With few quarterbacks coming to SEC Media Days, the 2021 football season could get crazy | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

With SEC Media Days returning to (almost) normal, one good rule of thumb on guessing how the upcoming season will go is to show up (or tune in) for the Hooverpalooza and count the quarterbacks.

Most media members would love to have 14 quarterbacks available. For one thing, quarterbacks tend to be the face of the team. When you have the occasional college superstar at the podium, a Tebow or Tua or Johnny Manziel, they attract more attention than the coaches, with the possible exception of Nick Saban. The circus atmosphere that used to greet Saban as he descended the escalator into the throng of fans isn’t what it was, in part because of the coronavirus and in part because he’s managed to win so much that he doesn’t generate the initial frenzy of his early Alabama years.

This year, there are only three quarterbacks scheduled to appear: Auburn’s Bo Nix, Mississippi’s Matt Corral and Georgia’s J.T. Daniels. Only Daniels is among the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites in Las Vegas casinos, but most of the money that comes in at this point is going to be wagered on quarterbacks of teams that are expected to have a good shot at the College Football Playoff.

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That’s why Bryce Young, prior to his first college start, is also among the early favorites. Remember that it was late October before Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith made the power move that allowed him to jet past Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. 

Those numbers prove a point, though. Of the 14 SEC coaches, 11 aren’t at a level of certainty about their own quarterback, at least to the extent that they feel comfortable enough bringing a quarterback to Hoover. The quarterbacks could probably handle it. The SEC media corps can be fierce, especially if a luncheon isn’t served, but it’s not as bad as having to face an angry DeMarvin Leal, the Texas A&M pass rusher.

The quarterback is the face of the program, though, and I’d still rather hear from Missouri’s Connor Bazelak or Mississippi State’s Will Rogers than some linebacker from Columbia or Starkville. Plus, Alabama’s sessions on Wednesday, with two worthy veterans, will be filled with the inevitable “Talk about Bryce Young …” requests.

It’s entirely possible that some of the quarterbacks who aren’t here will develop into stars. There were no in-person SEC Media Days in 2020, but who knew what Matt Jones would become, or Kyle Trask for that matter. LSU may be going with a two-quarterback system with Myles Brennan and Max Johnson, at least in the early going. Heck, bring them both to Hoover and let them talk about each other, just to liven things up. (Ed Orgeron doesn’t mind his crawfish being spicy but that might be a little too spicy even for him.) 

Hoover will be awash in questions about the NIL, the transfer portal and the potential expansion of the College Football Playoff to 12 teams, even though that expansion may not come in time for any of the players on hand this week to participate.

Saban, the current pontiff of college football, has addressed the transfer issue fairly often but has yet to offer any real views on playoff expansion or NIL.

There will be plenty of questions about those topics to all coaches and some of their answers will carry weight. SEC Media Days is an appropriate venue for those questions. But the gathering at the Wynfrey has also become a symbol that the season is at hand, and, whether from hot-button fatigue or giddy expectations for their own team, it would be fun to talk to at least a few more quarterbacks along the way and get some insight into what might be an unpredictable season.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt