SEC Football Media Days preview: Five pressing issues

jerickson@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 14, 2012 

The unofficial start of the college football season has arrived.

With SEC Media Days scheduled to begin on Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., the nation's most powerful conference will have three days of wild media attention to kick off the SEC's first football season with 14 teams.

And after a long summer, there will be plenty of questions for the 56 representatives of 14 teams to answer.

Here's a look at five pressing issues heading into SEC Media Days.

A few conspicuous absences

Each SEC team will bring three representatives to Hoover, and there are always a few puzzling choices by the SEC coaches on who to bring and who to leave at home.

For instance, the reigning Bednarik Award winner and possibly the most famous player in the SEC this season, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, is not on LSU's list of three players.

From the other side of the 2011 SEC Championship Game, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will be staying in Athens, a slightly puzzling decision given the fact that teammate Jarvis Jones (Carver), a junior, will be making the trip.

But quarterbacks got short shrift from the coaches this season.

Alabama's A.J. McCarron, Missouri's James Franklin and Kentucky's Maxwell Smith will all also be conspicuously missing from Hoover.

Damage control

Plenty of coaches are going to face questions they probably don't want to answer, but a few will be facing their first extended interviews with the national media.

After dismissing Isaiah Crowell (Carver) most recently, Richt likely will be asked a lot of questions about Georgia's off-the-field problems this offseason, and the slew of suspensions and missed players who won't be able to play right away.

But Richt isn't the only one who has tough questions to answer.

Beyond that, Tennessee's Derek Dooley will face questions about his job security and Arkansas' John L. Smith has to face the dual problems of Bobby Petrino and reports of personal financial problems.

New blood

For the first time in 20 years, the SEC will be welcoming two new teams in Missouri and Texas A&M, and Tuesday's opening day will likely be focused around the two transplants the SEC is bringing in from the Big 12.

Granted, both the Tigers and the Aggies already have answered a bunch of questions about SEC membership at the SEC spring meetings and throughout the summer, but now it's time to get down to the actual playing field.

Both teams are facing big-time questions about their ability to make the move competitively. Missouri's defense will be under fire, and Texas A&M's lack of a quarterback and coaching change should draw some interest.

A few new faces

On reputation alone, the SEC's new head coaches should liven up the proceedings with something a little more colorful than the answers normally trotted out by bland coaches such as Gene Chizik and Nick Saban.

New Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin might not be a media darling just yet, but Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Arkansas's John L. Smith are storytellers with big personalities.

Smith, in particular, should have plenty of stories to tell about para-gliding, running with the bulls and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Setting the table

By the end of the week, the SEC's preseason predictions will be cemented, and the "favorites" to win the toughest conference title in college football will have a bull's-eye placed squarely on their backs.

Coming off of big seasons, with plenty of returners, expect LSU to get the most attention, with plenty given to a retooling Alabama and the twin SEC East powers of South Carolina and Georgia.

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