The circus is coming to town this week, better know as SEC Media Days.
League coaches and players will gather at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, starting Monday, to answer questions from the media. Alabama arrives Wednesday with head coach Nick Saban, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, receiver Jerry Jeudy and linebacker Dylan Moses. Media Days concludes Thursday.
Here are just a few of the hot topics that will most likely be discussed this week.
Coaching hot seat
As Tuscaloosa News sports editor Cecil Hurt mentioned earlier this week in his column, there are no new coaches making the trip to SEC Media Days this season, a rare occurrence indeed.
That may not be the case next year if some teams don’t turn things around in 2019.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn signed a seven-year, $49 million contract in early 2018. But the Tigers followed its 10-4 season in 2017 with an 8-5 mark. The road to success in 2019 won’t be easy. Auburn’s schedule includes a neutral-site opener against Oregon, road games against Texas A&M, Florida, LSU, and home games with Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama.
That’s a brutal schedule and a subpar season could mean the end of Malzahn, but if AU wants to get rid of him it will have to pay. The school would have to pay him 75 percent on the remaining amount of contract.
Derek Mason enters his sixth season at the helm at Vanderbilt with two 6-7 seasons as his best, including 2018. It’s been a rough tenure for Mason in Nashville and a change could be made if things don’t get back to the days of James Franklin, who guided the Commodores to back-to-back winning seasons before leaving for Penn State.
Tua for Heisman
Tagovailoa’s name was on the Heisman Trophy shortlist at the start of the 2018 season, despite not having started a single game in his career.
It was warranted as the Crimson Tide phenom finished second to Kyler Murray in the voting.
This season Tagovailoa is the top of several media outlets’ early Heisman Trophy favorites list, including si.com and espn.com, with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence close behind.
Tagovailoa, now a junior, will be in Hoover Wednesday to speak with the media and no doubt he will have to field a Heisman question or two. As will Alabama coach Nick Saban.
It’s a new world in college football these days. The NCAA transfer portal allows college athletes to test the transfer waters to gauge interest from other schools.
There was a lot of player shuffling after the offseason with 48 players leaving SEC schools and 23 transferring in to SEC schools, according to 247sports.com.
Some coaches are in favor of it, some are not too thrilled with it and some others are indifferent. Saban spoke at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida, in May and said, “I’m for whatever benefits the student-athlete,” regarding the portal.
He will likely be asked about the portal again, as will the rest of the SEC coaches.
Half the league coaches won’t have to face quarterback questions this year. At least not ones about who the starter will be.
Seven teams will have new starting quarterbacks and those coaches will have to address them this week. A few teams, Missouri and Ole Miss, have new QBs at the helm but have already named starters. Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant transferred to Missouri in the spring and redshirt freshman Matt Corral, last season’s backup, is the starter for Ole Miss heading into 2019.
Auburn has a quarterback battle going on with redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and incoming true freshman Bo Nix.
Ben Hicks, a graduate transfer from SMU, is the leading candidate for Chad Morris’ Arkansas Razorbacks after last year’s starter, Matt Storey, left for Western Kentucky. The Razorbacks’ backup, Cole Kelley, transferred to Southeast Louisiana.
Over at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs have to replace dual-threat QB Nick Fitzgerald, who started the last three seasons. Keytaon Thompson and Tommy Stevens are in a battle for the starting spot. Thompson was a backup last year while Stevens is a transfer from Penn State, where Miss. State head coach Joe Moorhead was offensive coordinator (2016-17).
Riley Neal and Deuce Wallace are competing for the QB spot at Vanderbilt and Terry Wilson has the inside track to take over for Benny Snell at Kentucky.