SEC football Media Days 2021: Questions for each team heading into the season
The media event kicks off Monday with Florida, LSU, and South Carolina
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - To some college football fans, the season begins during spring training. Others believe media days mark the start of college football. Either way, we are one step closer to having college football back on our television screens.
From July 19 through July 22, the Southeastern Conference will host media days live from the Hyatt Regency Hotel, or better known as The Winfrey in Hoover. The Winfrey has been the site of media days 18 times out of 19.
This season features four new head coaches in the SEC and many are heading back to normalcy. Last year, the SEC went to a ten-game conference-only schedule. Now the schedules are back to what seems to be normal.
Here are some questions that every team should be asked by members of the media.
Florida Gators: Can you win the East again?
The SEC East seems to be the same players every season. Will it be Florida or Georgia?
Who will take the East crown? Well, last year was all about the Gators climbing over the hill and into Atlanta. Going undefeated in the SEC East but losing on the road to Texas A&M and LSU at home. Dan Mullen had himself a stellar squad on offense with Kyle Trask leading the way long side top-five draft pick Kyle Pitts and speedster Kadarius Toney.
The Gators average nearly 40 points a game, 378.58 passing yards per game and a total of 509.8 yards per game. Mullen is an offensive genius. Now the question is can Mullen replicate that same offense next year with a new quarterback in Emory Jones, who looks like he will get the starting job.
On defense, the Gators will bring back their best cornerback in Kaiir Elam. Last year he had two interceptions and eleven pass break-ups. The Gators’ success will be determined by how they do in the SEC East, especially against their East rivals Georgia. Their first big test will come early in the season when Alabama visits The Swamp in September.
LSU Tigers: Who is your Quarterback? Where are your standards?
It’s the same questions we’ve been asking the Tigers now for quite some time.
The 2019 season was a magical year for coach Ed Orergon and the Tigers going undefeated and winning the national championship over Clemson. Ever since, the Tigers have failed to impress in the biggest way possible. After going 5-5 last season, Coach O is definitely looking for a bounce-back year from his Bayou Bengals and getting back into the SEC West picture.
One of the main questions is who is going to be the starting quarterback down in Baton Rouge? The tigers rotated QB’s last season with Myles Brennan, T.J. Finley and Max Johnson. With Finley now at Auburn, it’s down to Brennan and Johnson. Not only do the Tigers need a big year offensively, their defense has to improve from last year. The defense gave up 323 passing yards per game, 169 rushing yards per game and gave up over 54 points per game last year.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Can we win with who we have on our roster?
This will be Shane Beamer’s first year as the head coach in Columbia. This is his first year being a head coach.
He was an assistant under Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley who led the nation’s highest-scoring offense in 2018. And it doesn’t help that his father, Frank Beamer, is a legendary football coach at Virginia Tech. So some will have expectations to be just like his father.
Beamer will have to compete right out of the gate in the SEC East to see where his team stacks up. He’ll have to bring a high-scoring offense to compete in the East and in the future, which is never easy in the SEC. Though Beamer will have some options at quarterback to start out this season with either transfer Jason Brown, freshman Colton Gauthier or sophomore Luke Doty.
Georgia Bulldogs: When will you get over the hump?
Since Kirby Smart took over in Athens after leaving Alabama in 2016, he has a record of 52-14 as the head coach, won 3 SEC East titles, one SEC title, and a national championship game appearance and including 4 bowl victories. That’s pretty good.
Smart has had great success at Georgia...but to some in Georgia, the question is ‘can you win a national championship?’ It’s been 40 years since the Bulldogs won a national title. Smart has proven that he can bring in the nation’s top prospects to Athens by bringing in a top-five recruiting class this year. The Bulldogs will get their first big test when they play Clemson in Charlotte in week 1.
The Bulldogs wide receiver core will be put to the test quickly with injuries to their top receiver George Pickens, Jermaine Burton, Dominick Blaylock and Demetris Robertson transferring to Auburn. But there is some good news. With the transfer of Arik Gilbert to Athens and returning receiver Kearis Jackson, that first game will show if this receiving core can do the job throughout the season.
Ole Miss Rebels: Can you get over the hump in the West?
The Ole Miss Rebels have been a middle-of-the-pack team in the SEC West. They finished last season at .500 in the SEC, so their next step is to get back to what they were and compete in the West with Alabama and Texas A&M.
We all know about Lane Kiffin and how good his offense can be. Just look at how good they were against the mighty Alabama defense. The Rebs averaged 39 points last year while passing for 345 yards per game. Matt Corral will continue to lead the Rebels under center. The defense is where the Rebs can improve and if they can figure out that part of the deal, they can be a lethal weapon in the SEC West.
Safeties Jake Springer and A.J. Finley will lead in probably the deepest and the strongest part of the Rebels defense. Where they need to improve is the defensive line and linebackers if they plan to have success this year. Lakia Henry and Quentin Bivens will be back for another season and will look to improve the Rebels’ defense. They will need linebacker Jaquez Jones as well who led the team in total tackles last season with 75.
The Rebels will open the season against Louisville on September 6, on Labor Day, in Atlanta.
Texas A&M Aggies: Is this the year you beat Alabama?
Yes, you are reading that question correctly. Of course, it is a tall task when it comes to the Aggies but in all reality that is what head coach Jimbo Fisher was brought in to do in College Station. To not only win the SEC West and the SEC but compete for a national championship!
Since Fisher arrived in Texas, he has shown a lot of promise with grabbing the best talent out of Texas but he has yet to get over that hump. The Aggies just missed out on an opportunity to get into the College Football Playoff last season so now the goal is to get back into that conversation and ultimately get in there.
