SEC Media Days 2019: Five storylines to stay locked in on during four days in Hoover
Storylines are everywhere during the four-day event ahead of the 2019 season
HOOVER, Ala. -- SEC players, coaches and media members have converged on the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel to take part in the annual circus known as SEC Media Days. The unofficial start to college football season means that we'll have plenty to talk about when some of the stars of the conference make their rounds during the four-day event. Nick Saban, Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa, Ed Orgeron, Feleipe Franks, Kirby Smart and Dan Mullen are just a few of the stars who will hit the halls of the Wynfrey as the college football world watches.
So what should you expect to hear in Hoover this week? Let's break it all down.
1. Don't waste the failure: This was Saban's motto in the title game after Alabama fell to Clemson following the 2016 season. Now, on the heels of the 44-16 blowout in this past January's College Football Playoff National Championship Game, you can expect some variation of it to become the primary talking point in Hoover. The Crimson Tide responded well the last time this motivational tactic was used, when they topped Georgia to win the 2017 national title. But this phrase, really, can be used in some variation throughout the entire conference.
Georgia couldn't finish off the Tide in the postseason each of the last two seasons and returns a solid core led by quarterback Jake Fromm and a talented offensive line. Expect every member of the Georgia contingent -- including Fromm -- to receive several questions surrounding the Bulldogs' inability to get over that Alabama hump.
There's plenty of failure to go around the rest of the teams. LSU can't seem to top the Tide, Auburn's offense has to rebound if coach Gus Malzahn is going to stay employed, Florida was sporadic in Mullen's first year as coach before catching fire in mid-November and the rest of the conference seems to be falling far behind the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs.
2. Year of the quarterback: This group of signal-callers doesn't compare to the star-studded class that came through the SEC in 2013 and 2014, but that could change based on the upside of several QBs. We all know about Alabama's 2018 Heisman Trophy finalist and Georgia's third-year starter in Fromm, but behind them is plenty to be excited about. Let's break them up into two groups.
LSU's Joe Burrow, Tennessee's Jarrett Guarantano, Florida's Feleipe Franks, South Carolina's Jake Bentley and Texas A&M's Kellen Mond have had success in the conference and plenty of experience under their belts. Can one or more join that top tier along with Tua and Fromm?
The second, and perhaps more intriguing group, is the set of transfers. Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant made his way to Missouri after leading his former team to the College Football Playoff in 2017. Ex-SMU quarterback Ben Hicks and former Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel will battle it out for the starting gig at Arkansas. Tommy Stevens -- one time heir apparent at Penn State -- reunited with his former offensive coordinator and current Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead in Starkville. Riley Neal topped the 2,200-yard mark passing twice during his Ball State career and now appears to be in line to take over for Kyle Shurmur at Vanderbilt.
3. Hot seats: The SEC had no offseason head coaching changes for the first time since 2006, but that might not last for long. Auburn's Gus Malzahn is a "3" onthat ranks coaches 1-5, meaning the pressure is mounting. To make matters worse, the Tigers play Oregon and Texas A&M away from home and host Mississippi in September. His seat could be scorching by the time the leaves change color. After some drama surrounding his job after last season, Auburn might be willing to dole out the cash to move on if things don't get better in a hurry.
Matt Luke is entering Year 3 at Ole Miss, and now has a new athletic director. After a 6-6 record in a tumultuous first year taking over on the fly for Hugh Freeze, the Rebels regressed to five wins last year. Luke doesn't have an established quarterback, lost two stars at wide receiver and has a defense that resembles a colander. If the Rebels regress again, that might be all for the Ole Miss alum.
Ed Orgeron coached himself off the hot seat a year ago, Will Muschamp is in Year 4 of his rebuilding effort at South Carolina and Derek Mason hasn't been able to match James Franklin's success at Vanderbilt. There's no immediate danger for the trio, but one massive debacle can change minds in a hurry (see: Gene Chizik).
4. And the Emmy goes to ... : SEC Media Days has evolved from an information session to a four-day, made-for-TV event. As such, players show off their personalities in front of the national audience every year. Who will don the most stylish suit? Who will entertain the masses with a 10-minute diatribe for the ages, T.J. Moe-style? Will there be unforeseen drama that pops up right before things kick off, like Johnny Manziel's 2013 Manning Passing Academy absence or Nick Marshall's weekend citation for possession in 2014?
5. "Lobby lizards": Media Days are back in Hoover after a one-year hiatus, which means the lobby lizards will be back in full force -- especially when Alabama and Auburn make the rounds on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. What does it mean? If you're on social media, expect plenty of photos and interviews of the Alabama fan who wears the giant ring hat, the man who wears the shirt of the team that beat Alabama the previous season, the Auburn fan who paints his tiny dog orange and blue and all of the other fanatics who stand in the lobby of the Wynfrey waiting to see their favorite players and coaches for all of five seconds. After all, "it just means more."
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