NCF Nation: 2012 Media Days Preview


It's almost time for hundreds of media folk to pile into a swanky ballroom and kick off another year of SEC media days.

The festivities begin Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., and last until Thursday afternoon. The event serves as the unofficial kickoff to SEC football season.

So what should we be on the lookout for this year?

Well, the biggest news is all the star power that won't be making the trip. Two of the league's top rushers -- Marcus Lattimore and Christine Michael -- won't be in town. Yes, they are both coming off season-ending injuries, but so is Arkansas' Knile Davis, and he'll be in attendance.

One of the league's best, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray won't be in Hoover, either. Nor will Bulldogs wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

Some other big names not on the list include Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Missouri quarterback James Franklin.

There are a lot of interesting storylines revolving around all those players, who serve as faces for their respective programs, and it's disappointing that they won't be around this week.

However, some quality names are on this year's roster, including Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.

I'm sure they'll all have plenty to say and should keep us all entertained.

Here are some other things to keep an eye on this week:
  • If you're coming into town, make sure you bring your protective gear for Thursday. That's when Alabama's up, and you'd better believe the lobby will be jam-packed with Tide fans. They come out in full force and expect things to be even tighter this year after that championship.
  • Arkansas players will have to answer a lot of questions surrounding their former coach, Bobby Petrino. How much of a distraction will his exit be this fall?
  • Also, what will new Arkansas coach John L. Smith say? He sure knows how to make a news conference exciting, so don't expect anything to be different in front of all those SEC scribes.
  • One coach not afraid to put on a show while at the podium is South Carolina's Steve Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach has been chirping this year, and he probably won't stop in Hoover.
  • Last year, there were a lot of questions about the quarterback talent in this league. This year, that isn't the case, as the league is as plentiful at the position as it has been in years.
  • Although only Davis will be in town, expect a lot of talk about three of the league's best running backs all coming off major, season-ending injuries.
  • Georgia has had an eventful offseason away from the field, and it's time to see how players and coach Mark Richt are feeling about all of the silly distractions. Also, what's in store for the Bulldogs' running game now that Isaiah Crowell is gone?
  • I wonder how many times Nick Saban and his players will be asked questions about comparisons to the 2010 team. You know how much Saban loves comparison talk. ...
  • Tennessee coach Derek Dooley should field a lot of questions about his job security this week. Regardless of how you feel about the time he's had and all the issues he's had to deal with, his seat is hotter than ever.
  • Texas A&M and Missouri are now officially members of the SEC. How will their players and coaches react to being surrounded by all those SEC writers? And how many more questions will they get about adjusting to their new conference?
  • LSU was on top of the college football world until last year's national championship. The Tigers bring back a boatload of talent, but can they finish things this year?
  • The good news for Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee is their coaches won't have to deal with NCAA questions, unlike last year.

Previewing ACC media days

July, 16, 2012
7/16/12
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Once the ACC football kickoff rolls around, I consider summer officially over and the football season here. Fortunately, the wait is almost over. Here’s a quick look at what’s coming up at the ACC’s media days:

Dates: July 22-23

Location: The Grandover Resort, Greensboro, N.C.

Big names in attendance: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel, Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano, FSU defensive end Brandon Jenkins, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller

Big names not in attendance: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, NC State cornerback David Amerson, UNC RB Giovani Bernard

What to expect:
  • Florida State hype. It’s that time of year again. The media will vote for its preseason favorites to win each division and the league, and the Noles should be the heavy front-runners to win. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. There will be national title talk, and coach Jimbo Fisher will talk about how that’s the goal every year.
  • ACC hype. Commissioner John Swofford will take center stage at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday for his annual “state of the state” report, and he will also field questions from reporters. Considering the ACC’s new partnership with the Orange Bowl, reported interests in Notre Dame for the bowl matchup and pending league expansion, Swofford will have a few things to boast about. Fortunately, it’s not his style to say, “I told you so.”
  • Introductions to Larry Fedora: It will be the first time many members of the media meet North Carolina’s first-year coach. There should be plenty of questions about his philosophies, the changes he has made, and moving on now that the program has come to terms with its NCAA sanctions.
  • Stories about quarterbacks. It should be one of the strongest positions in the ACC this year, and half of the schools are bringing their signal-callers to represent them at the interview table (Manuel, Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington, UNC’s Bryn Renner, NC State’s Mike Glennon, Hokies’ Thomas and Wake Forest’s Tanner Price).
  • Spaz being Spaz. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani is always good for a one-liner or two, but don’t expect any grand revelations about the program’s struggles, the pressure he will be facing this year, or how much better the team might be this season.
  • Randy Edsall smiling. Edsall has made an effort to be more media-friendly following his 2-10 season. The question is how many reporters will be at his table after, well, a 2-10 season.
  • More questions than answers for Miami. Who will be the starting quarterback? How will offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch replace seven starters on offense? How will such a young team handle such a tough schedule? When will the NCAA give the final word? Most likely, Al Golden wonders much of the same heading into his second season.
  • Lots of notes and videos from ESPN.com. We’ll have several reporters there to gather news and notes for you from the afternoon video sessions. The players’ interviews don’t start until 2 p.m. on Sunday, and the coaches’ interviews begin at 2 p.m. on Monday. We’ve got you covered.

