ATHENS — I took a little stroll across campus Saturday morning. Specifically, I walked a southwest corner of it known as the Vince Dooley Athletic Complex. I often do that about this time of year. It’s sort of like enjoying the calm before the storm.
Football season is almost upon us, folks. As of this writing, the season is just eight Saturdays away. Practice begins in four weeks. Think about that. It will be here before we know it.
And in a couple of days, SEC Football Media Days commences in Hoover, Ala. Seth Emerson and I will be there as usual, as well as an army of correspondents for SEC Country. That event is, of course, sort of the unofficial kickoff to football season.
Georgia’s turn on the podium is Tuesday around 10 a.m. ET. The SEC Network is beating its chest over providing 30 hours of coverage this year, but I don’t know if that will include anything live from Kirby Smart’s appearance. But we will be there and will be posting stories as warranted just as quick as we can.
In case you missed it, Georgia’s player representatives for the event are Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Roquan Smith. That’s interesting and notable in several ways.
One, I think it says a lot about the Bulldogs’ expectations and makeup that they’d send two tailbacks. They are the only team to do so, perhaps to further lay claim to the distinction that some preseason publications have put on Georgia for having the nation’s best backfield this season. They’ll certainly get no argument from me about that, though I can’t profess to having great insight yet into the running back corps everybody else will be trotting out this season.
For what it’s worth, Phil Steele rates Alabama’s running backs tops in the SEC this season. It’d be hard to argue about the Crimson Tide’s depth, what with former 5-star B.J. Emmons fifth in the pecking order. But as good as they are, I believe I’d take Chubb and Michel over Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris. Wouldn’t you?
Also, Georgia bringing Smith is interesting and telling, I think. Traditionally, this is a gig for your senior leaders. Of the 42 participants in Hoover this week, 26 are seniors and most of the rest are juniors. In fact, the only underclassmen doing the interview circuit at the Wynfrey Hotel are both sophomore quarterbacks, South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson. UGA’s Jacob Eason is also a sophomore quarterback and incumbent starter, but he won’t be there. Neither will Alabama’s Jalen Hurts.
As for Smith, he is a junior and was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler last year. Personally, I’m very impressed with Smith and anticipate him having a breakout year. I think he’s an All-SEC-caliber player and maybe an All-American.
But it’s also notable that Georgia had some senior-leader types on defense that won’t be there. Certainly senior outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter were worthy. Not only are they good players, but they’re tremendous communicators and each has a very interesting personal story. The same can be said of safety Dominick Sanders, another senior with a fascinating background, and big John Atkins.
Oh, well, none of that really matters. Chiefly, SEC Football Media Days have become a flex fest. It’s merely an opportunity for the league to show how big and bad it is and to brag about the number of media that attend, which is more than any other league.
The highlight always comes at the end, when the media’s preseason voting for the predicted champion is revealed. I’ll spare you the suspense — it will be Alabama for the fourth time in five years and fifth in the last seven. I suspect Georgia will get a lot of votes as projected Eastern Division champion and might even be selected. From what I’ve seen so far, though, I might have a hard time not going with the Florida Gators, who have won the past two. As ever, it probably will come down to that little cocktail party in Jacksonville the last weekend of October.
Really, for me, what awaits after Media Days is my favorite time of year. I enjoy the preparation and anticipation part almost as much as the games. Right now everybody believes, everybody is optimistic. And practices really mean something. These guys have to get ready. They have to know what they’re doing.
I love the way the schedule sets up. I love that there are three very meaningful football games in the first four (and, yes, I’m including Appalachian State among those). I can’t wait to get up to South Bend, Ind., and see what that game against Notre Dame is going to be all about.
It will be here before you know it, folks. Embrace the anticipation.