Instant Analysis: Recapping the 2021 SEC Football Media Days

Instant Analysis: Recapping the 2021 SEC Football Media Days

Publish date:

Winners and Losers From 2021 SEC Media Days

All Things CW looks back on this week's media storm, and also gives the latest on Alabama's offensive line, the NBA Draft, Heisman Odds and which SEC games are the hottest tickets.

Even though the media contingency was severely limited, this week's 2021 SEC Media Days turned out to be an epic edition of the near-annual kickoff event.

Strange but true, the biggest stories originated from somewhere other than the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham, Ala., where all 14 teams made appearances from Monday-Thursday. 

Here were the biggest winners and losers, in no particular order. 

Winner: The SEC 

What's the talk of college football heading into the 2021 season? The possible addition of Oklahoma and Texas into the conference.

The SEC and commissioner Greg Sankey were already having a good week, continually being complimented regarding the league's leadership during the pandemic, when the huge story broke out of Houston. It left everyone else scrambling and completely overshadowed the teams making the rounds Wednesday afternoon.

The first super conference in college athletics appears imminent. 

Loser: Bryan Harsin

The new Auburn coach went 16 minutes with his introductory remarks and then took just three questions. 

He still managed to mention that "I bleed blue. I always will" regarding Boise State, that only about 60 percent of the Tigers have been vaccinated, and didn't do anything to calm the growing angst over Auburn struggling in recruiting. 

It was not a great debut.

Winner: Nick Saban 

Among all the coaches, he was the big-time winner, and Saban didn't even have to flout his newest national championship ring. 

When he disclosed that Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young was already close to making seven figures in NIL agreements, word shot across media days like a verbal brushfire. It didn't matter he made the comment while speaking at a high school coaches convention in Texas. If anything, it helped him. 

Alabama was the talk of the day on Tuesday and most of Wednesday. That's how you win SEC media days. 

Loser: Lane Kiffin

Go back and watch his reaction when told about Young's growing NIL portfolio.

The coach said: "The guy’s made a million dollars already? That’s good, man. He don’t need to play next year against us, then. I mean, that’s mind blowing.”

Kiffin later went back to it, still stunned. 

Consider this inner monologue:

"He already making what? Without even having made a start?"

"My guy is a returning starter and could be named All-SEC this week. And he's only making .... "

With that, Kiffin realized the true difference between Alabama and Ole Miss, and why he may never be able to change that. 

Winner: Eliah Drinkwitz 

There were a number of coaches who did well at the podium including Shane Beamer, but Drinkwitz topped the list. 

He came out with zingers like this: "Hard-hitting questions coming out of yesterday. I think one of them was whether or not the horns down is going to be 15-yard penalty in the SEC in the future. So I asked Commissioner Sankey in the hallway, and he gave me a strong rebuttal by saying no comment. So we'll see where that goes."

In the end, though, the second-year head coach did a great job of pitching his program and its progress. 

"Last year we were able to win five conference games. We were able to beat the defending national champions. We were able to beat Kentucky for the first time in five years. Able to win both of our trophy games and avenge a loss versus Vanderbilt. We had five players drafted, so there was a lot of positive momentum to go into the offseason."

Remember, he's at Missouri. 

Loser: Ed Orgeron 

The coach tried to go with "the buck stops here" kind of approach, saying the team won't do anything he doesn't like (although shouldn't it have been that way anyway?), but it doesn't work when there are ongoing Title IX investigations at LSU including sexual assault claims and numerous other off-field issues. 

"That's something I'm not going to comment on at all," Orgeron said. "That's an ongoing investigation. .... Thanks for asking, though."

The way he said the last part following a pause let everyone know exactly how he felt about it, and Orgeron stopped short of having steam rise off the top of his head. Regardless, the pressure is rising in Baton Rouge. 

Winner: Sam Pittman 

The Arkansas coach joked about scoring an 18 on his ACT, and called himself the most popular 3-7 coach around. 

"We’re the defending champions of hardest schedule in college football," he said. "I’ve looked at our schedule and think we’re gonna three-peat.” 

The Razorbacks really do have a brutal schedule. 

But then he threw in this line, and it's all you need to know about the coach: “There’s a lot of players in the transfer portal without a scholarship now. And if you enter the portal at Arkansas, you’re surely not transferring back in.”

Loser: The Fans

Remember them? A handful tried to show up, only to be turned away at the door.

One does have to wonder why the league feels that it's ok to pack 100,000-seat stadiums this fall, but said no to allowing anyone into the Wynfrey lobby.

You don't think it had anything to do with Alabama having the lowest COVID vaccination rate in the country do you? Nah. 

Here Come the Elephants 

Saban saying that Javion Cohen will "most likely" start at left guard was telling because not only did it mean that the Crimson Tide coaching staff is confident plugging him into that spot, but is also feeling pretty good about the other opening on the offensive line. 

