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SEC media days open with remarks from commissioner, coaches

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PHOTO: MGN Online

Opening day should be anything but boring at the Southeastern Conference's annual media gathering.

Exuberant Ed Orgeron will be one of the coaches to take the podium Monday at the SEC media days in suburban Birmingham, Alabama.

Commissioner Greg Sankey kicks off the four-day event with his annual state of the league address. Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Tennessee's Butch Jones also make the rounds with reporters, with both trying to improve on seasons that didn't live up to expectations.

The highlight, though, should be LSU's Orgeron, known for his candor and being direct on any number of topics. He landed his second SEC head coaching job after serving half the season in an interim role following the firing of Les Miles.

The Cajun Orgeron had a three-year run with Mississippi from 2005-07 that produced a 3-21 mark in the SEC. He'll bring with him three players including star tailback Derrius Guice while Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen is also among the first-day attendees.

All 14 teams will take their turns in the spotlight over the next four days. The SEC, as usual, is the first major league to hold its media days.

Orgeron is the only new head coach, while several others — including Arkansas coach Bret Bielema — could face questions about their job security.

SEC Commissioner opening address

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey opened media days with a history lesson on the league schools' timeline of integration in athletics.

Sankey spoke at length in his opening remarks Monday about the upcoming 50th anniversary of Nate Northington's Sept. 30, 1967 debut for Kentucky against Mississippi. Northington, then a sophomore, became the first African-American to play in an SEC football game.

There were four African-American football players on that Wildcats team: Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg. Page, Northington's roommate, died late the night before from a neck injury sustained during a preseason practice. They were the SEC's first black scholarship football players.

Sankey says the SEC has invited Northington, Hackett, Hogg and Page's family to the league championship game in December "to join us in remembering, honoring and celebrating what they helped change 50 years ago."

Vols on the podium

The major question facing the Tennessee Volunteers this year is who will replace starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

The Vols were the final team to appear on the podium at Southeastern Conference media days on Monday and fifth-year coach Butch Jones didn't provide many clues to the QB issue.

Junior Quinten Dormady was the backup last year, completing 11 of 17 passes for 148 yards. Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano is the other major candidate.

Jones believes it's a great issue to have. The coach says the Vols "will not name a starting quarterback until the time is right," but added he can't say when that is. Jones says the competition will "be decided on the field when we start training camp."

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