The Southeastern Conference sits atop the college football world with Alabama claiming another National Championship defeating fellow SEC foe Georgia in overtime. It has been a year of change for the SEC and in this article we take a look at the new head coaches across the SEC landscape.
Leading into the 2016 National Championship Game you heard a chorus of pundits stating the SEC is no longer the dominate conference in college football. Even though Alabama was playing for another title they were speaking about the rest of the SEC and its fall from grace. Once Clemson pulled off the victory over Alabama the pundits and some fans of college football were trumpeting the fall of the SEC believing Saban’s run on titles was finally over.
A few of the pundits we heard on this subject felt like it was the Saban-effect that had led to the possible demise of the SEC overall. They believed top level coaches did not want to take SEC coaching jobs because of the Saban and his success. I find that hard to believe in that top coaches are like top athletes they want to face the best they want to test their abilities against the best in the game. Taking a coaching job in the SEC with Saban at Alabama you can rest assured you are facing the best and you will be tested.
SEC Athletic Directors had a plan for their coaching vacancies they filled those spots with Alabama coordinators and assistant coaches. Their hope is these guys can come in and implement the (Saban) process. It’s the old if you can’t beat em join routine.
Here we present the new head coaches that will pace the sidelines in SEC Country this fall. They are in no particular order other than the first coach listed we felt like that hire made the biggest splash in an off-season that had its share of splashes.
Texas A&M Aggies
New Head Coach- Jimbo Fisher. We listed this one first because it has the biggest name and made this biggest splash in the financial department. Kevin Sumlin was fired which came as no real surprise it has been talked about and presumed to be taking place for quite some time. The Saban effect was certainly an underlying factor in that A&M is smart enough to know they needed a top tier and I mean a real top tier head coach if they wanted to compete in the SEC as long as ole Saint Nick is at the Capstone. The Saban effect doesn’t end there Fisher joined head coach Nick Saban's staff at LSU in 2000 as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, helping the Tigers win the 2003 national championship as well as two SEC titles. Jimbo Fisher led Florida State to a national championship in 2013. Under Fisher’s leadership 83 FSU football student-athletes graduated with 12 consensus All-American honorees and his recruiting classes ranked in the Top 10 in each of the last seven years. Fisher had 42 FSU players drafted into the NFL, including 19 first or second round selections. He also had three of his quarterbacks at FSU selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Not since Johnny Majors left Pittsburgh for Tennessee has a sitting coach left a school where he won a national title to coach another school. Texas A&M gave Fisher a ten year contract for $75 Million which ranked as a pretty large splash but the fact it is guaranteed made it headline news. Texas A&M certainly made the biggest splash with their hire and the bank vault full of cash they gave away to get him. For A&M that got a legitimate top level coach who can also recruit and we know A&M will provide whatever else he wants or needs so the days of mediocrity in College Station could be short-lived. If not that was a very, very expensive mistake.
New Head Coach- Jeremy Pruitt. Butch Davis was fired which led to one of the wildest coaching searches of all time. The Saban effect is in play here as the Volunteers hired Jeremy Pruitt who was Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt helped build some of the nation’s best defenses while in Tuscaloosa. Recruiting is crucial in college football and Pruitt is a very active and energetic recruiter which shouldn’t take long for that to pay dividends on the field. His ability to develop talent and the fact he is an outstanding defensive tactician should make an immediate impact on the Volunteers program. Saban hired Pruitt to his first Alabama staff back in 2007 in a support role as the director of player development. He was promoted in 2010 to defensive backs coach and was part of two national championship teams. FSU hired Pruitt away as their defensive coordinator and helped field an outstanding defense on their way to a national title which was the third for Pruitt in as many years. Mark Richt needed a change at Georgia their defense which was ranked 79th nationally in scoring defense in 2013 needed a new direction and with the Pruitt hire they improved to 16th and eighth in two seasons under Pruitt’s guidance. Georgia hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as their new head coach with the departure of Mark Richt and Saban immediately brought Pruitt back to Alabama without speaking to any other coaches about the job opening. With Pruitt hired as the defensive coordinator Alabama has kept their defensive status by leading the nation in scoring defense the last two seasons.
