Behold, the second time of the year where it pays to live in Hoover. For the next week, the Alabama town is the nexus of the college football universe.
Hoover has rolled out the red carpets for the SEC's finest (and Butch Jones) for the start of SEC Media Days. The four-day interview bazaar signals the unofficial start to college football season and gives writers and pundits across the country the ammunition they need to load up their 2015 previews. Vanderbilt has been a focal point at the conference's first competition of the year. It began with Robbie Caldwell and a thousand turkey insemination jokes back in 2010 and carried on thanks to James Franklin's unfiltered demeanor and brash confidence at the podium. Now, Derek Mason will try to spread black and gold-tinted optimism throughout the Wynfrey Hotel.
For Mason, SEC Media Days is a chance to showcase Vanderbilt's improvements after a 3-9 season in 2014. The first test will come when the second-year head coach addresses the media. Mason had an awkward gait with reporters throughout his freshman year, punctuating his interviews with long pauses and several "um"s and "you know"s that showcased his lack of polish with the media. He'll have the chance to show that he has the salesmanship of a true SEC head coach when he fields questions today.
There will be less stress for the three players he's brought with him to the media circus. The Commodores will be represented by tailback Ralph Webb, offensive lineman Spencer Pulley, and linebacker Nigel Bowden. Webb in particular should draw some extra questions on Monday. He led Vanderbilt in rushing yards as a freshman last season before spending the first part of his summer studying aboard in Australia. Expect him to field some terrible jokes about dingoes and Foster's oil cans in between questions about how he's prepared to avoid a sophomore slump.
You can watch the whole event live on the SEC Network. ESPNU will also have coverage and analysis of the interview process from 2-5pm on Monday. Here's today's full schedule, courtesy of AL.com. All times are central:
11:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. -- Commissioner Greg Sankey, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and players (QB Jeremy Johnson, DB Jonathan Jones, LB Kris Frost)
2:30 to 5:30 p.m. -- Florida coach Jim McElwain and players (DE Jonathan Bullard, WR Brandon Powell, DB Vernon Hargreaves III), Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason and players (RB Ralph Webb, LB Nigel Bowden, OL Spencer Pulley)