The SEC media days, which begin today in Hoover, Ala., have become a sort of state-of-the-program presentation for each of the league’s 12 football coaches. They dress up, stand before hundreds of media and give a short speech (or in Phillip Fulmer’s case, a long one). Then they settle in for an interrogation from the media on their upcoming season and any other relevant (or not) subjects.
The following is a sample of what each coach can expect from the media. Each coach is rated on how intense his appearance will be, with four microphones for the most promising and descending to the least interesting subjects.
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This is the only coach who will be less interesting than one of his players. Everyone will try to ask Tim Tebow a variation of these questions: Can you repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner, will you leave after this year for the NFL, and how cool is it to be you? When Meyer speaks, half of his time may be spent on Tebow. Otherwise, media members may yawn and ask Meyer about his team’s national title chances, Percy Harvin’s heel injury or Meyer’s golf game.
Croom’s job security has been put to rest, at least for this season, so more mundane subjects figure to be on tap. Likely, Croom will be asked about taking the next step at Mississippi State, the loss of Ellis Johnson, and how much time he spent in the offseason begging the football gods to give him a passing offense.
Miles had better come prepared not to be annoyed. He will be asked about trying to repeat as national champion. He will be asked about Ryan Perrilloux. And, he will be asked about not taking the Michigan job. Miles, not exactly Mr. Patience, will be tempted to point out how many times he has addressed these questions before the local media. But SEC and national college football writers have their shot today, and they don’t tend to care about who’s going to be the long snapper.
Typically, the biggest activity during Johnson’s presentation is at the beginning, when media members scramble out of the room. That’s too bad, because the Columbia native can be one of the most entertaining and humorous coaches in the league. Johnson should face the usual round of Vanderbilt questions: So, how close to getting to a bowl do you think you are? How tough is it to win at a school you need a 24,000 SAT score to get in? Why aren’t you winning when your basketball and baseball programs are?
Each year at least one SEC coach faces a series of questions about his player’s off-field behavior. Last month, starting linebacker Jimmy Johns was kicked off the team after a cocaine arrest, but Saban was criticized for not booting him earlier. This also followed a series of arrests of other players. Saban figures to get pleasant questions about why his team went 6-6 last year, whether he gave Bobby Petrino advice on bailing early from an NFL job, and what he thinks of his “Nicktator” nickname.
Mark Richt, Georgia
Pretty much every question Richt will get will be a form of “So, you’re supposed to be one of the top teams in the country, can you live up to it?” Richt has been there before, in 2004 when his team was a consensus No. 3 pick. But this year the Bulldogs might be No. 1 and have a sophomore Heisman candidate (running back Knowshon Moreno). Richt, the offensive guru, will probably get asked a lot about quarterback Matt Stafford.
Houston Nutt, Mississippi
If Nutt opens his comments with “I’m glad to be here,” he will not be lying (unlike the other 11 coaches). Nutt spent most of last year answering questions about his job security at Arkansas, and Mitch Mustain. So this year he will happily discuss his welcome at Mississippi and whoever his quarterback will be. But Nutt should also be prepared to rehash his move from Arkansas, because rehashing is what the SEC media days are all about.
You would think that Fulmer’s recent contract extension would forestall job security questions. Not exactly. Fulmer should be ready to answer at least one about whether he thinks he deserved the new contract. He is practically guaranteed to be asked about the nearly constant criticism by Tennessee fans. As for the rest, the media will want to know what Fulmer thinks of his new quarterback, junior Jonathan Compton.
Tuberville could be asked whether he feels like his Tigers are being overlooked, considering they return 16 starters from a 9-4 team. He will be asked about his quarterback situation, and the fact he has new coordinators on both sides of the ball. But all that will be a warm-up for the big one: “So Tommy, what do you think of being in the same division as Petrino, your former assistant who participated in an effort to oust you behind your back five years ago?
Brooks ended talk of being fired last season, although his successor has been chosen (offensive coordinator Joker Phillips.) Brooks will be asked about that setup, and how soon he plans on stepping aside. He also should be asked about replacing Andre Woodson, or the many other starters his team lost. Otherwise, this should be a good opportunity for the media to rest and sharpen their knives for Petrino.
Petrino would be wise to ask Saban for guidance. Last year, Saban was excoriated for leaving the NFL in what many perceived a dishonest manner. This time Petrino will have to explain why he abandoned the Atlanta Falcons with three games left in his first season after claiming he was in it for the long haul. The media could also deem relevant his 2003 clandestine meeting with Auburn, because it’s the first time Petrino has been in the SEC since he was interviewed about a job that was not open.
This year the SEC saved the best quote for last, and the media will surely be fishing for Spurrier’s usual digs and witicisms. Spurrier would be wise to provide them, because he might be tired of the subjects the non-local media wants to ask: How much longer will the 63-year-old coach? Does he still think he can win an SEC title at South Carolina? What happened after that 6-1 start? What’s the deal with the offensive play-calling? Oh, and when will Stephen Garcia be back? Fun, fun, fun.