Big Ten media days preview

July, 16, 2012
7/16/12
9:00
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You know the season is right around the corner when media days approach. The Big Ten will hold its annual media days and preseason kickoff luncheon next week. Here's a quick preview of the event:

Dates: July 26 and 27

Location: Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago

Big names in attendance: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin; Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan; Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska; James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa; John Simon, DE, Ohio State; Silas Redd, RB, Penn State; Kawann Short, DT, Purdue.

Big names not in attendance: Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State; Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State; Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska; William Gholston, DE, Michigan State; Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin.

What to expect: Here are some of what we think will be the most popular subjects of conversation in Chicago:
  • Playoff talk. The four-team playoff is still a couple of years away, but it figures to be a huge topic of conversation for every conference on the media days circuit this summer. Players and coaches will be asked for their opinion on the subject, and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany likely will field plenty of questions about how the league has fared thus far in the postseason negotiations. The idea of a selection committee and who should serve on it will be a major discussion point.
  • Penn State fallout. You almost feel bad for the three Penn State players (Redd, Jordan Hill and John Urschel) who are attending, along with head coach Bill O'Brien. Though none of them had anything to do with the Sandusky scandal, they will have to answer repeated questions about Joe Paterno and the controversy that has enveloped their campus. So far throughout this trying time, current players and coaches have handled the situation with grace and tact. Also, expect Delany to be grilled about potential Big Ten punishment for the Nittany Lions.
  • Urban Meyer. Few first-year coaches have ever gotten as much attention as Meyer has since he was hired by Ohio State, and understandably so. This is Meyer's first Big Ten showcase event, and there will likely be a buzz in the room when he takes the podium. Also, look for lots of talk about the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry heating up (if it's possible for that to get hotter). And if you don't think Wisconsin's Bret Bielema will be asked at least one question about Meyer, you haven't been paying attention.
  • Heisman hopefuls. The player contingent does not lack for star power this year. Ball was a Heisman finalist last year and will draw a crowd. Same goes for Michigan's Robinson, who will speak on behalf of the players at the kickoff luncheon on Friday. Burkhead is also an outside Heisman candidate, along with Redd.
  • Big Ten/Pac-12 series cancellation. The two leagues announced on Friday their scheduling partnership had dissolved before it ever began. Delany will have to answer questions about what happened to the promising series as well as address how the league plans to address future scheduling. Is a nine-game conference schedule officially back on the table?
  • New coaches. Meyer will be the main attraction, but Penn State's O'Brien and Illinois' Tim Beckman are also making their Big Ten media days debut. There will be much interest in how they will build their programs, particularly for O'Brien.
  • National title potential. The Big Ten is working on a long national championship drought, and none of the league's teams will be among the preseason favorites to win it all. Michigan likely will enter the year as the highest ranked team, and Brady Hoke will be asked about the season opener against Alabama. Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska could all be preseason Top 20 teams. Are any of them BCS title caliber, and what's it going to take for the Big Ten to get back there?
Media days season has arrived, with the SEC getting us started Monday. The Big 12 won't begin until next Monday, but we're opening up a preview here Monday on ESPN.com. Here's what you can expect for the Big 12.

When: Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, July 24. TCU, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will be up on Day 1. Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia will be speaking to the media on Day 2. Here's the full player roster.

Where: Westin Galleria hotel, north Dallas. The players could wander outside the hotel and hit up the skating rink at the Galleria mall, but they'll probably be a little too busy to strap on skates or go shopping.

