We've still got another six weeks or so before the college football season kicks off, but the juices will start to get flowing on Wednesday with Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, Ala.
There doesn't figure to be the kind of individual spectacle that came with Tim Tebow's arrival last year, but the three-day event certainly won't be short on story lines. The first day figures to be a zoo, with Alabama Coach Nick Saban and Florida Coach Urban Meyer resuming their tug-of-war for control of the SEC and the college football landscape. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram will also make an appearance. Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips will make his SEC Media Days debut on opening day as well.
Here's a look at some of the other hot topics that figure to come up during the week.
Conference expansion/realignment: For all the summer buildup regarding conference expansion and realignment, there were only a few slight tweaks made. And while the SEC stood pat, you know that Commissioner Mike Slive will be grilled about the possibilities for expansion down the road.
Saban vs. Meyer: Meyer was on top of the world going into last year's Media Days, coming off a national title with perhaps the most celebrated college football player of the modern era at his side in Tebow. Now it's Saban who appears to be the league's alpha dog after toppling Meyer and Florida in the SEC championship game en route to the national title. Off-season health issues put another cloud over Meyer. With Tebow no longer around, can Meyer regain his spot atop the SEC perch, or will Saban deliver a repeat performance that cements his status as the premier coach in the college game?
Richt on the hot seat? Georgia Coach Mark Richt was once viewed as the league's golden boy before Meyer and Saban arrived; now things seem to have gone a little stale in Athens. Richt's overall résumé is still solid: a 90-27 record with two SEC titles. But Georgia's last SEC title came in 2005, and coming off a disappointing 8-5 season with a new athletic director on the way, the goings-on between the hedges this year are worth keeping your eye on.
Dooley's debut: Nobody knows quite what to expect out of Tennessee in its first year under Derek Dooley.
Dooley has promised to change the culture of UT football after being forced to deal with the messy aftermath of a recent on-campus brawl involving several Tennessee players. The Vols' talent level also appears to be down, so it will be interesting to hear Dooley's presentation.
Vandy: The Commodores usually go unnoticed at SEC Media Days, but the shocking retirement of Bobby Johnson will bring plenty of attention the way of interim coach Robbie Caldwell.
Nord optimistic about tight ends
New UK assistant Greg Nord said he feels good about the tight end position despite the Wildcats graduating their top three players from a year ago in T.C. Drake, Maurice Grinter and Ross Bogue.
Nord sees potential in a tight end corps that includes walk-on Nick Melillo, redshirt freshman Anthony Kendrick, Colorado transfer Ryan Wallace and incoming freshman Alex Smith.
"If you look at it on paper you might be scared if you're the average coach or someone on the outside looking in," Nord said. "But when you get on the inside, and you look at the talent that is here, you realize there are a lot of good players."
Nord said it reminded him of a similar situation during his coaching days at Louisville. The Cards lost tight ends Ronnie Ghent and Richard Owens to the NFL from its 2003 squad that went 9-4. The next year, the Cards plugged in three freshmen — Gary Barnidge, Scott Kuhn and Breno Giacomini — and went 11-1 and won the Conference USA title.
"Those guys stepped in and helped us win the conference and the bowl game, and all three eventually played in the NFL," Nord said.
Patterson still trying to make it to Lexington
Kentucky's 2010 signee Tim Patterson is still hoping to enroll at UK in the fall, according to his high school coach Ty Scroggins. Patterson has recently improved his ACT score and is now trying to improve his core GPA and gain admission. Patterson, who is rehabbing a knee injury suffered late last year, could be a grayshirt candidate if he's able to enroll.
Lumpkin at 300
Defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said he weighs around 300 pounds, which is 25-30 pounds heavier than he played at the end of last season. Players generally drop a few pounds during fall camp, but Lumpkin hopes to start the 2010 season at the 295-pound mark.
Lumpkin's production inside will be pivotal for a thin, inexperienced unit that's looking to replace NFL third-round draft pick Corey Peters.
Kickoff Luncheon/Women's Clinic set
The University of Kentucky football Kickoff Luncheon will be held Friday, July 30 at the Lexington Convention Center. The luncheon will include a question-and-answer session with head coach Joker Phillips and a highlight video. The event will start at noon and end at 1:30. Tickets are $40 each and $400 for a table of 10. For more information contact Leslie Bray at firstname.lastname@example.org or (859) 257-2589.
The 2010 Women's Football Clinic will be held on Saturday, July 31 at the UK football facilities. The clinic is designed for women with all levels of football knowledge. The coaching staff will be available for question-and-answer sessions. Lunch and a clinic T-shirt will be provided and various UK items will be available for purchase. A registration form can be found at ukathletics.com. For more info contact Lisa Ellis by e-mail at Lisa.Ellis@uky.edu or at (859) 257-3611.