After a one year hiatus, SEC Media Days will return to Hoover, Alabama after it was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 considerations. In 18 of the last 19 years, Media Days have taken place in Hoover, with the lone exception of Atlanta hosting the event in 2018.
This year’s Media Days features four new head coaches as many teams prepare to go back to full capacity for the 2021 season. With the conference playing an SEC only schedule last season comprising ten games, everything will go back to normal as teams have out of conference opponents and a 12 game regular season schedule.
As COVID-19 protocols soften and norms return, most if not all teams will not have to worry about COVID-19 having a huge effect on their season as in the past. With the season less than a month and days away, much is still the same for SEC teams heading into the season. Here is what you should expect to hear from coaches and questions to consider:
Alabama: Can you do it again?
This almost sounds like a broken record for the Crimson Tide lead by Nick Saban, arguably one of the greatest coaches in college football. Coming off of his seventh national title all time, (sixth while being at Alabama), Saban has established a culture of winning where if you’re not playing in the national title game or winning it, the season is considered a failure. The Tide is bringing in another top recruiting class for 2021 and will look to build off of that. With as much talent that Saban is able to bring in each year, this year many are expecting quarterback Bryce Young to get the nod and lead the offense.
The Tide will open the season against Miami in the Chick-Fil-A kickoff game in Atlanta which will be a tough early season matchup.
Georgia: When will you get over the hump?
Since head coach Kirby Smart took over the reins at Georgia in 2016, he has a 52-14 record as head coach. That record includes three SEC East titles, one SEC title, a national championship appearance and four bowl victories. Nonetheless, the record shows that Smart has had success while at Georgia but the question remains, “Can he win a national title?” Not to remind Bulldogs fans of what they already know but it has been over 40 years since their last title and many are starving for a championship. Smart has also proven to bring in top talent finishing within the top five of recruiting class this year but their season opener against Clemson in Charlotte will be a huge first test. The Bulldogs are without their top wide receivers in George Pickens, Demetris Robertson (transferring), Jermaine Burton and Dominick Blaylock due to injuries. With the addition of transfer Arik Gilbert and returning receiver Kearis Jackson, their first game will show if the receiving core will be enough to go through the season.
Texas A&M: Is this the year they beat Bama?
This may seem like a tall task for the Aggies but the reality is that head coach Jimbo Fisher was brought to College Station to not only compete in the SEC West but win the West and win an SEC title to compete for the national championship. Since Fisher’s arrival, he has shown promise but has not been able to get over the hump. After being left out of the College Football Playoff last season, the Aggies will look to get into the top four this season.
With the absence of quarterback Kellen Mond, the Aggies will have to figure out who will be the leader of the offense? Most are suspecting Haynes King to be the guy. The Aggies will have returning top rusher Isaiah Spiller in the backfield.
Florida: Can you win the East again?
The SEC East is usually simple year and year and this year shall be no different. Georgia or Florida? Who will come out of the East? Last season proved to be the Gators year going undefeated in the SEC East yet falling to the Aggies on the road and LSU at home. Dan Mullin has proven to be an offensive mastermind after having Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and a dynamic offense, the Gators averaged 39.83 points per game, 378.58 passing yards per game and a total of 509.8 yards per game.
The Gators will try to produce similar yardage with senior quarterback Emory Jones who will likely get the nod at quarterback this season. They will also return one of their top cornerbacks in Kaiir Elam who finished with two interceptions and eleven pass breakups. The Gators success will be determined in their performance against the SEC East and notably their rival, Georgia. Their early season test against Alabama on September 18 will be a huge measuring stick for them.
LSU: Who is the quarterback? Can you get back to your high standards?
These are some of the same questions the Tigers have had for the longest. Ever since their magical 2019 championship run, the Tigers have failed to live up to the heights of being a powerhouse contender within the SEC West. After finishing 5-5 last season, head coach Ed Orgeron is looking for a better outing this season and get the Tigers back to the top of the SEC.
One of the main questions surrounding the program is their quarterback. The Tigers rotated between quarterbacks last season and with the departure of TJ Finley, it leaves the options at Myles Brennan and Max Johnson.
Not only are the Tigers looking for answers on the offensive end, they will need to improve on defense. Last season, the Tigers surrendered 323 yards passing per game, 169 rushing yards per game and 54.1 points per game.
Tennessee: Let’s start fresh
This is not a question but more so a statement. Since the firing of Jeremy Pruitt, new head coach Josh Heupel has his work cut out for him. Before we dive into the details of everything that the Volunteers will look forward to this season, the most important task Heupel will have is making the Volunteers a respectable program first. After finishing the past season 3-7, it was unacceptable and disappointing to say the least.
Offense is going to be the most important thing to fix as the Volunteers averaged 21.5 points a game. One of the quarterbacks that shows promise is Harrison Bailey who got a bit of action last season in six games could be the guy that Heupel builds his program around.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Volunteers defense allowed 30.1 points per game. With a schedule against SEC opponents Alabama, Georgia and Florida on a yearly basis, it will be a tough road for the Volunteers to get back to that level.