Big names in attendance: West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones top the list of guys who will be hounded by media from start to finish. The same goes for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, last season's breakout star.

Big names not in attendance: The biggest will be Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt, who's staying home per Mike Gundy's rule against first-year players speaking with the media. He'll be sticking to it, even though he named the true freshman his starting quarterback in the spring. Texas also won't be bringing either of its quarterbacks, including likely starter David Ash. West Virginia is leaving its leading receiver, Stedman Bailey, at home, and Texas star defenders Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro are banned from representing the team to media after an offseason incident. Oklahoma stars and two-thirds of the California trio -- safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills -- won't be representing the Sooners, either.

What to watch for:
  • Media days are traditionally full of mostly fluffy fodder, but the TCU players in attendance will face some pressing, difficult questions. Coach Gary Patterson withheld his players from media interviews for the entirety of the spring after an offseason campus drug sting that resulted in four player arrests and removals from the team. The players haven't been asked about anything surrounding the incidents since, and they're bound to come up in the first interviews since.
  • Look out for a debate on which Big 12 quarterback is the best. You could make a case for Smith, Jones or Klein, but this blog's readers are firmly in the "Smith" camp.
  • This year expect the main topic of conversation to center around "How will TCU and WVU adjust?" It's already been talked about plenty, but for the Big 12, that's better than "Is the league really stable?" or "Will Texas A&M leave?" -- a few of the simmering topics of conversation last year.
  • Each coach gets 15 minutes at the podium before a break for lunch and a return to the breakout room. Players will be available in the afternoon, too. Last year, Art Briles stole the show on the podium, and expect him to do the same with a few one-liners this year. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Texas' Mack Brown are also usually pretty entertaining, but West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen might have a few cracks up his sleeve too, as he looks to make a name for himself in his first Big 12 Media Days.
  • Expect Kansas' Charlie Weis to be disarmingly honest, a refreshing change from his predecessor and the majority of coaches in attendance. Expect Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to drop an "in the end" more than a few times. Kansas State's Bill Snyder will be frivolous in referring to his players as "youngsters."
  • It'll be civil. The SEC has a few coaches who love to prod each other -- mostly Steve Spurrier. The Big 12 coaching fraternity is largely a boring one when it comes to feuds. Everybody looks up to Snyder, respects Stoops and Brown, and gets along with everyone else. If anybody's going to spice it up, it'll be Tuberville or Holgorsen. There aren't many issues or opportunities, unless they want to go out of their way to stir the pot.
  • Here's hoping Paul Rhoads shows up and is so proud of a thick beard. The Big 12 doesn't have a coach with any facial hair, and Rhoads has been rolling with one of the greatest beards in existence all offseason. Please, let it live. This is my plea.
  • We may get a little talk on what the coaches think of bringing in new teams, whether it be Florida State, Notre Dame or Louisville. For now, it's a little early, but realignment is always in the back of any college football fan's mind.

Pac-12 media day primer

July, 16, 2012
7/16/12
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Kevin and I are getting ready for Pac-12 media day next week. So should you. Here's a primer.

(You can see the complete list of attendees here).

Dates: July 24

Location: Universal Studios in Los Angeles

Big names in attendance: Besides four new coaches, USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, California wide receiver Keenan Allen, Washington quarterback Keith Price and Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas.

Big names not in attendance: There are plenty of stars who won't be on hand, but it's hard to argue with the players attending.

