SEC media days features no new coaches, few QBs

Published 6:15 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Even the ol’ ball coach is old news now.

The Southeastern Conference Media Days kick off Wednesday without a new coach to introduce — or in the case of South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier reintroduce — himself to league reporters.

The only marquee quarterback attending is Florida’s Chris Leak. The only 1,000-yard rusher is Kenneth Darby of Alabama.

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Without those standard story lines, much of the talk might be academic — relating to the use of “directed reading” courses at Auburn by students, including some athletes.

Last year, Spurrier, Florida’s Urban Meyer, LSU’s Les Miles and Mississippi’s Ed Orgeron were all making their media days debuts.

“This is the first time since I’ve been in the league that every coach is back,” Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville said, “and this is my 12th year.”

In fact, it hasn’t happened since 1988 in a league that’s endured 36 coaching changes since then.

It’s not a trend toward coaching job security in the ultra-competitive league, Spurrier has said, “just a down year for firing.”

With quarterback Brandon Cox and All-SEC tailback Kenny Irons returning, Tuberville’s toughest questions when he appears Friday could focus on the classroom rather than the playing field.

He hasn’t commented publicly on an Auburn sociology professor’s claims that a colleague taught more than 250 students — including 18 football players — during the 2004-05 academic year in the one-on-one directed reading classes.

A number of SEC coaches will have another topic on their minds: new quarterbacks. At least five league teams will be starting new quarterbacks this season, including Alabama and defending champion Georgia.

If there was any doubt that Mississippi State sophomore Michael Henig would remain the Bulldogs’ No. 1 passer, Sylvester Croom’s decision to make him one of his two player representatives at media days might alleviate that.

Henig started the final three games last season after Omarr Conner, a 17-game starter at quarterback, moved back to wide receiver. Ole Miss’ anticipated starter is Brent Schaeffer, a former Tennessee and junior college player who hasn’t even practiced with the team.

Among the projected SEC frontrunners, Tuberville said: “Tennessee, Florida, us and LSU have basically got our quarterbacks back and Georgia has got so many players over there.”

But, he added, “When you start a new quarterback, it’s an interesting year.”