I cannot help but wonder how many people in Arkansas will call their new coach "Coach Bolemia" for years to come. That could be hard to stomach. LOL
Quick, grab a pencil and rank the SEC’s football coaches from 1-14. Where do you put the guys in the new rookie class?
If you go by career wins you may shortchange a guy like Mark Stoops at Kentucky who’s taking over a program for the first time. Some of those newbies like Mark Richt, Dan Mullen, and Will Muschamp have walked into the SEC and done quite well. Others have been total failures.
If you go by past recruiting prowess, you might dismiss a guy like James Franklin who entered the league with a staff that had zero SEC recruiting ties. In case you haven’t been keeping up, Franklin’s recruiting at Vanderbilt has been eye-popping.
In the end, whether or not Stoops, Bret Bielema, Butch Jones and Gus Malzahn succeed, will come down to a few key issues. Some coaches face more challenges or bigger challenges than others. Naturally, we break them all down for you, coach-by-coach, below:
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
1. Recruiting – We’ve said it before. We say it again here. Beilema’s recruiting at Wisconsin was not stellar (for a tip-top program) and he does not have connections to Texas recruits or prospects in the Southeast. On the plus side, that tells you he’s been winning without great recruiting classes. On the downside, the Big Ten is not the SEC. Wanna win in Dixie? Get some players.
2. Fan expectations – Bobby Petrino was popular, but even he couldn’t get the Hogs to play at an SEC championship level. John L. Smith certainly couldn’t it this past year, either. But Razorback fans expect to someday jump to the top of the West Division and beyond. For the foreseeable future that’ll mean besting Alabama and LSU. And probably Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, too. Bielema is the “name” hire in the league this offseason and the expectations he faces will be higher as a result.
Butch Jones, Tennessee
1. Recruiting – The Volunteer State just doesn’t produce much home-grown talent. The Vols’ new coach will have to quickly built recruiting pipelines into Georgia and Florida if he can. If nothing else, he should certainly open doors for UT in Cincinnati and the state of Ohio. That can’t hurt.
2. Find a quarterback – If Jones’ first mission is recruiting, he’ll need to win games next year against a wicked schedule that includes Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Oregon to build some buzz. To win games and build buzz, he’ll need to find a dual-threat quarterback to run his system… or change the system he’s used to move up from Central Michigan to Cincinnati to Tennessee. As we said, gotta find a dual-threat quarterback ’cause it’s doubtful he’s going to drop his system.
3. Fan support – Many Tennessee fans have erupted in anger over Jones’ hiring and some took to Twitter to embarrass themselves before the nation. If the new guy wants to recruit — see how it all goes back to recruiting at UT — he’ll need a few fans in the stands when prospects come to visit. Will he get ‘em? Judging by the initial reaction? Maybe a few. Keyword: Few.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
1. Find a quarterback – As we broke down earlier this week, Auburn’s 2010 team was obviously its best and that’s because its defense ranked in the top half of the SEC. The Tigers also had a strong time of possession number that season. In Malzahn’s other two years as offensive coordinator at Auburn, his unit was on and off the field so quickly that the Tigers’ D struggled with fatigue. Malzahn needs a quarterback with legs to help eat the clock and…
2. Protect the defense – Show me a team with an up-tempo, spread offense and I’ll show you a team with a so-so defense. Hiring Ellis Johnson was a darn good step in the right direction for Malzahn. But he must run the football effectively to help the fellas on Johnson’s side of the ball.
3. Change the culture – Tiger fans won’t like hearing this, but at what point will the NCAA just set up an office on the Plains? From the Cam Newton affair to the HBO Four to Jovon Robinson to the Tiger Prowl, Auburn has been in the NCAA’s crosshairs time after time after time these past few seasons. Throw in a lot of illegal off-field activities during the Gene Chizik era and AU’s new coach must start to clean up the Tigers’ reputation.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
1. Administrative support – Of all the new SEC coaches, no one has a single bigger need than Stoops’ need of true support. If Kentucky’s administration makes football a point of emphasis, pushes funding in that program’s direction, and provides Stoops with the facilities and support he needs — as Vanderbilt has done with James Franklin – Kentucky can improve as a football program. If, however, UK continues to fast-track any hoops requests over football requests, Stoops will just become the next man down. Mitch Barnhart, it’s time to get serious about football and you have to be the man to lead the way. It’s one thing to hire a coach, it’s another to support him seriously.
2. Recruiting – As is the case with Arkansas and Tennessee, the Commonwealth of Kentucky doesn’t produce very many NFL draft picks. Knowing that, the Wildcats’ new coach will need to lean on the Deep South recruiting contacts he made while at Florida State and — if he’ll take our advice — find some way to start plucking prospects from Ohio and Pennsylvania. Cincinnati is going through a coaching transition (thanks to Tennessee) and that might just open up the Queen City a bit more for Stoops and company. Penn State won’t be going bowling for a few more years, is there an in to be found there? If so, UK’s new coach must find it.