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Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks for a receiver during the first half against LSU in Tiger Stadium on Saturday Nov. 3, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

Here comes football season. The Southeastern Conference holds its annual media days over four days next week. These are some of the reasons we’re paying attention.

Stars at quarterback

The SEC went through a stretch of lackluster quarterbacks a few years ago, but this year, the league is loaded at the position. Nine teams are bringing their quarterback to media days. There’s two projected first-round draft picks with national championship experience in Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm. Then Joe Burrow at LSU, Kelly Bryant at Missouri and Kellen Mond at Texas A&M give the league quality depth. Florida’s Feleipe Franks, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano and South Carolina’s Jake Bentley round out the group in Hoover.

Coaches on the hot seat

Every SEC head coach returns from last season, but some of them need better results to keep their jobs. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Ole Miss’ Matt Luke, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp have led their respective teams for at least three years. They haven’t created sustained success. Malzahn must find a new quarterback. Luke replaced both coordinators. Mason hasn’t finished with a winning record. Muschamp’s Gamecocks went 7-6 last year. It will be interesting to hear these coaches before pivotal seasons for each of them.

Coordinators aplenty

Coordinators won’t appear at media days, but they will be a topic of discussion throughout the week. Half the conference replaced at least one coordinator during the offseason, with three teams — Ole Miss, Tennessee and Georgia — replacing both positions. Six of the new coordinators are on the offensive side of the ball, and LSU hired Joe Brady to restructure its passing game. The majority of the conference’s offensive schemes probably won’t change much, but the success or failure of these new coordinators can determine the outcome of the league.

Who will take the next step?

Five new head coaches debuted at SEC media days last year: Florida’s Dan Mullen, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt, Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead and Arkansas’ Chad Morris. After completing their first seasons, each coach will have to answer questions about improvement and the direction of their programs before year two. Mullen and Fisher have their schools trending upward, while Pruitt finished last in the SEC East and Moorhead’s offense never produced. Morris is still looking for his first conference win.

Assessing the East

Georgia has emerged as a national contender under Kirby Smart, and it has represented the SEC East in the conference championship game the past two seasons. The rest of the division looks murky. Florida has improved under Dan Mullen, who verbally prodded Georgia a couple times this offseason and may again at media days. After the Gators, are any other teams capable of reaching the SEC title game? Kentucky lost its best players, South Carolina regressed last year and Missouri’s appealing NCAA sanctions, which included a bowl ban.

Is Alabama vulnerable?

This question gets asked every year, and the answer is usually no. But Alabama got exposed during a 44-16 loss to Clemson in the national championship, the most lopsided defeat of Nick Saban’s tenure. Alabama adjusted its coaching staff and reloaded its roster during the offseason. The Crimson Tide have never needed to respond to such a loss, but they return a talented offense around Tagovailoa, last year’s Heisman runner-up. Clemson might soon overtake Alabama as a dynastic juggernaut. Is there also an SEC team capable of beating the Tide?


Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com.