HOOVER, Ala. — It's here ... sort of.
The 2017 college football season unofficially kicks off Monday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel here, with four days of press conferences involving all 14 league teams.
The SEC will be the only major sports happening in town and in the country for most of this week, as Major League Baseball will be on the All-Star break Monday through Thursday with the game Tuesday, which is why the SEC office moved the annual media gala so early in the summer.
It began in 1985 at the Holiday Inn Medical Center in Birmingham on Aug. 1, which more naturally flowed into the beginning for summer practices just days later.
Now, there will be nearly a month gap in between Media Days and the beginning of practice in the first week of August, and this will be just over a month removed from similar press conferences at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida, last June.
But no matter the schedule, it will not stop the nearly 1,000 reporters who will be interviewing three players from each team and all the head coaches for the next four days.
It will start Monday with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey's address. That will be followed by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and three players, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron and three players — wide receiver D.J. Chark, tailback Derrius Guice and defensive lineman Christian LaCouture. Tennessee coach Butch Jones and three players round out the first day.
Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State follow on Tuesday; Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas A&M on Wednesday; and Auburn, Ole Miss and South Carolina end it on Thursday.
Chark, a senior from Alexandria Senior High, is the first player from Alexandria to ever represent LSU at this media gala. He is LSU's leading returning receiver as he caught 26 passes for 466 yards with three touchdowns last season in addition to rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 12 rushes.
He caught three passes for 59 yards in the Tigers' 54-39 win at Texas A&M in the regular season finale, as quarterback Danny Etling, who is returning for his senior season and second as the starter, completed 20 of 29 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns.
Etling, who is near full recovery from minor back surgery after spring drills, will not be at SEC Media Days, but he just met the media at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin.
Chark caught another two passes for 47 yards in the Citrus Bowl victory. His role could be greatly enhanced in the spread and multi-faceted attack of first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who ran an assortment of successful attacks at Pittsburgh, North Carolina State, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois and Indiana over the years.
Guice, a junior from Catholic High in Baton Rouge, led LSU in rushing in 2016 with 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns on 183 carries as Leonard Fournette, a first-round draft choice in the last NFL Draft, was hurt throughout the season.
Guice broke Fournette's school game rushing record with 285 yards on 37 carries with four touchdowns in the win at Texas A&M. He added 138 yards on 26 carries in the Tigers' 29-9 upset of No. 13 Louisville in the Citrus Bowl.
Guice enters 2017 as one of the SEC's best backs and a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.
LaCouture, a fifth-year senior from Lincoln Southwest High in Lincoln, Nebraska, is back after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. He started 23 games at defensive tackle in 2014 and '15.
Orgeron will be at his first SEC Media Days since 2007, which was his third season at Ole Miss. He was fired after that season with a 10-25 overall record and 3-21 in the SEC.
Orgeron inherited a 2-2 and 1-1 team at LSU last season from fired coach Les Miles as the interim coach and finished 6-2 and 4-2 as the Tigers finished 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the SEC.
He was hired as the full time coach after the win over No. 22 Texas A&M. Orgeron was also 6-2 as USC's interim coach in 2013, but did not get the permanent job.
After a year off in 2014, Orgeron was hired as LSU's defensive line coach in 2015 and had recruiting coordinator added to his duties in 2016.
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