ATLANTA (WIAT) — 2022 SEC Media Days are set to kick off Monday in Atlanta.
The annual four-day event puts the college football world in a chokehold as the top programs are showcased ahead of the upcoming season. There are several major storylines going into this year’s Media Days including NIL deals, conference expansion and coaches on the hot seat.
Here are just five of the things to look out for during this week’s conference.
How will Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher act after offseason war of words
One of the more memorable moments this offseason has been the feud between Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher. The former master and padawan traded barbs at each other after Saban made comments about NIL deals in college football and how the Aggies were able to use them to claim the No. 1 recruiting class.
“You read about it, you know who they are. We were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team,” Saban said at an event in Birmingham back in May.
Fisher responded by calling out Saban as a narcissist and a hypocrite. He also denied paying for players and said he did not cheat in his recruiting.
Saban has since said he has no problem with Fisher but the Aggie frontman has since said he and his former boss are “done.”
The comments also landed Saban in hot water with Deion Sanders, the head coach at Jackson State, after Sanders was able to bring the top recruit in the nation, Travis Hunter, to the Tigers. They have since squashed their beef.
After a tumultuous 2021 season that saw the Auburn Tigers climb all the way to No. 13 in the polls only to lose their last five games to drop to 6-7, many speculated head coach Bryan Harsin might not be at SEC Media Days this year.
Part of the worry regarding Harsin’s job security was partly due to the 18 players transferring and five coaches leaving the university following the end of the season. There were rumblings that players were mistreated under Harsin’s watch.
A review into Harsin was conducted at the beginning of the year by the school and then-President Jay Gogue released a statement saying Harsin had the full backing of the Board of Trustees going into 2022.
Harsin called the review of him and his staff was “one of the hardest weeks of my career.” If Auburn had decided to fire the head coach, the Tigers would be on the hook to pay him just over $18 million which would have put the total number of dollars the university would be spending on coaches not at Auburn to $40 million.
While Harsin did secure a second season in Auburn, it will be important to see the Tigers make a leap and win more than six games for the first time since 2019. It will begin for Auburn in Atlanta on Thursday.
Kirby Smart-est guy in the room
Georgia is coming off its first national championship in over 40 years back in January at the hands of Alabama. Head coach Kirby Smart notched his first career win over Saban and did behind a dominating defense and stellar play from quarterback Stetson Bennett. The issue now for the Bulldogs will be replicating that success.
Thankfully for Georgia fans, Bennett will be returning to Athens but the rest of the team will look very different this upcoming season. The Bulldogs lost eight players on that defensive unit alone and 15 overall.
Despite this, Georgia will still likely be the favorite to come out of the SEC East as that has been what the Bulldogs have done under Smart. Since he took over the team in 2016, Smart has led Georgia to four SEC Championship games, winning in 2017 on route to a berth in the national championship.
Usually playing as little brother to Alabama, it will be interesting to see Georgia coming into Media Days as the top dog, no pun intended.
Bryce Not-So Young
Although he’s not legally allowed to buy a beer yet, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is wise beyond his age.
The 20-year-old has already won a trophy room full of awards including the Heisman Trophy and led the Crimson Tide to the national championship last season. He’s already being touted by many as the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft if he is able to continue his incredible collegiate career in Tuscaloosa.
There is unrelenting pressure on Young’s shoulders but he has given no doubts that he is able and willing to step up to the challenges that all quarterbacks at Alabama face. He has said in the past that that is the reason he came to Tuscaloosa.
He will be making his SEC Media Days debut on Tuesday alongside fellow All-American Will Anderson and defensive standout Jordan Battle.
Will Brian Kelly break out his ‘Southern accent’ again
When former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was hired by LSU back in November, he made a surprise appearance in Baton Rouge in December during a men’s basketball game.
He took the mic at center court and proceeded to speak to the crowd about what it means to be an LSU Tiger and how much it meant to be there with his “fAmlee.”
Born in Massachusetts and coaching exclusively above the Mason-Dixon Line, Kelly appeared to have developed a southern accent overnight much to the chagrin of the internet.
The head coach got quite the ribbing on social media and later admitted to not being able to nail the accent during an interview with ESPN.
He seems to have abandoned trying to blend in but we can only hope it gets a second life in a “Geaux Tigers” chant a la Coach Ed Orgeron.
SEC Media Days begin at 11:35 a.m. Monday with Kelly and his LSU players. The full schedule of the event can be found below:
11:35 a.m. | LSU- Brian Kelly, WR Jack Bech, LB Mike Jones Jr., DE BJ Ojulari
1:30 p.m. | Ole Miss- Lane Kiffin, WR Jonathan Mingo, DE Cedric Johnson, OL Nick Broeker
2:55 p.m. | Missouri- Eli Drinkwitz, WR Barrett Banister, DB Martez Manuel, DL Isaiah McGuire
8:05 a.m. | Alabama- Nick Saban, LB Will Anderson, DB Jordan Battle, QB Bryce Young
9:30 p.m. | Vanderbilt- Clark Lea, TE Ben Bresnahan, LB Anfernee Orji, QB Mike Wright
12 p.m. | Mississippi State- Mike Leach, DT Jaden Crumedy, LB Nathaniel Watson, WR Austin Williams
1:25 p.m. | South Carolina- Shane Beamer, OL Jovaughn Gwyn, WR Dakereon Joyner, DL Zacch Pickens
8:05 a.m. | Arkansas- Sam Pittman, S Jalen Catalon, QB KJ Jefferson, LB Bumper Pool
9:30 a.m. | Georgia- Kirby Smart, QB Stetson Bennett IV, LB Nolan Smith, OL Sedrick Van Pran
12 p.m. | Florida- Billy Napier, QB Anthony Richardson, OL Richard Gouraige, LB Ventrell Miller
1:25 p.m. | Kentucky- Mark Stoops, QB Will Levis, OG Kenneth Horsey, LB DeAndre Square
8:05 a.m. | Auburn- Bryan Harsin, RB Tank Bigsby, DE Derick Hall, TE John Samuel Shenker
9:30 a.m. | Tennessee- Josh Heupel, S Trevon Flowers, QB Hendon Hooker, WR Cedric Tillman
11:30 a.m. | Texas A&M- Jimbo Fisher, DB Demani Richardson, OL Layden Robinson, WR Ainias Smith