Dooley: No Media Days sizzle


Georgia's Todd Gurley fields questions during the final day of the 2014 SEC Football Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., on Thursday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 1:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 4:21 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — The extra day of SEC Media Days didn't save it, but it offered something. It was the closest we came to star power all week unless you count seeing Jesse Palmer jogging in the Hyatt Regency parking lot.

Thursday offered up Todd Gurley, the best player in the league and a rush of mini-cams from one ballroom to the other. The surge died quickly at his media table in the main room until he was looking around for questions.

The final day also included the appearance of Alabama, the rock stars of this event every year.

Nick Saban, the Elvis of Media Days, brought his usual hand gestures to the podium as he acted as if he was constantly trying to swat away flies.

But the week still left us wondering and wanting.

That's it?

We spent four days in Hoover, Ala., and most of it was checking the spelling on the names of the players who were brought here. Google must be worn out because so many media members spent so much time trying to find out why the guy with the beard was brought by Missouri.

The league promoted like a carny on steroids this week, but it was promoting the brand more than the brawn. This week was about the SEC Network and the College Football Playoff more than it was about the 2014 SEC race.

We knew coming into these Media Days that the league was lacking in star power because so many players had departed for the NFL. Then Nick Marshall, who was voted the first-team quarterback on the preseason team Thursday, was left home because of an arrest.

The most talked-about player in Hoover wasn't here either because Leonard Fournette of LSU is only a freshman. The coaches dominated the four days, which I'm sure is the way they like it.

There was no need for the podium being used for a player like Tim Tebow. There was no need to stake out your position at a table and post up until Johnny Manziel arrived. Instead, many of the media boys and girls asked the same question over and over.

“Who's this guy again?”

“Those guys were unknown at some point, too, so that's just part of the game," Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott said early in the week. "It leaves the door open for guys to step up and get their name out there."

It doesn't mean the room was devoid of talent this week. It's just that it didn't have any pop.

For example, of the 28 members of the All-SEC team selected by the Associated Press at the end of last season, only four were in Hoover — Ramik Wilson of Georgia, Vernon Hargreaves III of Florida, A.J. Johnson of Tennessee and Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss. All of them are defensive players.

In the main media room where there were hundreds of writers, Ole Miss defensive end C.J. Johnson sat at his elevated table and fielded questions from two reporters. Two. When they were finished, he left.

We've been spoiled over the last decade with Tebow, Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and other players who oozed either charisma or confidence. This week lacked swag.

I'm not saying it was boring. We had the comic relief of Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, trying to slot teams into a fictional bracket and begging us not to Tweet his mistakes.

I'm not saying it was unproductive. In fact, we had better access than ever because so many players drew so little interest from the record 1,267 media members who were credentialed for this event.

It just didn't have any sizzle.

I'm not sure who fielded more questions from the media Thursday — Gurley, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace or one of the Alabama fans in the lobby wearing a “got nick?” T-shirt.

By the end of this season, as Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel pointed out Monday, there will be some household names who are not now. How many college football fans knew who Nick Marshall was last July?

“Some guys are going to have a chance to make a name for themselves,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt. “How many seasons start out where you just don't know what a guy's going to do? Even Jameis Winston, Johnny Football, their first year of starting, all of a sudden they win the Heisman. So anything can happen with a guy who gets his opportunity.”

Plenty of them will get the opportunity, especially at the quarterback positions. Of the 14 teams in the league, less than half of them return the quarterback who started the most games for them a year ago.

It should mean a wide-open race in both divisions even though the media went with the uncreative pick of Alabama to win the SEC Championship again. It's like I have been telling all of the radio people who've had me on shows this year — Florida has a real good team. So do about 10 other teams in this conference.

Richt tried to point to Auburn and Missouri winning the divisions last year as an example of how this league is always wide open. Certainly, those teams came out of nowhere to win their divisions, but it wasn't as if we perceived the race as being impossible to predict in the preseason.

This year, who knows what is going to happen? That's exciting in a way, but there is also this — while talking heads debate whether or not the league could get one or two teams into the first College Football Playoff there is a real chance it could get zero. The league is so balanced you could see a lot of teams with two or more losses.

But that's a long way off. We still aren't close to being finished with what Steve Spurrier calls “talking season.”

It's just that it's not sparkling as brightly as usual.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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