Another question is who is going to lead the offense this year since Kellen Mond is now off to the NFL. Most people are expecting Hayes King as the man to get the job. They also have Isaiah Spiller returning to the backfield this season.
Tennessee Volunteers: How does the reboot look this time?
Since the firing of Jeremy Pruitt, new head coach Josh Heupel has a ton of work in front of him on top of Rocky Top.
Something that Heupel will have to do first is to get Tennessee back to the good ol’ days and make them a respectable program again. After going 3-7 last season, Rocky Top looked very gloomy and it was not a pretty sight to see. One of the reasons for bringing Heupel into Knoxville is his knowledge of offense. That is going to be the most important task to do this season. The Vols averaged over 21 points a game last season.
One of the quarterbacks that showed some promise last season was Harrison Bailey who played at the tail end of last season. Bailey could be the guy that Heupel builds the program around. That’s a start.
The defense will need to improve as well from last season giving up 30 points a game in 2020. The Vols play Alabama, Florida, and Georgia every year so Heupel has a tall task ahead of him to get the Vols back to where they need to be.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Can you do it all over again?
This sounds like a broken record every time we talk about Alabama and Nick Saban who is coming off of his seventh national championship (six with Alabama and one with LSU).
Saban has brought a winning culture to Alabama and that usually means if you are not either in the National Championship game or even in the College Football Playoff, the season is considered to some a failure. Saban is one of or maybe the best recruiter in college football at the moment bring in another number one recruiting class to the capstone.
The talent Alabama brings in every year should make them a top contender for years to come. Some will be watching to see what sophomore Bryce Young will bring to the offense if he is the one who leads the offense this year.
Alabama opens up with the Miami Hurricanes in Atlanta on September 4.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Will Leach’s air raid offense work?
Let’s start here. Did anyone predict the Bulldogs to go into Tiger Stadium and beat LSU the way they did? After that game, many thought would this Bulldog team win the SEC West and compete with Alabama. Let’s just say it was the complete opposite.
The Bulldogs went on a downward spiral. Going 4-7 and only scored 21 points per game last season. Head coach Mike Leach is doing his best to bring in some talent to Starkville and the defense looks to be better this season.
The offense is looking like they could be the Bulldogs Achilles heel this season.
Kentucky Wildcats: Is another magical season happening in Lexington?
This season for Kentucky will be run by offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Some will say he will come in and make the offense more consistent and electric.
The offense needs to improve in order for the Wildcats to have a chance at making magic this season, only averaging 121.45 yards per game through the air.
Another question is who is going to be taking the snaps for the Cats. Is it Beau Allen or Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood? If they can pull it together, they have a chance at making some noise in the SEC East at the likes of Florida and Georgia.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Can you compete with everyone else?
I think that is the question that’s on the minds of many. The answer? They will try their best.
The Commodores will be under first-year head coach Clark Lea, who was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame last year. The task in Nashville is always tall as they compete in the East with Florida, Georgia, in-state rivals Tennessee, and Missouri. Coach Lea has a hill to climb to build a respectable program and a talented culture in Nashville.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Can Pittman lead you to the promised land?
Sam Pittman has brought something to Arkansas. He brought a different culture than what was there in Fayetteville. Pittman and his Razorbacks went 3-7 last season beating Ole Miss and Tennessee in the process. Not impressive some will say but let’s be honest...Arkansas improved every single week and they were hard to play against.
This season Pittman will continue to learn from his team.
On offense, they’ll have to rely on a different man under center. Felipe Franks has graduated and the eyes will now be on either KJ Hornsby, Malik Hornsby or Lucas Coley to lead this Arkansas offense. The offensive line was one area the Razorbacks improved on from game to game last season and look to do the same this season.
There will be some growing pains in Fayetteville as this team learns from each other from the players to the coaching staff. This should be very beneficial to their success. The Razorbacks will be a very tough team to play against this season if they can keep doing what they’re doing and learn from last season.
Auburn Tigers: Can Harsin lead Auburn to where they want to go?
This will be Bryan Harsin’s first time competing in the SEC with the Auburn Tigers after coming from Boise State in 2014. It’s a new challenge for the Tigers coach.
It’ll be a tall task as always down on the plains with expectations through the roof like competing and beating in-state rival Alabama, beating Georgia, turn an offense around after looking stall at times, develop quarterback Bo Nix and then compete in the SEC West. That looks like the chores list you saw growing up.
That is what the Auburn family is hoping he will do. Since the last time Auburn won the SEC West title back in 2017, it’s been a roller coaster of a journey. They beat Alabama once and lost to Georgia every time. The last time they were in the national championship conversation was in 2013 losing to Florida State in Pasadena. You can say the program hasn’t been consistent in a long time. The one area Auburn and Harsin need to be consistent at is the offense.
The Tigers went 6-5 last year and only averaged 220 passing yards a game.
Missouri: Will you make noise in the East?
The talent is there in Columbia especially on offense thanks to head coach Eli Drinkwitz.
His ability to grab players from the transfer portal will be essential for the Tigers to rise in the SEC and in the nation. The key, they’re returning their starting quarterback Connor Bazalek who should progress in his second season at the Zou. Also, the Tigers return three starters on the offensive line this year and that alone will help the backfield in a lot of ways. Now that Larry Roundtree is in the NFL, he’ll be tough to replace. And if the Tigers can have one of their running backs step this season, Missouri will make plenty and I mean plenty of noise in the SEC East.
Follow WAFF’s coverage of SEC Media Days all week with Carl Prather and Georgia Chambers.
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