Tennessee and the rest of the SEC are still three weeks away from holding a padded practice and seven weeks away from its first game week, but Monday marks the formal beginning of talking-about-football season.
The SEC begins the conference media day circuit Monday with the start of its four-day SEC Media Days event in Hoover, Ala., at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham. It's a week earlier, twice as long, and a much bigger spectacle than any of the other four Power Five conference media days.
In a 14-team league with 10 teams that could find themselves in the preseason Top 25, storylines abound. Here are five to watch for.
1. Sankey takes over: Greg Sankey formally took over for Mike Slive as commissioner of the SEC in May at the conference meetings in Destin, Fla. On Monday, he will meet with the fully assembled conference media for the first time.
Sankey had been part of the SEC staff since 2002 and was promoted to executive associate commissioner and chief operating officer in 2012. His media session on Monday will give him the largest platform he has had so far to articulate his vision for the conference.
2. Lots of seniors: Football coaches tend to be averse to risk, especially when it comes to dealings with the media.
The list of players attending SEC Media Days is a case in point, as coaches mostly chose reliable seniors over younger stars reporters may have been hoping for.
Georgia sophomore tailback Nick Chubb, the league's leading returning rusher and a Heisman Trophy candidate, will not be in Hoover. Neither will Alabama junior running back Derrick Henry, also a Heisman candidate.
Ole Miss is leaving wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche at home. Texas A&M won't bring defensive end Myles Garrett.
Of the 42 players invited, 27 are seniors, 11 are juniors and just four are sophomores. That's not to say, however, that there are no interesting players there. Mississippi State star quarterback Dak Prescott, LSU phenom running back Leonard Fournette, South Carolina dynamo receiver Pharoh Cooper and lockdown Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III are among the players invited, as well as Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
3. Airing of grievances: Much of the news that came out of the SEC meetings in May had to do with coaches' complaints about satellite camps and graduate transfer rules that in their mind gave schools in other conferences an advantage.
The SEC voted to allow conference schools to hold camps away from the campuses. However, instead of making it easier for its programs to take graduate transfers, it made the rules more stringent, prohibiting schools from taking players who were dismissed from their previous team. Coaches will assuredly be offered the opportunity to comment on those issues and offer their complaints.
4. Jim McElwain's debut: Coaching turnover hit coordinator positions in the SEC much harder than head coaching jobs, but one of the conference's flagship programs made a move up top. Florida fired Will Muschamp after four seasons, three of which were disappointing. McElwain takes over for the Gators after posting a 10-2 mark at Colorado State last year. McElwain will meet with the SEC media for the first time as Florida's coach on Monday, when they will be judging whether he's up to the task.
5. Portrait of Tennessee as a rising star: After finishing 7-6 last year with an impressive victory over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl, the Vols head into the season as arguably the most ascendant team in the SEC. The 2014 campaign was the Vols' first winning season since 2009, and they have a 28-34 record since 2010, but it's widely expected that UT will open the season in the Top 25 and be picked to finish in the top three in the SEC East. Some national pundits have even gone so far as to predict Tennessee to reach a New Year's Six bowl game. The Vols could be media darlings in Hoover.
This article was written by Dustin Dopirak from Knoxville News Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.