Fact or fiction: SEC's lack of star power
There’s no Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney next week at SEC Media Days in Hoover, but that’s not stopping a record-setting horde of journalists from descending on ground zero as we approach the first fall practice and the debut of ESPN’s much-anticipated SEC Network.
The hype and sharp-tongued coaches are there, but the players aren’t says popular opinion.
Much has been made about the league’s lack of returning star power, whether unassuming players like Todd Gurley, Nick Marshall and Vernon Hargreaves can carry the league’s proverbial torch in its quest for an appearance in the first College Football Playoff.
No longer the hunted after seeing its streak of seven consecutive BCS championships snapped by Florida State, the SEC’s looking to rebound this fall in uncharted territory as the one lining up the crosshairs when much of the offseason buzz has centered on the Seminoles, Oklahoma and PAC-12 riser UCLA.
The balance of power’s not shifting. It’s SEC football. Programs reload. That’s the big business culture in a league where attendance went up for the first time in four years in 2013 and dominance is expected through facility upgrades, coaching hires and recruiting.
It should come as no surprise that oddsmakers think there’s a handful of conference contenders capable of winning a title despite the general pop’s uncertainties. The league said goodbye to 49 NFL Draft picks this spring including several marquee multi-year starters and top-flight quarterbacks, but there’s plenty of potential studs — some already proven — in the mix to compete for coveted All-American spots and Heisman invites.
Perhaps the need for a robust 1,200-plus media credentials at a social gathering in July proves the expansive value of the SEC, a league worthy of year-round conversation.
But there’s no stars, right? None, only freaks like Derrick Henry, Sammie Coates, Mike Davis and Robert Nkemdiche waiting to breakout nationally as second-year starters.
The SEC doesn’t need Manziel or Clowney to flourish in 2014. It won’t be long before the next crop of future early-round draft picks quench a thirst that began in January.
The cupboard’s hardly empty.