So what can we expect?
  • Teams at the top will tamp down expectations. Teams at the bottom will bemoan a lack of respect and insist they don't give a flip about so-called pundits.
  • Every team will claim an outstanding offseason, perhaps even calling workout attendance "the best ever." There's a good chance many will be exaggerating.
  • Four new coaches will get their biggest formal introduction to Pac-12 reporters: Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, Arizona State's Todd Graham, UCLA's Jim Mora and Washington State's Mike Leach. They will be impressed by how awesome we are.
  • Barkley will be asked about opting not to enter the NFL draft. The Pac-12 blog challenges him to figure out a way to answer the question in a surprising way.
  • Oregon coach Chip Kelly will be snarky, no matter how awesome we reporters are.
  • Subjects likely to come up: USC wide receiver Robert Woods' ankle, Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn's shoulders, Matt Scott running Rich Rodriguez's spread-option, the status of Arizona State defensive end Junior Onyeali, USC's depth questions and Kenjon Barner replacing LaMichael James. How much can Cal quarterback Zach Maynard and Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion improve from Year 1 to Year 2? What's the quarterback pecking order at Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA? Other issues include whether Utah running back John White IV prefers to be known as "Juan Blanco" or "The Wolfman," Tosh Lupoi's departure from Cal to Washington and Leach's affinity for Pirates.
  • Graham will be asked about his controversial departure from Pittsburgh for the 10,000th time, and the reporter who does so will win a set of steak knives (there's a reason reporters ask the same question over and over).
  • California coach Jeff Tedford and Oregon State coach Mike Riley will be asked if they feel pressure or feel like they are on the hot seat. Both will say no one puts more pressure on them than themselves and that there is always pressure.
  • Leach will go off on a lengthy tangent that has nothing to do with anything but likely will be interesting and amusing.
  • Stanford coach David Shaw and his players will be asked about life after Andrew Luck.
  • The UCLA contingent will be asked about USC.
  • "Teeth" Price will smile. A lot.
  • Lane Kiffin will say nothing controversial. And some of us will miss the old Kiffin.
  • Someone during post-interview small talk will say, "Man, Star Lotulelei... that dude is big."
  • The coaches will each be asked 47 times about the four-team college football playoff that will start in 2014.
  • Here's a guess that at some point someone asks about Joe Paterno.
  • Oregon and USC will be nearly unanimous choices to win the North and South Divisions, respectively, but somebody will vote differently just to be quirky.
Here is a quick preview of Big East media days this month.

Dates: July 30-31

Location: Newport, R.I.

Big names in attendance: Pitt RB Ray Graham, Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene, Pitt DT Aaron Donald, UConn DE Trevardo Williams, USF QB B.J. Daniels.

Big names not in attendance: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville S Hakeem Smith, Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib (family obligation), Pitt QB Tino Sunseri, Cincinnati QB Munchie Legaux.

What to expect:

1. State of the Big East: I can all but guarantee interim commissioner Joe Bailey is going to put on the hard sell about the merits of the Big East, especially with its incoming members. He has to, considering this is probably the only time all year there will be national media members in attendance to hear what he has to say, and to hear what the league's players and coaches have to say. My biggest hope is that he does a better job than he has in recent interviews. The Big East has to really come out swinging, particularly with TV negotiations to begin in September.

2. Last year of current Big East: I can also guarantee Pitt and Syracuse are going to be fielding questions about whether this is their last year in the league, and how that makes them feel. Are they concerned about that? Do they think they will be bigger targets because they are departing? Neither team had representatives at the recent spring meetings, so you have to think both are going to be in an awkward spot in Newport, with one foot in the door and another foot out.

3. Playoff: The hottest topic of the offseason is sure to be addressed by every coach at media days, along with Bailey and even senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli. The league has done its best to spin the playoff as a positive in all directions. I think it is a positive that there is a four-team playoff, but I also think it's a negative the Big East is losing its guaranteed spot in a major bowl.

4. Divisional alignment: The league is expected to vote on and announce its division alignment starting with the 2013 season, when six new members come into the league (Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU, UCF). The three models under consideration are North-South, East-West or non-geographic.

5. TV questions: You can bet representatives from all the TV networks interested in bidding on the Big East are going to be there, the way they were a year ago. Only now, there is a much bigger sense of urgency because of questions about the future of the league and whether it can match the deal it turned down from ESPN last year.

6. Ray Graham: I am actually surprised to see Pitt is bringing Graham, because he is going to be bombarded with questions about his knee. I have to think Pitt is extremely confident in what he has done during the rehab process to bring him along. In every interview I have done with Graham, he has been a class act, so I am sure Pitt believes he will handle himself appropriately when all the queries come his way.

7. Louisville: Even though Bridgewater won't be there, coach Charlie Strong is sure to field plenty of questions about his starting quarterback. Bridgewater has made the leap into the national spotlight with his name being on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the best player in college football. Strong is sure to be asked how Bridgewater avoids the clichéd "sophomore slump" and how his young team deals with increasing expectations.

8. Favorites? Along those lines, the Big East appears to be wide open once again, so coaches are going to be asked about the competitive nature of the league. You can also bet that USF coach Skip Holtz is going to be fielding questions about how his team breaks the mold and lives up to expectations.

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