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Why They’ll Work And Why They Won’t: The SEC’s Rookie Coaches

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.

 


14 comments
RT77
RT77

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

RT77
RT77

If you really knew anything about Malzahn's offense, you would know that he does not run a traditional spread offense.  His offense is a run-first offense. In 2009 at Auburn, Ben Tate rushed for nearly 1400 yards, other backs added to that with another 900 yards rushing, not including QB rushing plays.  In 2010, the AU team rushed for over 2000 yards outside of Cam's rushing numbers.  Michael Dyer accrounted for nearly 1100 or those rushing yards. As for QB play, Schott Loeffler did nothing to help Keihl Frazier.  Frazier will look like a different kid next year/

NatanElias
NatanElias

Congratulations to John Pennington for a well-written, reasoned article.  I don't normally look to see the authors, but always find the articles on Mr. SEC are high quality like this in grammar and content.  They are realistic and balanced.  Great job.

aubieman2002
aubieman2002

I like the upside of the Malzahn hire. I think he can create an oregon east with his pace. It may not work out but if it does Auburn will be back to the top.

SevierVol
SevierVol like.author.displayName 1 Like

Everyone in Tennessee is a great AD and an even better Head Coach. Most of those making fools of themselves likely didn't even know who Butch Jones was, where he coached or what his track record was because they only watch a few SEC games each year. The only thing a lot of these big-mouths know about football is that they were never very good at playing it. A lot of the more vocal fans wear orange-tinted glasses and think every coach in the nation should beg to come here. They just don't realize that there are many other attractive programs and that you are not always successful at luring coaches away from a successful situation, especially when the money is relatively the same and fans have realistic expectations. I don't think Butch Jones was anyone's first choice but he seemed to be the only coach campaining to come and attempt to get us out of the sewer we are drowning in. Jones has won where ever he has been, is fiery on the sidelines and, by all indications, runs a tight ship. We at least should get behing him and give him a chance. Considering that the football program is in shambles, the Athletic Department is broke and the unrealistic expectations of many of the fans, I believe Jones was about as good as we could have realistically hope for. When all things are considered, I'm not sure we deserve Butch Jones.

lodger16x
lodger16x

The last guy who coached at Cincy is playing in the national championship game.  Hart could not force Gruden, Gundy, or Strong to sign on at gunpoint.  Big-time programs usually don't get their first choice.  Part of the problem with bringing coaches to TN are the fans who think they are Nostradamus, who are ready to give up before the first game is played.  A few idiots on Twitter are not indicative of the entire fan base.  Hope springs eternal in the off season, and the fans will be there, at least for a while.

JamieThornton
JamieThornton

SPORTSNATION

Which of the four SEC head coaching hires was the most impressive?

 50%Bret Bielema, Arkansas 15%Butch Jones, Tennessee 18%Gus Malzahn, Auburn 17%Mark Stoops, Kentucky

 (Total votes 17,370)

 

Dnayew
Dnayew

Stoops will be fired in 3 years. Jones will be fired in 4 years.  Bielema may actually be good - the lack of recruiting prowess worries me though; and Mulzahn will be good for Auburn, but will probably be wrongfully fired like Tuberville was, because Auburn is not Alabama, yet they think they are.

 

So my picks are Bielema to work - the rest to be out of work in 4 years

viciousdawg
viciousdawg

I think Auburn got the best coach but he will have a hard road to follow with the NCAA breathing down their necks. Tn has to change the culture around their program, if it don't, not even Nick Saban could win there.Tennessee need a D there short coming wasn't the Offense this past year.  Ky made a good hire, he will need a lot of support and patience from the fans .Arkansas is going to be a wait and see. Can Bielema recruit in the south? We shall see and it won't take long.

JamieThornton
JamieThornton

 @viciousdawg He has 11 players from Florida on his roster at Wisconsin. All the talk about not recruiting the south is ridiculous. On top of that, he had to get players to come from the nice weather south, to the dreadful Wisconsin. Not where everyone wants to be in the winter. He also has 4 players from Texas and 1 from Texarkana. Funny how he can't get anyone from the south. 

spitfires
spitfires

 @JamieThornton  @viciousdawg

 And one player from TN, one from NJ, and Monte Ball from Missouri.  Also, numerous players from OH, a couple from California.  And what about bringing some corn fed yellow hair boys down from the midwest?  Recruiting just became national.

 

Bielema stated in his pess conference that aout half of his juniors are NFL draftable.  And lets not forget JJ Watt of the Houston Texans up for NFL MVP in his second year.

 

So, if not a good recruiter, then Bielema is a good devleoper.

 

Hope he can run up the score on some of the teams that kicked the Razorbacks while they were down.

KY_Daktari
KY_Daktari

John,

 

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on grading the ADs, the search process, and the hires for the school and maybe a prediction on how it will be viewed in 2-3 years (since that's all people give coaches anyways).

 

Matt Jones posted about Mitch Barnhart and the UK search in particular on KSR, but I'd like to hear more of an outside opinion.

 

Thanks,

James

atnvol
atnvol like.author.displayName 1 Like

It is all speculative at this point, but I also think that TN made the best hire after viewing the Jones presser....I think AR and TN made the better hires and I have a feeling that it will work out well for the Vols finally.

BillRauhuff
BillRauhuff

I think when all is said and done Tennessee got the best coach. They hopefully will be bowling again next year and win 6-8 games 



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