The 5 realistic candidates who I'd like to see fill the vacancy on SEC Nation
SEC Nation is getting a facelift this fall.
According to a report from Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, SEC Network’s pregame show lost Paul Finebaum and Marcus Spears. Laura Rutledge and Tim Tebow are set to return, and SEC Network color commentator Jordan Rodgers is in.
That means there’s 1 spot to fill. The question is who will fill it.
Here’s what I think SEC Network is looking for. For starters, they need to have a personality. The show’s high-energy, upbeat nature on SEC campuses isn’t for the quiet, straightforward type (sorry, Herschel).
Based on the fact that they already have Rodgers and Tebow, I’m gonna bet that they aren’t looking to add a third former quarterback to the team (sorry, McElroy). And based on the fact that they already have Tebow and Rutledge, I’d also bet against adding a third Gator to the crew.
Having media experience seems like an obvious prerequisite, though some sort of entertainment background would probably suffice. Also, we’re talking realistic candidates here. He was already ruled out with the “no quarterbacks” thing, but Peyton Manning isn’t turning down Monday Night Football so he can join the set of SEC Nation.
Oh, and just in case you forgot, this is SEC Network. I’ll be stunned if anyone but a former SEC player fills that last spot.
Here are 5 people who I think would be ideal candidates:
1. Booger McFarland
I know, I know. After getting the boot from Monday Night Football, he’s expected to return to a prominent NFL-related studio role with ESPN. But hey, Rutledge is set to take over NFL Live AND do SEC Nation. Why can’t McFarland do the same?
I’ve always thought that McFarland, who was at SEC Network during his early days, was better suited for the college game, anyways. He and Joe Tessitore were always an odd fit at the NFL level. It would be fantastic for the network to bring back an established, household name. Let McFarland show off some of that personality that was restricted in the always-serious NFL.
I mean, how many guys will say “he’s probably a Popeye’s biscuit away from being a tight end.”
Booger McFarland’s description of Kelvin Benjamin 😂🤣 pic.twitter.com/3VQg2aqX77
— Men’s Logic (@MENSLOGlC) October 30, 2018
ESPN has been searching for the right home for McFarland. Why not keep him within the family of networks and let him get back to the place where his career really took off?
As long as that isn’t considered some sort of massive demotion, it would make a lot of sense.
2. Shaun Alexander
According to the New York Post, Alexander already auditioned for the opening. The former Alabama running back would be a somewhat atypical candidate because of his lack of media experience. He’s relatively soft-spoken, too. Having interviewed Alexander a couple of times, he might not be as loud of a personality as Spears, but he’s a household name who would be well-respected by his peers and the audience.
But Alexander is one of those people who exudes positive energy. He always has a smile, and he clearly still knows the game. There could be a learning curve for the on-set atmosphere, but the same was true for the high-energy Tebow.
Another positive with Alexander? He’s not the type of guy who’s going to get in trouble for anything he says on air. As great as someone like Pat McAfee is, you can bet Disney executives hold their breath at times hoping that he doesn’t let an F-bomb slip. Alexander is the last person who will have a Desmond Howard-like slip-up.
As long as Alexander can loosen up a touch, SEC Nation would be in good shape with bringing him on board.
3. Takeo Spikes
To fill this position, I think you need someone who checks some boxes.
Media experience? Spikes has that having worked for NBC Sports shortly after his retirement. He’s also a public speaker and has his own podcast.
Former SEC player? Spikes was a stud recruit from Georgia who had a prolific career as a linebacker at Auburn before spending 15 seasons in the NFL. He’d also add some perspective from the defensive side of the ball, just as Spears did.
High energy? Absolutely. Tell me you can’t see Spikes breaking down film of SEC players and bringing it like this:
— Eagles Nation (@PHLEaglesNation) March 21, 2020
Spikes might not be an obvious name, but I’d love to see how he’d play off of Tebow and Rodgers. Even though Spikes might not have found a shining role in the media world yet, he’d be worth taking a chance on.
4. Patrick Willis
When Willis surprisingly retired at age 30, I assumed that we’d see him on ESPN within the year. That didn’t happen. The former Ole Miss great has kept a relatively low profile since retiring, so he doesn’t necessarily check the media boxes. Like Alexander, he’d have an adjustment to make to step into a live, on-set role. He has never come across as animated as someone like McFarland or Spears.
But Willis commands respect when he speaks, and someone who played the game at such a high level in college and in the NFL would have plenty of insights. He’d give SEC Nation a defensive voice in replacing Spears, too. The contrast of putting a former middle linebacker alongside a pair of former quarterbacks would provide the balance needed.
Willis has been willing to do media appearances in the past, though it’s unknown if he’d be interested in following that career path. Still, the recent College Football Hall of Fame inductee seems like he’d be a natural in an on-camera role.
I am so grateful to be a 2019 @cfbhall Inductee🙌 My time at @OleMissFB was something special and I’m thrilled to be able to share with you all some of the journey🏈. Thank you @PlayersTribune and @goodyear! #ad pic.twitter.com/swZv5uY3SP
— Patrick Willis (@PatrickWillis52) November 18, 2019
5. Ryan Clark
Clark would be a fantastic addition if he were willing to venture into the college game. The former LSU cornerback has been with ESPN for the past 5 years since his retirement, almost exclusively talking all things NFL. He appears on “NFL Live” and “Get Up,” so he already has that rapport with Rutledge.
Never shy to speak his mind, Clark might have to tweak his style a touch for the college game, especially for a conference network pregame show. But SEC Network would know that. And it’s worth remembering that Finebaum is never afraid to rant on SEC Network’s airwaves. Shoot, same with Spears.
We’ve seen Clark’s refreshing honesty blossom on “Get Up.”
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 21, 2020
Clark has the energy that would be perfect for SEC Nation. Even if he spent most of his time at ESPN talking NFL, Clark provided plenty of college insights in the midst of LSU’s national championship run. Would he be interested in turning that into a weekend gig traveling across the SEC? Who knows. I thought Spears doubled up on that well last year.
There’s no doubt in my mind that another former LSU star would also crush that opportunity.