SEC Media Days

Summer hype begins in Hoover

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, left, talks with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn prior to a game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, left, talks with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn prior to a game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

HOOVER, Ala. -- College football's largest one-stop preseason publicity extravaganza commences today at the Wynfrey Hyatt Hotel in suburban Birmingham, with more than 1,200 media members expected to cover SEC media days over the next four days.

Commissioner Greg Sankey gets things started with his second state of the conference address at 11:35 a.m. He'll be followed by Fort Smith native Gus Malzahn, the fourth-year Auburn coach who is trying to lead the Tigers back to prominence after last year's 7-6 record.

Daily schedule


• Opening remarks by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey

TEAMS Auburn (Gus Malzahn); Vanderbilt (Derek Mason); and Florida (Jim McElwain)


TEAMS Georgia (Kirby Smart); Mississippi State (Dan Mullen); Tennessee (Butch Jones); and Texas A&M (Kevin Sumlin)


TEAMS Arkansas (Bret Bielema); Alabama (Nick Saban); Kentucky (Mark Stoops); Missouri (Barry Odom)


TEAMS LSU (Les Miles); Ole Miss (Hugh Freeze); South Carolina (Will Muschamp)

NOTE Each team will be represented by three players as well as the coach.

For the first time in 11 years media days will be held without Steve Spurrier, whose sharp tongue spiced up the event for 23 of the past 26 years during his stints at Florida and South Carolina.

"There was always a buzz when Steve Spurrier spoke at media days," said UA associate athletic director Kevin Trainor, who will serve as moderator in the print media room for the sixth consecutive year. "I'm sure he'll be weighing in some way or the other during the week."

Another SEC media days fixture, former Georgia Coach Mark Richt, has moved on to Miami (Fla.) after 15 years in Athens, making LSU's Les Miles the longest-tenured SEC coach.

The SEC has won eight of the past 10 national champions, thanks in large part to Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama won its fourth national championship in seven seasons last January when it beat Clemson 45-40 in the second College Football Playoff.

Saban and three Crimson Tide representatives will face the media on Wednesday morning in the same time block as Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema and player representatives Brooks Ellis, Jeremy Sprinkle and Deatrich Wise Jr.

Three quarterbacks -- Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs and Texas A&M's Trevor Knight -- are set to represent their schools, drawing attention for a second consecutive year to the lack of experienced quarterbacks returning in the conference.

Malzahn is one of several SEC coaches regarded as being on the hot seat heading into 2016. LSU's Miles, who survived an overthrow attempt late last year after the Tigers lost consecutive games to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, will be at the podium on Thursday.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Kentucky's Mark Stoops and Vanderbilt's Derek Mason could also be in precarious positions, depending on how their seasons go.

Then again, as Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen pointed out three years ago when he was riding a hot seat in Starkville, "You're about a game away in this league from that situation."

Miles is the only SEC coach with more than 10 years at the same school, but there are three first-year coaches -- Georgia's Kirby Smart, South Carolina's Will Muschamp and Missouri's Barry Odom -- all in the East division. All three were defensive coordinators in the SEC last season.

That trio has four years of college head coaching experience, and the men they replaced, Richt, Spurrier and Gary Pinkel, had a combined 66 years of college head coaching experience.

"It will definitely be a different look this year, especially on the Eastern side," Trainor said. "The East has all three of the newcomers, while the West will all have guys who have been there four years or more."

Arkansas' Bielema, who seldom backs away from giving an opinion, has a chance to replace Spurrier as the most quotable SEC coach.

"I think Bret has a tremendous sense of humor, people always pay attention to what he has to say, and he delivers it in an entertaining way," Trainor said.

Not long ago, SEC media days was an end-of-July event that led into the opening of fall camp, but it has continued to creep up earlier on the calendar to stay ahead of the other Power 5 conferences.

"A lot of fun is going into it not knowing exactly what will come out of it," Trainor said. "One thing is for certain, people all over the country will be paying attention."

Sports on 07/11/2016

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