The SEC’s 10 most intriguing people of media days

semerson@macon.comJuly 15, 2013 

APTOPIX Texas A M Alabama Football

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is joined by wide receiver Kenric McNeal (5) and defensive back Dustin Harris (22) as they celebrate after the Aggies defeated top-ranked Alabama 29-24 in an NCAA college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.

DAVE MARTIN — AP

HOOVER, Ala. -- The most renowned football conference in America doesn’t really need to do anything to hype its season. That, as it has been obvious for a while now, is not the object of this week’s gathering in the Wynfrey Hotel.

SEC media days, which begin Tuesday, have become just another moment in the culture of the conference. And this year all the star power will be on display: the famous head coaches; the reigning Heisman trophy winner; the man-child likely to be the first pick in next year’s NFL draft.

There will be more than a thousand credentialed media members, hundreds of autograph-seeking fans, 14 head coaches and 42 players at the Wynfrey. But here are the few people who should be the most intriguing to watch:

1. Johnny Manziel

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is tip-toeing around the edge of problem child status. The offseason was an eventful one, and the most recent incident -- reportedly getting booted from Peyton Manning’s quarterback camp -- came within a few days of Manziel’s Wednesday appearance in Hoover.

So that’s one thing to ask Manziel. Also, whether getting a parking ticket warrants a tweet (quickly deleted) saying he can’t wait to leave College Station. And, of course, whether he might do just that after this, his redshirt sophomore season.

Last year, Texas A&M came under some criticism for not letting Manziel speak to the media. Given all this, the school deserves some credit for bringing him to Hoover.

2. Jadeveon Clowney

People forget that Clowney never actually said he was considering sitting out his junior season in order to protect himself for the draft. It was only suggested by a columnist, then became a running national debate. Clowney, however, will doubtless be asked about it this week.

The mammoth South Carolina defensive end also will be asked about his famous hit on a Michigan tailback during bowl seasson, what he has in store for Aaron Murray, who he hopes is the worst team in the NFL this year and much more.

3. Mike Slive

The fact this event is drawing more than a thousand media members and being broadcast on ESPN is a testament to how successful Slive has been as commissioner. When he speaks Tuesday to kick off the event, he’s not likely to make much news, unless he desires.

Still, there will be plenty to ask Slive: SEC future scheduling for one, with the 2014 schedule still unknown. Are there any more firm plans for the SEC Network? Will the SEC follow the Big Ten’s lead on punishing players for dangerous hits? What about the football playoff selection committee?

Or … Has Slive thought any more about retirement? If the 72-year-old is thinking about it, he might look at the (successful) monster he has created this week and wonder why he would ever leave?

4. Nick Saban

Whoever is coaching Alabama, even when it was Mike Shula, needs security to beat back fans and media at this event. Saban is coming off a third national title, so imagine the ruckus now.

5. Steve Spurrier

You don’t know the provocative or entertaining thing he’s going to say. You don’t know whether he has something planned or if it will be a quick-thinking retort to a question. But since Spurrier believes he has a good South Carolina team again, he’s going to feel comfortable enough to say something.

6. Bret Bielema

There are four new head coaches, but Bielema not only comes in with the most credentials, having been a success at Wisconsin, but he also seems the most quotable. Bielema has been quite talkative on his Twitter account, and on the speaking circuit, so the Arkansas head coach might make some waves Wednesday.

7. A.J. McCarron

Alabama’s starting quarterback might not even make the second-team when the preseason All-SEC teams are released Thursday. Georgia’s Aaron Murray may edge him out. But McCarron has been at the helm for two straight national titles, and his Q-rating wasn’t hurt by the hub-bub Brent Musberger made about his girlfriend last year during the BCS national championship game.

8. Les Miles

The LSU head coach has become the comic relief at SEC functions, often unintentionally. But the situation with tailback Jeremy Hill is not funny. Hill plead guilty Friday to a simple battery charge, but Miles has not updated his status for the season. There are calls for Miles to boot Hill, who in January 2012 plead guilty in another case.

9. Hugh Freeze

The Mississippi head coach caused quite a stir with his pre-National Signing Day tweet challenging people to turn in any supposed recruiting violations the Rebels had committed. That will come up Tuesday. It will be interesting to see if Freeze is just as chesty as his tweet -- and his recruiting -- attests or will keep things toned down, as he has since signing day.

10. Urban Meyer

Wait, what? Meyer coaches Ohio State now, right? Yes, but the Aaron Hernandez murder arrest has put Meyer’s time at Florida under a microscope and rekindled the debate about how much a head coach should be responsible for the actions of his players.

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