions posed to South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who will be making his Media Days debut on Tuesday. How he responds to a ballroom full of reporters is one of this week’s primary points of interest.

Will Clowney say something untoward? Given the media training most of players receive, gaffes are unlikely. But you never know what a 20-year-old will say when he gets on a big stage for the first time.

One thing is for certain: the entire assembled press corps will be hanging on Clowney’s every word.  

Do the Florida Gators have the offensive firepower to win the SEC in Will Muschamp’s third season?

Don’t expect Muschamp or his players to give much of an answer to that question. In his first two years at Media Days, Muschamp has looked like a hostage reading a ransom note. No one expects him to have transformed into Zig Ziglar since last year, but Muschamp will need to answer some pointed questions about his offense — especially his receiving corps.

With the defense losing some key pieces from last season — Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins — the Gators’ offense will need to show marked improvement for the team to make a return trip to a BCS bowl.

Can Hugh Freeze keep the momentum going? 

Last year, a jaded bunch of reporters who have heard every motivational speech since Bear Bryant’s grumblings three decades ago, stood transfixed by Ole Miss’s Hugh Freeze, who descended onto Media Days like an evangelist.   

Freeze didn’t dodge questions about recruiting or the troubles that his school had faced in the past. He laid out his philosophy, his plans and his expectations, which would have sounded crazy coming from anyone else. From Freeze, talk of contending for an SEC Championship at Ole Miss seemed downright reasonable.  

Ole Miss’ recruiting class was also one of the best in the nation. How that will translate into wins remains to be seen, but you can bet Freeze will be ready with an answer.

Will South Carolina really go with a two-quarterback system? 

Coaches always threaten to platoon quarterbacks, but in the end very few follow through — at least not after the first game or two. Steve Spurrier is notoriously hard on his QBs, benching those who don’t run his offense the way he would if he were still taking snaps.

This year, however, Spurrier has two legitimate starters — Connor Shaw, who had foot surgery in January but went skydiving in June, and Dylan Thompson, a better pro-style quarterback than Shaw with tremendous arm strength.

“They both deserve to play, and I’d say we’ll end up needing them both next season,” Spurrier said in the spring.  

That isn’t exactly a nod to a two-quarterback system, but it is close. You can bet on Spurrier remaining cagey on the subject at Media Days and probably beyond.