SEC Media Days have finally arrived. The unofficial start to the 2016 season has begun. Let’s all rejoice.
From Monday through Thursday, 14 coaches and 42 players — plus commissioner Greg Sankey — will be made available to what is a growing number of print, radio and television representatives each and every year.
Aside from the micro issues for each program that will be covered ad nauseum, there are also a handful of macro topics on the table that potentially affect the conference as a whole. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh held approximately 206 satellite camps this summer, so that conversation isn’t fading away any time soon.
Unfortunately, only a few of the coaches are genuinely interesting. The rest eventually sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Reporters deserve some of the blame, though. Too many of them just lob softballs.
Personally, I’m looking forward to chatting with players. Here’s what I’ve been waiting all offseason to ask.
Alabama DE Jonathan Allen
You just won a national championship and could have been a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, plus so many of your former teammates are now in the pros. What could you possibly have left to prove in college?
Seriously, this young man had done everything there was to do in Tuscaloosa. That being said, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed both slipped into Round 2 of April’s draft. Maybe Allen wants more time to prove that he’s worthy of being a first-rounder.
Arkansas TE Jeremy Sprinkle
Hunter Henry developed into an All-American in this offense, which is at its best when the play-action pass is used effectively. How good can you be now as the primary tight end?
Sprinkle was one of my most underrated performers in the SEC this past season. The Hogs could really move the football with hard play-action fakes to Alex Collins. Both Henry and Sprinkle made a lot of big plays as a result. Maybe Sprinkle’s numbers really spike with Henry having moved on to the NFL.
Auburn DT Montravius Adams
When coach Gus Malzahn’s offense is working, it’s scoring points in bunches. But when it’s not, you’re back on the field in a hurry. How does that affect you as a defensive lineman?
When I attended the Scouting Combine in February, former Tiger Peyton Barber admitted that the pace of Malzahn’s offense sometimes forced him to run on “all heart” because he was out of gas. Now imagine someone as big as Adams hardly being able to catch his breath due to a three-and-out that took less than a minute off the game clock.
Florida S Marcus Maye
While you were an All-SEC performer last year, you played alongside a couple of first-round selections in Vernon Hargreaves and Keanu Neal. What can you do to pick up the slack?
I’m not saying Maye isn’t a great player. He is. But few safeties in the nation had better personnel around him in 2015. Hargreaves was an elite cover man. Not many safeties go in Round 1 of the draft, but Neal did. Fortunately, Jalen Tabor remains at corner. Still, Maye might have to elevate his play based on attrition alone.
Georgia TE Jeb Blazevich
Nobody wants to talk about the senior, Greyson Lambert. It’s all about the freshman, Jacob Eason. How quickly did you get a read on Eason in terms of pure arm talent?
Eason looked like he belonged right away with a quality stat line in the G-Day Game. For all we know, he was the best thrower of the football the moment he stepped foot on campus in January. With a green receiving corps around him, the veteran Blazevich should be a reliable source for scouting his own QBs.
Kentucky C Jon Toth
You guys haven’t been a good fourth-quarter team the last few seasons and probably left a couple of wins on the table. What needs to be done for UK to develop into a 60-minute squad?
The Wildcats lost three conference games last season by five points or less. That’s the difference between going bowling and a second consecutive 5-7 disappointment that left them home for the holidays yet again. Toth needs to help his teammates look inward and find their killer instinct.
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
We all know you can run the ball, but the Tigers won’t improve as an offense unless the passing game takes a big leap forward. How can you help Brandon Harris and Co. be better?
While the Bayou Bengals have a chance to be explosive offensively in 2016, they need to do more than simply hand the ball to Fournette 30-plus times per game. He’s going to be sensational, no question about it, but Harris can’t continue to be all potential. It’s time for him to make a leap and start delivering more down-the-field daggers to Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural.
Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly
Nobody doubts your ability to throw the football, but you were awfully comfortable in the pocket with Laremy Tunsil at left tackle. What’s it like having to replace a guy like that?
I remember talking to former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck once. He said he never worried about his blind side when future Hall of Famer Walter Jones was in the lineup. But when Jones wasn’t there anymore, Hasselbeck had to adjust for the fact that all of a sudden there was more pressure coming from his left. Kelly may experience the same thing.
Mississippi State WR Fred Ross
You’ll no longer be catching passes from Dak Prescott, who was the best quarterback in school history. A new starter is yet to be named. What’s most important to you in a QB?
Prescott may prove to be the single most difficult player in the league to replace. Not only will Dan Mullen have his hands full, but his receivers probably have to recalibrate their expectations. A second consecutive 1,000-yard season for Ross would be a surprise in my book.
Missouri DE Charles Harris
Considering how bad your offense was a season ago, for the most part your unit played terrific defense. How confident are you that you’ll get more help this year from the other side of the ball?
Mizzou was bad offensively in 2015 — bad, bad, bad. The Tigers have a dynamite defense, particularly in the trenches. But D-linemen tire out quickly, so quarterback Drew Lock must improve dramatically and keep drives alive so his defensive mates can stay fresh between series.
South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
You have some big shoes to fill with Pharoh Cooper gone. Even with questionable quarterback play last year, he was sensational. What did you learn from him?
The Gamecocks started three different signal callers this past year, and none of them were especially effective. Somehow, Cooper still delivered an All-SEC performance. Hopefully, he passed some of his knowledge on to Samuel, who is being counted on as a breakout weapon.
Tennessee LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
You’ve been a part of this program through some pretty tough times. Now everybody is expecting the Volunteers to win the SEC East. What’s it like to go from hunter to hunted?
When the Vols lost a heartbreaker to Alabama last season and fell to 3-4, they were forgotten about pretty quickly. But a six-game winning streak to finish the slate reaffirmed the belief that something special is possibly brewing in Knoxville. Reeves-Maybin will have legitimate expectations for the first time in his career.
Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight
A lot of quarterbacks have put up big numbers in this offense. You put up some big numbers yourself while at Oklahoma. How long will it take you to know this system as well as you knew that one?
Faster than you can say “firework,” Knight went from the apple of Katy Perry’s eye to carrying a clipboard behind Baker Mayfield. Having graduated from Oklahoma, he transferred to Texas A&M and is immediately eligible to play. Both schemes spread the field and throw the ball. They’re not identical, though. He’ll have a learning curve. How steep remains to be seen.
Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb
You were one of the top rushers in the league a year ago. But the second-leading rusher on the team only had 43 attempts to your 277. How many carries is too many?
Get this young man some help. Webb is an outstanding running back. But the QB play he endured in 2015 was atrocious more often than not. The lack of depth behind him in the backfield had to have taken its toll, too. Even if he’s too good to take off the field, a more reliable secondary ball carrier would be a welcome addition in Nashville.
Source: Saturday Down South