The makeup of the trio of Florida Gators players who wil attend SEC Media Days is always interesting, at least to me, if only to see who the program wants to promote — and trusts to say smart things — as a visible national representative of the program.
In 2014, for example, Florida sent starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, all-world interviewer Dante Fowler, and burgeoning star Vernon Hargreaves III. Those choices made perfect sense for the players' prominence and importance to the 2014 Gators.
We already know one player who will make the trip in 2015: Senior defensive end Jonathan Bullard, whose relationship with his late grandmother will be one of the easy storylines to write about for scribes in attendance.
And sending Bullard makes sense for reasons pertaining to football, too: He may be the only senior to start for Florida's defense at the beginning of the 2015 season, with Antonio Morrison likely sidelined by injury until midseason and Brian Poole's role in Florida's secondary, while likely significant, perhaps not one that will produce a start in every game. Plus, Bullard's the most prominent Florida player who turned down the 2015 NFL Draft to return to school to play under Jim McElwain after a handful of draft-eligible juniors staged an exodus from Gainesville in the wake of Will Muschamp's departure. There's a lot of meat on the bones of a potential Bullard interview, basically.
Florida's other two representatives, though, are still up in the air — and we may get a surprise or two.
Florida's SEC Media Day contingent may surprise some. Doubtful VH3 attends & team appears primed to spotlight a potential offensive star.— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) July 6, 2015
B Powell https://t.co/rT4Rg14MZy— Luke Stampini (@LukeStampini) July 6, 2015
If Vernon Hargreaves isn't part of UF SEC Media Days contingent, look for Gators to take S Keanu Neal.— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) July 6, 2015
Florida not taking Hargreaves would be a stunning decision for a variety of reasons, but the most obvious one is this: He is far and away the Gators' best player. Barring injury, Hargreaves is a mortal lock to be one of college football's best players, too, and an early entrant in the 2016 NFL Draft, where he is expected to be one of the first players selected.
Those players are generally figureheads for their programs, and Hargreaves has already been to SEC Media Days once, traveling there with Florida last season, so there's certainly some level of trust that he won't completely embarrass the program, but it's not just about his stature: VH3 is also one of the most poised speakers I've ever observed in college football, and has stood out for his ability to talk about himself and football in interviews since high school.
But, then again, Hargreaves doesn't lack for confidence, and also called Jeff Driskel "the best quarterback in college football" with a straight face at Media Days 2014. That sort of hyperbole is probably not what Florida wants. And Hargreaves spent much of last fall putting on a brave face and speaking honestly to media, so he might just be tired of doing it.
So maybe the Gators will send Keanu Neal instead of Hargreaves, as the above tweets suggest. Neal would be a strong choice, because he's poised to have a breakout year behind Hargreaves in Florida's secondary. And he, too, acquits himself well with his words, though he's a little more reticent than the gregarious VH3.
Powell, though, hasn't spoken to media while at Florida, thanks to a Muschamp policy shielding freshmen from the media glare. He does just fine in this interview from prior to his senior year of high school, and Florida's decision-makers obviously know him better than I do, but sending Powell would seem to me to carry the same risk as sending the confident VH3 as a sophomore: He'll say most of the right things, but maybe one or two wrong ones, too.
Sending Powell would also mean not sending two of the other potential stars of Florida's offense, tight end Jake McGee and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. Of the two, Robinson is likely to be the bigger star, but there are legitimate reasons to not force him into interviews: I've heard Robinson talk, and to say his Georgia accent is country would be understating it — and more importantly, he's had multiple suspensions in his Florida career that would become uncomfortable stumbling blocks.
And while McGee is perfectly capable of speaking for himself, and would be one of the oldest and most mature players in attendance as a fifth-year senior, both he and Robinson are likely gone from Florida's program in 2016, with McGee out of eligibility after this season and the NFL a distinct possibility, and Robinson expected by some to head to the NFL Draft. Bringing Powell gives Florida the chance to mint a star, rather than polish one.
Ultimately, this is probably much ado about nothing, though bringing three players and not Hargreaves would be odd. But, well, this is also the offseason, when oddities become outrages with startling speed and frequency.