HOOVER, Ala. — The Southeastern Conference’s kickoff event, SEC Media Days, begins today and runs through Thursday in the Wynfrey Hotel.
The annual football fest serves as important reassurance that the long offseason is almost over. It also produces its share of memorable stories, whether it’s then-LSU coach Nick Saban’s dog escaping from a hotel room and running loose during his media session in 2004. Or former Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell sharing some of his knowledge of turkey insemination during a wacky media session in 2010.
There’s no promise anything as hilarious will happen over the next three days in Hoover, Ala. But there are plenty of other storylines worth keeping an eye on as 2013 SEC Media Days begins this afternoon. Here are five of them:
1. Johnny Football Madness — The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t been able to escape the spotlight this offseason and won’t when Texas A&M meets with the media Wednesday because of the latest news. Manziel left the 2013 Manning Passing Academy a day early over the weekend with cloudy details about his departure. One report said it was because Manziel – who was serving as a counselor – was out partying and showed up for camp sessions. Others have insisted Manziel was late because of an illness. Either way, it should ensure Manziel’s appearance — already one of the highlights entering the event — will be even more interesting.
2. Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema. Front and Center — It’s no secret Arkansas’ new coach knows how to work a room. He’s no stranger to saying things that have raised eyebrows in college football during his career, either. Now the vocal coach, who hasn’t been shy on Twitter or on the Razorback club speaking circuit in his first few months on the job at Arkansas, will be in front of hundreds of tape recorders, cameras and microphones on Wednesday. What will happen?
3. Those Offseason Headaches — It’s a long offseason and – once again - a handful of teams are working through off-the-field legal issues involving players this month. Three examples that will be topics this week: the scandal at Vanderbilt, where four players were dismissed earlier this summer while police investigated whether a sex crime took place on campus (no charges have been filed at this point). Texas A&M has suspended defensive backs defensive backs Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven after recent arrests. Suspended LSU running back Jeremy Hill also pleaded guilty last week to battery stemming from an April bar incident.
4. Can Alabama 3-Peat, Run SEC Title Streak To Eight? — What’s a three-day SEC fest without national title talk? The 2011 and 2012 champions will be the big draw, as usual, in the Wynfrey Hotel this week. Coach Nick Saban has led the Crimson Tide to two straight championships and three titles in the last four years. With veterans like quarterback A.J. McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley back to lead the way, Alabama should be the preseason SEC championship favorite again. But Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M are all teams to watch in the conference race and should have plenty to say about their title hopes this week.
5. Are You Ready For the SEC? — Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel were flooded with the question last summer after their programs prepared for their first season in the SEC. Expect new coaches like Bielema, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and Tennessee’s Butch Jones to get their share of it this week. The three — who join Auburn’s Gus Malzahn as the SEC’s first-year head coaches in 2013 — are stepping into the conference for the first time. Will it result in Texas A&M (11-2, 6-2 in SEC) or Missouri (5-7, 2-6 in SEC) experiences?