HOOVER, Ala. — Something is missing this year; something extremely important; something the Southeastern Conference isn’t accustomed to so desperately lacking.
Where’s the arrogance and allure?
Sadly, the biggest storyline at SEC Media Days this week was the lack of storylines. The SEC stretched its annual preseason media extravaganza from three to four days this year, but, unfortunately, there isn’t enough star power in the league to last three or four minutes.
This year, SEC Media Days should have been renamed SEC Media Daze.
Coach Jimbo Fisher’s Florida State Seminoles ended the SEC’s seven-year streak of national title dominance in the Rose Bowl, but it feels strangely like FSU may have stolen the league’s mojo as well. Yes, the SEC is still the most dynamic league in college football, but would anybody be surprised if the conference champion this year has a couple of losses and doesn’t even make the inaugural four-team college football playoff?
Last year at Media Days, the hundreds and hundreds of media members stampeded the interview areas to get a prime spot within earshot of returning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney — the most dominant player in college football. This year, it was commonplace to see many among the record 1,267 media members in attendance interviewing each other.
A major reason for the lack of star power is that so many of the league’s powerhouses are changing quarterbacks this season. Gone from last year are Manziel along with Georgia’s Aaron Murray (the SEC’s all-time leading passer), South Carolina’s Connor Shaw, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger.
“Some of the guys haven’t put up the numbers or the championships that guys in the past have,” Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “But there’s always going to be talent in the SEC. It’s just a matter of who makes the plays this year. You get guys who end up being household names who weren’t at the beginning of the year.”
Maybe so, but the one household name the league does have — Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall — wasn’t even allowed to attend Media Days because he was recently cited for marijuana possession. Also missing was LSU running back Leonard Fournette, commonly considered the No. 1 recruit in the country.
The league could have made a huge PR splash if it had made Tim Tebow available to talk about his new career as one of the lead commentators for the new SEC Network, but conference officials inexplicably chose to unveil the new network sans Tebow.
Here’s all you need to know about this year’s media days: Two of the biggest storylines were about players who aren’t even in the league anymore — Manziel and former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL.
In fact, the first question asked of Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin during his media session was: “What’s it going to be like NOT coaching Johnny Manziel this season?” A few questions later, Sumlin was asked if he had any advice for Manziel in the wake of his Vegas party photos hitting the Internet.
“Is this the SEC Media Days?” an exasperated Sumlin asked. “That’s a great question … for the Cleveland Browns!”
With all due respect, Coach, this is what happens when there is no star power in the league. We SEC media members are used to having some juicy stories and scintillating scandals to sink our teeth into.
Remember the year at Media Days when Tebow responded to a question and admitted he was a virgin?
Or the year Steve Spurrier confessed that, yes, he was the only coach who didn’t have Tebow on his All-SEC ballot?
Or the year former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer skipped media days because he was getting death threats after accusing Alabama of violating NCAA rules?
Or that other year Fulmer was served with a subpoena brought on by a libel and defamation case filed by an Alabama booster?
Or the year former Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell had the media in stitches as he told about his first job as a member of the inseminating crew on a turkey farm?
Those were the days.
Now these are the daze.