New Head Coach- Chad Morris. Chad Morris is the new head man in Fayetteville having been hired away from SMU after Arkansas fired Bret Bielema. His resume at SMU is not impressive when it comes to wins and losses but he did do a nice job taking over a team that had just gone 0-12 the previous season. There was definite improvement during his short two-year tenure at SMU so hiring him even with a sub-par won-loss record does not come as a surprise. Morris is a former Texas High School coach which should help him recruit the talent rich state of Texas. Morris has a sharp offensive mind evidenced by his two NFL caliber receivers who each had over 1,000 yards receiving and a dozen touchdowns apiece last season. Morris has some big time college experience he served as Clemson’s offensive coordinator prior to taking the SMU job. Morris is going to need a very good defensive coordinator and defensive staff if he is to find success in the SEC. We often hear about college players’ struggling to make the transition from college football to the NFL well Morris is in a similar situation coming from SMU to an SEC head coaching job. The stress level for him just went up exponentially with in most cases a very short time to get acclimated to the SEC.
New Head Coach-Dan Mullen The Florida Gators fired Jim McElwain and had their sights set on Chip Kelly or Scott Frost. I didn’t like either one of those choices but I would take Kelly before Frost if it was a have to situation. They eventually hired Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State where he produced a winning program in the top conference in the country. Mullen managed to accomplish that without a rich school tradition or history of winning and without the resources of his conference opponents. Some may not remember he was part of Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida that won a national title. Mullen has a proven track record of developing talent especially at the quarterback position. He takes over a Gators program that has talent and he will recruit top talent to Florida which should expedite the turnaround. Mullen struggled to get top level talent across the entire roster at MSU and look what he accomplished there. The swagger will return to the Swamp with Mullen at the helm.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
New Head Coach-Joe Moorhead The Bulldogs Dan Mullen resigned as MSU head coach to take the Florida Gators head coaching job. The Bulldogs didn’t waste time they went after Joe Moorhead who has been the brain trust behind Penn State’s two-year offensive explosion. Moorhead’s offense put 42 points on Michigan who ended the season with the third ranked defense in the nation. Moorhead also found success in the FCS with Fordham where it is a tough place to win. He built Fordham into an FCS power with a record of 38-13 in his four years as their head coach. He immediately implemented his recruiting process and went to work which is key if he is to be successful at MSU. Former head coach Dan Mullen left a program that is not lacking talent Moorhead has a strong base to work from and it appears his recruiting will continue to build on that leading into his first season in Starkville.
New Head Coach-Matt Luke The Ole Miss Rebels had their head coach already in that position as Matt Luke was tapped as their interim head coach after their former head coach was given an ultimatum resign or we will fire you so Hugh Freeze resigned. The story in Oxford surrounding Hugh Freeze and Call Girls with former head coach Houston Nutt’s lawyers tossing Freeze under the proverbial bus is enough for a blockbuster movie. Well maybe not a blockbuster but certainly a Freeze and Nutt buster. In July 2017 former Ole Miss Head Coach Houston Nutt sued Ole Miss for defamation, contending that Freeze and school officials falsely blamed him for the violations the NCAA had uncovered during their investigation. As part of discovery for the lawsuit, Nutt’s attorneys filed a Freedom of Information Act request for calls made on his university –issued cellular phone during January 2016. Nutt’s contention was Freeze and others at Ole Miss leaked information to the press in an effort to smear Nutt. While reviewing those phone records Nutt’s attorneys discovered a call to a number associated with a female escort service and they alerted Ole Miss Officials as to their discovery. Now what do you think the chances are that Nutt’s attorneys already knew that Escort numbers were going to be on Hugh Freezes cell phone call listings when they requested that Freedom of Information Act request. They were not looking for calls to the press; they were looking for calls to escort services. The parties involved never mentioned that but the word on the street and not just in Oxford they were not looking for newspaper and television reporter’s phone numbers. It will take a few years for this to go quiet hopefully Matt Luke will still be in Oxford when the Freeze-Nutt saga ends. You can’t make this up…
The 2018-19 college football season is right around the corner I know it is really hard to believe but we are only a few months away from kicking it off. Our next SEC installment will review who will be behind or under center when the season kicks off, SEC Quarterbacks our next article stay tuned