ATHENS — The SEC Media Days annually signals the unofficial start of football season and stands as one of the most anticipated events of the year.
Every team is undefeated, each fanbase has built up its reasons for optimism, and poured over concerns.
This year’s event is back at the College Football Hall of Fame and Omni Hotel at CNN Center in Atlanta from July 13-July 16. The event was held at the same venue two years ago.
The SEC office released this year’s schedule for the event, with Georgia coach Kirby Smart kicking off his presentations on Tuesday.
Monday, July 13
Florida – Dan Mullen
LSU – Ed Orgeron
Missouri – Eliah Drinkwitz
Tuesday, July 14
Georgia – Kirby Smart
Kentucky – Mark Stoops
Ole Miss – Lane Kiffin
Vanderbilt – Derek Mason
Wednesday, July 15
Alabama – Nick Saban
Arkansas – Sam Pittman
Mississippi State – Mike Leach
Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt
THURSDAY, July 16
Auburn – Gus Malzahn
South Carolina – Will Muschamp
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher
The SEC Network and ESPN will be on hand to televise the popular event to a national audience, highlighting the most interesting and intriguing comments.
As always, there will be national and league-wide issues to address and follow up on.
An NCAA work group most recently approved a recommendation that would green light immediate eligibility in revenue sports, such as football.
The measure has led some to equate it with free agency, with coaches and commentators split on the issue.
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has never shied away from controversial topics.
Smart most often qualifies his remarks by acknowledging he has faith in SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and stands behind his policies, even if there are other facets he may disagree with.
Here are four Georgia questions for SEC Media Days, with projected answers.
1. (From Alabama reporter) Are you looking forward to playing at Alabama this season? Do you think you can get over the hump? Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant!
Projected answer: That’s the furthest thing from my mind. These are totally different teams than the last time we played. We’ve got plenty of our own issues to focus on. Four quarterbacks and four running backs competing for jobs, a brand-new offensive line. There’s only one or two guys on defense I’d consider starters. We’re going to have our hands full with Virginia in the opener, that’s an excellent program. We’re nowhere near ready to play a game.
2. (From Florida media) Dan Mullen said on Monday he expects the Gators to compete for championships. With everything Dan has done with the offense already this offseason, do you think you can catch up to them? Are you excited to extend the series in Jacksonville?
Projected answer: Dan is a great coach, has the program headed in the right direction. Kyle Trask is a capable quarterback, really got a lot of respect for him. That game is a long way off. Our administration extended the series in Jacksonville two more years. It’s a great venue, have great memories playing there. It comes at a high cost for our recruiting, especially with the early signing day in December, that’s a pivotal weekend we can’t host recruits. It’s something we’ll continue to look at and discuss.
3. (From Tennessee media) Tennessee has won six straight games entering this season, Phillip Fulmer says the Vols are back so your game with them on Nov. 14 could decide the SEC East. How much do you miss Jim Chaney and how concerned are you about defending Jarrett Guarantano with all the progress he’s made?
Projected answer: Jeremy has done a nice job up there, and Jim is a great coach, has the offense headed in the right direction. Guarantano is a capable quarterback, really got a lot of respect for him. We expect a tough game every time we play Tennessee. It’s a great rivalry, good for college football. The East is wide open, lots of great teams. You have to throw South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri in there — they’re all capable.
4. (Follow up from Georgia reporter) You said during the offseason this team couldn’t afford to be complacent. Georgia is a favorite to make history and win the East a fourth-straight time, and Jamie Newman is a Top 5 Heisman Trophy favorite. How do you keep your team hungry?
Projected answer: You guys are amazing. Way too many mistakes in the spring game. It’s not hard to keep them humble when we turn on the film. The pressure is a privilege, but we’ve got to do more, attack the day. Just like when I said our defense was atrocious after that shutout win over Kentucky last season, same thing now, just got to keep chopping wood.