The 2021 college football season got off to its unofficial start last week.
Big 12 coaches, a couple of their chosen players, and media members gathered in Dallas, Texas for the conference’s annual media day. The big boys are taking their turn at the table this week as the SEC coaches, players, and those who cover them descended upon Hoover, Ala. for the same event, but on a grander scale despite being held in a much smaller venue. The Big 12 holds its media day inside the monolithic Dallas Cowboys stadium while the SEC’s is at a much smaller swanky hotel, but to borrow the Southeastern Conference’s slogan: “It just means more.” The Atlantic Clemson Conference begins its media day today in Charlotte, N.C.
For those unfamiliar with the practice, media days were basically created to feed the massive hype machine that is college football. We’re still a month and a half away from seeing any actual, meaningful games, but everywhere you look there are countdowns and CFB stories being written daily in the lead-up to Labor Day weekend. To be clear — it’s all just a bunch of talkin’ and reporters talkin’ about the talkin’. But I love it. Coaches and players enter these events having been coached up by their sports information personnel, ready to answer reporters’ questions without giving any real info away. Everyone’s excited and looking forward to the season. Every team believes — or says it believes — it has a chance to win the conference championship. But because players and coaches come so equipped, I tend to enjoy the quirkier questions. Like Tuesday when University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart mentioned he had Migos rapper Quavo’s number saved in his phone. Naturally, one reporter asked how Smart got Quavo’s number. (The rapper is a UGA fan and has spoken to the team a couple of times these past few years, the head coach said.) That’s the kind of stuff I’m here for. JT Daniels, the expected starting QB in Athens this fall, said if he were to compete in an NBA 3-point competition he would finish in the top 3. All I have to say about that is, (Terrell Owens voice) that’s my quarterback. UGA’s mammoth DL Jordan Davis — who received a shoutout in my column last week — gets to experience a bit of a homecoming when the Dawgs open up this season. Georgia goes to Charlotte for a neutral-site matchup with the Clemson Tigers in what many expect to be a game between Top 5 teams.
But then there is the occasional golden nugget in terms of real intel. Dawgs receiver George Pickens Jr. tore his ACL back in the spring. Smart said Pickens is on the road to recovery and progressing nicely, but is still far from being game-ready. That was expected. If he’s going to contribute this year, it will have to be at the tail end of the season. UGA transfer Arik Gilbert played tight end at LSU last year but is now listed as a wide receiver on the Dawgs’ roster. There were concerns about Gilbert’s academic eligibility for this upcoming season, but Smart allayed those fears Tuesday. The head coach is reported as saying, “He’s currently enrolled in summer school. He should be eligible.” That’s huge for this Bulldog team that could be without its top receiving threat all season long.
So when you cut through the clutter and dig hard enough, you can find a diamond in the ruff, even during talkin’ season.