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It’s time to talk ball, y’all.
The unofficial kickoff to the 2021 SEC football season is here. Media members have arrived in Hoover, Alabama, to eat Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, chug Dr. Pepper, maybe consume a few adult beverages, and annoy coaches with questions they probably don’t want to answer.
After being canceled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SEC Media Days makes its glorified return this week. The four-day extravaganza gets started at lunchtime on Monday when Greg Sankey takes the podium.
Let’s get prepared for what will be a wild and crazy couple of days in the SEC.
Football is coming.
State of the Union
Greg Sankey took over for Mike Slive in 2015 as the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, and this will be the commish’s sixth time addressing reporters at SEC Media Days. Expect a session of about an hour as Sankey will address the current state of affairs in the league.
There will be plenty of NIL talk, where the league stands with COVID-19 protocols for those who haven’t received the vaccine, and a Q&A portion with the media. KSR will be on-hand and ready to type if anything newsworthy comes out from the commissioner.
Florida and a transition year
After Sankey is done, the Florida Gators will be the first team up to promote their program. Dan Mullen is entering year four in Gainesville with a 29-9 record, three New Year’s Six appearances, and an SEC East title in his back pocket. However, big questions are hovering over his program.
The Gators are the only team not bringing an offensive player to Hoover as defensive end Zachary Carter and linebacker Ventrell Miller will be participating. Expect questions about the new look offense as the Gators lost 43 passing touchdowns and 31 receiving touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham could also be facing some job pressure. Meanwhile, what in the world went on in those last three games?
Does Mullen let his alter ego out of the bag again? That is what everyone wants to know.
Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers will also take the podium on Monday, and there are a ton of worries for this program just two years after running the table and winning a national championship in 2019. Change can happen fast in college football.
The Tigers have lost transfers to Auburn, Georgia, and Kentucky this offseason while Coach O has been named in a Title IX lawsuit filed against the university. Meanwhile, the Tigers are bringing in two new play-callers from the NFL but have recruited at a top-six level.
Not much has gone right for LSU since Joe Burrow hoisted that national championship trophy. Look for Orgeron to try and get the train back on the tracks when he begins what could be a filibuster in the main media room.
In the offseason, we saw the league bring in four new head coaches to help keep the coaching carousel busy. Auburn hired Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, South Carolina brought home former assistant Shane Beamer, Tennessee stole UCF’s athletic director and head football coach — Danny White and Josh Heupel — while Vanderbilt brought home former alum Clark Lea.
Each new head coach will make their league-wide debut this week, and this will be an experience unlike anything else these coaches have ever been through. Each is likely in for what could be a tough first year, but this event gives them all a chance to make a solid first impression. I’m sure each will pass their debuts with flying colors.
Egg Bowl hype
Due to the cancellation of last year’s event, the state of Mississippi was unable to show off their pair of fancy new football toys. Both Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach were unable to take the podium and promote their programs. We will luckily get treated to that this year.
Kiffin will likely take a few playful jabs at Nick Saban on Tuesday afternoon, while Leach will surely get off-topic on Wednesday afternoon. If a head coach goes viral this week, it will likely be one of the two from college football’s most fascinating rivalry.
Kentucky vs. Missouri
Let’s just face the facts, people. Alabama is going to be picked to win the West, and Georgia will be the selection in the East. Florida will be No. 2 in the East, and Texas A&M will be No. 2 in the West. However, an interesting battle is developing in the East’s next tier.
Eli Drinkwitz had a terrific debut season last fall, and quarterback Connor Bazelak looks like a future star. Thanks to pulling off some close wins, the Tigers could be considered a flavor of the month. Meanwhile, Kentucky has remained steady under Mark Stoops but is attempting to make seismic changes to the offensive operation.
One of this week’s biggest talking points will be Kentucky vs. Missouri. That week two matchup is huge for both programs.
Unfortunately, things are not 100 percent back to normal. The league has limited media access to this event as this week will be about 66 percent full. Instead of three players, programs are bringing just two, and no fans will be allowed into the lobby.
The SEC will allow fans to hang in the parking lot, but that is as close as folks can get. Unfortunately, KSR will not get to try on the most famous hat in college football.
— Chris Breece (@ChrisBreece) July 17, 2019
The head hog will officially take the stage on Thursday when most everyone is running on fumes. Still, second-year head coach Sam Pittman is an absolute treasure who will give us a juicy quote or two. The long-time offensive line coach has things trending in the right direction, but the slate is brutal for the Razorbacks.
He was made to call the Hogs.
Excited to OFFICIALLY announce Sam Pittman as our new Head Football Coach. Great days ahead for the Hogs with Sam and Jamie as a part of the Razorback family again! #OneRazorback pic.twitter.com/763JrRrpaR
— Hunter Yurachek (@HunterYurachek) December 9, 2019