Ole Miss: Can you get over the hump?
The Rebels have for the most part been the middle of a pack team over the past few years in the SEC and SEC West. After finishing at .500 last season in the SEC, the Rebels will look to compete with the top tier of the SEC West (Alabama, Texas A&M and others).
Head Coach Lane Kiffin is known for his offense and has not disappointed on that side of the football. The Rebels averaged 39.2 points last season while passing for 344.9 yards per game. Matt Coral will continue to be the starter more than likely and lead the Rebels offense.
The defense is where the Rebels can improve and if they figure it out, they could create a lot of havoc in the SEC West. While safeties Jake Springer and A.J. Finley leads the deepest and arguably the strongest part of the Rebels defense, they will need to improve the defensive line and linebackers. 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 September 6th, on Labor Day, in Atlanta.
South Carolina: What can we do with what we have?
The Gamecocks are going to be led under first year head coach Shane Beamer. Beamer worked under Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley who led the nation’s highest scoring offense in 2018. Beamer’s first task will be to compete within the SEC East and develop a high scoring offense to contend in the East for the future.
Beamer will have the option of choosing between transfer Jason Brown, freshman Colton Gauthier and sophomore Luke Doty. While it is undetermined who Beamer will roll with at this moment, Doty is the safe option as he knows the offense and can extend plays with his legs.
Auburn: Can Harsin get Auburn to prosperity?
New Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin will be completing his first season within the SEC this upcoming season after being at Boise State since 2014. Harsin is one of few coaches with a tall task in the SEC because of expectations. Those expectations include, competing and beating in-state rival Alabama, beating Georgia, fixing a Tigers offense which looked stagnant at times, developing current quarterback Bo Nix and eventually leading the Tigers to a SEC West title.
While this may seem like a lot, the Tigers expect Harsin to eventually get it done.
Since the Tigers last SEC West title in 2017, they have been up and down since. They have beat Alabama once and lost to Georgia ever since. They haven’t been to a national title game since 2013 and need consistency. The most important thing Harsin will have to be consistent in is offense. Last year, the Tigers finished 6-5 while averaging 220.27 passing yards per game.
Missouri: Will they make noise in the East?
There is no doubt that the Tigers will have many options on offense thanks to head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. His ability to get players through the transfer portal such as Mookie Cooper could help the Tigers offense rise within the SEC and throughout the nation. Most importantly, they will return quarterback Connor Bazalek who will likely progress in his second season as the Tigers quarterback. While he finished last season with a completion percentage of 67 percent, seven touchdowns and six interceptions, the ability to gain more reps from offseason and spring practice should be beneficial to him and the offense.
Not to mention, the Tigers return three of their offensive lineman which will help in the backfield. While Larry Roundtree will be missed, if the Tigers can have one runningback step up, the Tigers will create a lot of noise in the East.
Mississippi State: Is the air raid going to work?
After the Bulldogs upset the defending champions in LSU on the road last season, many wondered after that game if the Bulldogs would make a run for the SEC West title and compete against Alabama. Instead, it was the opposite. The Bulldogs would finish the season with a 4-7 record and an abysmal 21.36 points per game.
While head coach Mike Leach is able to bring in recruits on defense, the offense will continue to be the Bulldogs’ Achilles heel as they try to compete in the SEC.
Vanderbilt: Can you compete?
The question is simple and the answer is that they will try. The Commodores will be under first year head coach Clark Lea who came from Notre Dame serving as a defensive coordinator. Year and year, the task is tall for the Commodores as they will struggle to compete to make it to the middle of the SEC East standings at best. While it is possible that it could happen, Lea has a tall task of building a winning culture and getting consistent talent to come play for him in Nashville.
Arkansas: When will we know if Pittman can lead the Razorbacks to higher heights?
In his first season as head coach, Sam Pittman finished with a 3-7 overall record with notable wins against Ole Miss and Tennessee. While the record may not show it, the Razorbacks got better as the season went on and were competitive in most of their games. As Pittman goes into his second season, he will continue to learn from his team.
With quarterback Felipe Franks leaving due to graduation, Pittman will have to look to KJ Hornsby, Malik Hornsby or Lucas Coley as the next man up. One of the strong improvements of the Razorbacks is their offensive line which continued to improve from game to game.
As they go to a full 12 game schedule this season, Pittman and the Razorbacks may go through some growing pains which could be beneficial to their future.
One thing that is certain about the Razorbacks is that they will be a tough team to put away as time goes on. They will go as far as Pittman can lead.
Kentucky: Will they have a special season?
Wildcats wide receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali have been working all offseason to get better at wide receiver. This season their offense will be run by offensive coordinator Liam Coen who many Wildcats fans anticipate will create a more consistent and electric offense. It is one of the needs for improvements with the Wildcats as they finished last season averaging 121.45 yards per game through the air.
The key to the offense success will be quarterback Beau Allen or Joey Gatewood. If the Wildcats can bring it all together on offense, they will give themselves a chance against SEC East foes Florida, Missouri and maybe Georgia.