Teammates have been talking up the other "young guys," and there are three of them in the running to start at right tackle along with veteran Kendall Randolph

The guess here is that Alabama is looking to see if someone steps up at the start of camp, or maybe just needs a little more refinement in the weight room/sports performance center. 

Damieon George and JC Latham fit that mold, however the player we're going to be especially looking to see where he lines up during the first few days of fall practice is Tommy Brockermeyer

All three are about 6-foot-5, but the weight difference from the former to the latter is about 50 pounds. 

Regardless, Alabama's going to have another big line, with Chris Owens (6-3, 315) seemingly set at center, Cohen (6-4, 325) and Evan Neal (6-7, 360) at left tackle.

"He's a freak athlete," defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis said about Neal, who could be a strong Outland Trophy candidate. "Big Neal, man, Big Neal can do a lot of things. He's very flexible, and I love going up against him every day at practice because he make everybody better."

Meanwhile, on the defensive side Alabama had Tennessee transfer Henry To'o To'o among its submitted names for the media voting for All-SEC, and he was selected first-team. 

I guess we know his status as a starter for fall camp.   

Primo Pick 

With the return of Jaden Shackelford, Alabama can boast of a backcourt that not only has the Crimson Tide's leading scorer last season, but three McDonald’s All-Americans with Jahvon Quinerly, Texas Tech transfer Nimari Burnett and JD Davison.

To put that into perspective, Alabama's only had 14 McDonald’s All-Americans play for it in program history.

Meanwhile, all eyes Thursday night will be on the 2021 NBA Draft, and although he's probably not a lottery pick there's been a lot of talk about the rising stock of former Crimson Tide shooting guard Joshua Primo

The latest mock draft by Jeremy Woo on SI.com has Primo going No. 24 to Houston, with Herbert Jones selected No. 42 by the Pistons. 

We've thought all along that some team is going to get a steal selecting Jones, who is good enough to contribute immediately defensively, and is still continuing to improve on offense.

But having another first-round selection can only help Nate Oats in recruiting.  

"Primo now looks like a lock to land in the first round, with his range beginning in the teens and running into the 20s," Woo wrote. "He’s demonstrated a more diverse offensive game than he showed in a spot-up role at Alabama, with combo guard skills and an impressive level of poise and focus. The fact he’s the youngest draft-eligible prospect adds a layer of appeal as a long-term project, and he’s in the mix for teams that can afford to be patient."

Overall, Alabama's status only continues to rise. 

Latest Heisman Odds

There's definitely been a shift in the perception that Georgia should be considered the team to beat in college football this season, or at least the SEC, and quarterback JT Daniel is a big reason why. 

The former transfer from Southern California is considered the preseason frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy. 

According to BetOnline, Daniel is listed as 5/1, way up from his 12/1 odds back in January. Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler is second at 7/1, down slightly from 5/1, and third is Young at 10/1. 

Matt Corral, the Ole Miss quarterback who is a popular pick for preseason first-team All-SEC, is eighth at 16/1. He's listed just ahead of Miami's D'Eriq King, the quarterback Alabama will face in its opener, at 18/1.

Incidentally, Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. is listed at 40/1 (ahead of Texas A&M's Isaiah Spiller), and wide receiver John Metchie III is 50/1. 

Crimson Tide in Demand 

While it seems like the price of everything else is going up, Crimson Tide ticket prices remain in demand heading into the 2021 season.

TickPick reports that the top three SEC games this season in terms of average ticket all include the Crimson Tide. 

Most-Expensive SEC Matchups (Avg. Ticket Price):

  1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 6, 2021, $434.25
  2. Alabama at Texas A&M, Oct. 9, 2021, $400.45
  3. Alabama at Florida, Sept. 18, 2021, $332.86

Ole Miss at Alabama tickets are also going for $319.00. 

What's interesting is the game not listed, the Iron Bowl.

Did you Notice? 

Big 12 Leaders Expect Texas, Oklahoma to Depart, Leaving Conference in Disarray (Note: When league athletic directors and presidents met Thursday night, UT and OU officials did not join them).

If Texas and Oklahoma Bolt to the SEC, What Happens to the Rest of the Big 12?

NFL to Enforce Forfeits in Event of COVID-19 Cancellation

Christopher Walsh's All Things CW notes column appears weekly on BamaCentral.

Even though the media contingency was severely limited, this week's 2021 SEC Media Days turned out to be an epic edition of the near-annual kickoff event.

Strange but true, the biggest stories originated from somewhere other than the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham, Ala., where all 14 teams made appearances from Monday-Thursday. 

Member Exclusive

Get Exclusive Access to Bama Central Content