There are countless storylines coming out at SEC Media Days every year, but there is one very distinct theme heading into this week’s edition.
Yes, there’s lot of “new” things to ponder and discuss.
Here are five:
The new venue
The SEC has taken members of the media — and to some degree the coaches and players — out of their comfort zone with this move to Atlanta.
After so many years in Birmingham/Hoover, Ala., many are going to be scrambling around trying to find out where they need to be and when in their new surroundings.
In Hoover, it was all routine stuff, so it will be interesting to see how everyone reacts to the change, and whether the Alabama fans show up en masse like they did in Hoover.
Here’s one good aspect of the move: Atlanta is more centrally located, making it an easier (and quicker) trip for many, which likely will lead to another record turnout.
Here’s something else the media is going to like: more eating (and drinking) options in the big city.
The new coaches
Usually, there are one or two. This year we have an unprecedented number — six. But we’re going to reduce that number by one because Dan Mullen has been here before, nine times, in fact, with Mississippi State, so there’s not much new here for him.
The five other new coaches will be at the podium for the first time — Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee), Matt Luke (Ole Miss), Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State) and Chad Morris (Arkansas).
So, there you go six instant storylines, including Mullen.
Fisher certainly will get a lot of attention, him and his guaranteed $75 million salary.
Is Georgia the new Alabama?
The early indications are it’s possible. Very possible.
In only his second year, Kirby Smart led the Bulldogs to the SEC title last fall and had them one play away from winning the school’s first national championship since 1980.
Then he followed that up by putting together the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, and the best in school history.
Others have tried to follow the Nick Saban blueprint, with little success. Smart is the Saban guy who really seems to get it.
That’s not good news for Alabama, and certainly not for the six other teams in the East, who could see a gap growing between them and UGA over the next few seasons.
Possibly/probably a new Tide QB
Other than winning another national title, the big talk in Tuscaloosa during the offseason has centered around the quarterback situation.
Who’s the starter going to be?
Is it going to be Jalen Hurts, who has been so impressive in leading the Tide to the national championship game two years in a row?
Or will it be flashy rising sophomore Tua Tagovailoa, who came off the bench to lead the Tide to the come-from-behind win over Georgia in the national title game in January?
Or will both end up playing?
These are questions Saban could not really address in the spring because Tagovailoa broke a bone in his hand in the first practice and was sidelined the rest of the way, postponing the competition until this summer and the start of preseason camp.
There has been speculation that Hurts will leave if he does not win the starting job.
Saban certainly will be hit with lots of QB questions during his time at the podium (and in the hallways) this week.
The new redshirt rule
The coaches are certainly going to get asked lots of questions about the NCAA’s new rule, and they’re going to happily respond because they seem to love it.
It’s a win-win situation for the coaches — and the players.
Under the new rule, a player can play in up to four games in a season and still redshirt that year. What it means is we’re going to see more true freshmen on the field — early in the season and again late — starting this season.
Coaches can take two approaches. They can play true freshmen early and see if they’re capable of making a serious contribution. After four games, they can make that determination and then either redshirt them or continue to play them.
Another option is see how the freshmen develop over the course of the season, and if they are eventually deemed ready to play, activate them for the final four games without costing them a year of eligibility.
The coaches will have an interesting take on all this.