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Five takeaways from Thursday's session at SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. – SEC Media Days wrapped up on Thursday with players and coaches from South Carolina, Auburn and Ole Miss taking center stage. Here are our biggest takeaways from the event.

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1. The Ole Miss drama isn’t ending anytime soon

Hugh Freeze
Hugh Freeze (USA TODAY Sports Images)

With the NCAA investigation into the Rebels' recruiting dragging on and former coach Houston Nutt filing a lawsuit against the school on Wednesday, it was a less-than-ideal situation for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze to meet with the media on Thursday.

He did his best to filibuster in the main media room before taking questions, choosing to go through his entire depth chart and even discussing which player would be the back-up long snapper. During his opening statement he did touch on the ongoing NCAA drama, saying the school is more prepared than ever to face the scrutiny it’s receiving.

But he also said he wouldn’t be taking questions on the topic and stuck to his word when asked about the Nutt lawsuit.

It’s hard enough for a team to focus on the season when a bowl game is off the table, but as the lawsuits stack up and the questions keep coming, it’s difficult to see how Freeze will be able to navigate the choppy waters ahead successfully.

2. The Auburn quarterback competition is open … for now

Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham (USA TODAY Sports Images)
Sean White
Sean White (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Auburn junior quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a Baylor transfer, is being viewed as many to be the answer to the quarterback conundrum that has slowed the Tigers in recent years, but head coach Gus Malzahn insisted that he hasn’t even officially won the job yet. Returning starter Sean White is still in the competition and freshman early enrollee Malik Willis has caught Malzahn’s eye.

With his talents and resume it seems like a matter of when not if Stidham will officially win the job and there will be plenty of pressure on him to live up to the hype he’s receiving not only from the media but from the Auburn fan base. Depending on how he handles it could tell a lot about how the season pans out and perhaps even influence the future of Malzahn on the Plains.

3. Hayden Hurst is a true success story

Hayden Hurst
Hayden Hurst (USA TODAY Sports Images)

A former top Major League Baseball pitching prospect, Hayden Hurst walked away from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization after struggling to advance through the team’s system. After being away from football for several years, he walked on with the Gamecocks in 2015 and quickly engrained himself with the program.

Last year he had a breakout year, setting school records for both catches and yards for a tight end. Now widely considered to be one of the top NFL prospects at his position, Hurst enjoyed every minute of his time in the spotlight during Thursday’s media session.

Hurst, who turns 24 next month, is obviously one of the more mature players on the Gamecocks' roster and coach Will Muschamp said he will be counted on to be a leader for the squad in 2017.

4. The Gamecocks will rely on youth this year

Will Muschamp
Will Muschamp (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks' players singled out several freshman players they expect to contribute, marking another season that the team will take advantage of its strong recruiting. Obviously the most high-profile success story from the 2016 recruiting class was freshman Jake Bentley, but the Gamecocks had freshmen all over the field at different points during last season.

With a trio of four-star receivers in the fold in OrTre Smith, Chad Terrell and Shi Smith all expected to see the field and four-star tight end Will Register in the mix, it’s not a surprise that Bentley’s face lit up when asked about his new weapons.

If the Gamecocks can land another excellent class in 2018, they could be in a position to contend in the SEC East sooner rather than later.

5. There is plenty of quarterback drama to come

This is more about the entire week than just Thursday, but it’s crazy to think about how many different SEC programs aren’t settled at quarterback. From LSU to Texas A&M to Florida, several of the conferences best teams don’t yet know who will start the season under center.

All of the programs face similar situations – go with a veteran that hasn’t exactly lit up the competition in the past, or go with way of youth and play for the future. With the hot seat always one bad season away in the SEC, it’s going to be fun to watch not only how the battles play out during camp over the next month or so, but how many teams in the conference finish the season with the same quarterbacks that start in the opener.