SEC Media Days welcomes back college football

We’re less than a week from the beginning of college football season – unofficially, of course.

When the SEC holds its annual media days next week in Hoover, Ala., talk about the college football season really heats up. Preseason magazines and prognostications all take a backseat to live quotes and sound bites at the Hyatt Regency.

It’s the first time since spring practice to really talk about college football en masse. It’s also the biggest reminder that summer camps start in less than a month.
The confab of the 14 league coaches has produced several memorable moments over the years.

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer didn’t make an appearance in 2004 so that he could avoid being served with a subpoena. That was a very bizarre moment indeed.
Nothing like hearing a coach hold a press conference over a speakerphone.

Of course, Fulmer ended his last year as coach of Tennessee in 2008 by being served with a subpoena at media days, calling him to testify in a completely different case.

Packed house
As the popularity of college football has grown over the years, so has the number of credentials requested for the event. There were over 1,000 print, TV and radio reporters at last year’s gathering. That was the third straight year the number eclipsed 1,000. SEC officials love the attention, even if it gets a bit tough to move around.

When you have that many reporters around, expect the unexpected. Does anyone recall when former Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was asked if he was a virgin back in 2009? Yep, that put quite a shock into the room. Tebow handled the question very well, just like he handled most things.

In 2010, Nick Saban referred to agents as “pimps” when asked about the rash of NCAA violations in college football. You could literally hear the keyboards on the laptops hit overdrive. I don’t remember if Twitter crashed, but Saban almost certainly was trending.

Top coaches
Steve Spurrier, the current head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, has always been at the top of my list when it comes time to rate coaches at media days. It’s like he practices his one-liners and quips for weeks before he hits the podium. Knowing how much he plays golf, that’s not the case, but he’s as affable and witty and interesting as any.

His biggest gaffe, that I can remember, came in 2009 when we all found out that a member of his staff put Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead on the ballot ahead of Tebow as first team quarterback. That caused the ol’ ball coach to do some backpedaling.

Another coach that always seems to hit a home run at media days is LSU’s Les Miles.
Like Spurrier, he’s always affable, always energetic and upbeat. He was even that way when he had to talk about a rash of arrests a few summers ago.

Ole Miss
David Cutcliffe, Ed Orgeron, Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze are the four Ole Miss coaches I’ve covered at media days. In 2000, I also followed Deuce McAllister around the Sheraton Hotel, from room to room, to see how the Heisman Trophy candidate was received. McAllister was heavily touted for the award because of his ability to return punts, kickoffs and catch passes out of the backfield.

Orgeron had the most difficult time at media days. His first year wasn’t as worse on his part as it was uncomfortable.

That was one of the first moments – when Orgeron got in front of the podium in the ballroom to speak to the print media – that I felt like he wasn’t cut out to be a front man, a modern day head coach that is as good of a speaker as he is a designer of plays.

For Nutt, media days were like seeing old friends at church or the barbershop. He always seemed so comfortable talking and answering questions. Nutt wasn’t always the best quote, but he was far from the worst. He always produced good copy. His first summer back to Hoover, just eight months after leaving Arkansas, that was his best. He took all the questions about his departure from the Razorbacks in stride.

Freeze has been quite good the past two years. There hasn’t been anything controversial for him to deal with, which always helps. I am interested to see how many questions he gets this year about up-tempo offenses. That was a big topic in the offseason with the possibility of a snap count clock being created.

Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema have both been outspoken on the offensive style Freeze likes to use, so expect to hear him get a few questions on that topic.

Preseason picks
My prediction is that the Rebels will be picked to finish fourth in the West on the ballots submitted by the media. That shouldn’t ruffle too many feathers considering that only about 15 percent of those that attend the event actually vote. Preseason rankings and watch lists are purely conjecture.

It’s all entertainment at the end of the day.It’s hard for me to believe that Bo Wallace won’t be tabbed as the top quarterback in the SEC. Wide receiver Donte Moncrief would have been named to the first team if he had returned to Oxford. That leaves Laremy Tunsil as the only other “guarantee” on the first team. Laquon Treadwell has a chance at the first team, and he should at least be on the second team.

Safety Cody Prewitt, an All-American last year, should also make the first team on defense.
Well, here’s to another great kickoff to football and to hoping that 2014 media days are as memorable and interesting as many of the others have been.

John Davis is the Oxford Citizen sports editor. He can be reached at john.davis@journalinc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @oxfordcitizenjd.



About John Davis

Eighteen years in the business. Dedicated to providing the best local content for sports. Oxford, Lafayette, Ole Miss, youth sports, outdoors and the things nobody else wants to cover.