It would appear the hiring season is almost complete when it comes to coaches in the SEC.
Remember many folks did not know what to expect when Les Miles hired Cam Cameron at LSU, but that came up roses for the Tigers. Cameron was clearly the best hire of last off season. There are a few positions still being determined as of the writing of this blog post.
Bret Bielema needs a defensive coordinator and could have one very soon while Dan Mullen will name an offensive coordinator to run his offense at Mississippi State. It has been a busier season than usual with turnover at major programs like Alabama, Georgia and Florida, plus the hiring of a new head coach at Vanderbilt.
I decided to rate my top five impact hires of the off season at any position:
- Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia - This to me is such a home run it’s almost hard to believe. Pruitt and Richt will need to fill out the defensive staff, but that’s OK because it will then be completely Pruitt’s defense and his ideas. Pruitt took a talented and aggressive Seminoles defense and made it better. He lost several key players to the NFL yet the defense was plus-17 in the turnover margin up from minus-5 the season before. He is an excellent recruiter which is already an upgrade and brings in the resume to get the attention of the young but talented Bulldogs defense.
- Derek Mason, Head Coach, Vanderbilt - Mason jumped right into the fray by winning his press conference and announcing that the Commodores don’t just want to compete they want to win the SEC. His resume is very similar to the prior coach James Franklin with one exception. He won big at Stanford and did it with defense. His defense held Oregon to 34 points combined in the last two games. The Ducks went north of 34 points in 10 their 13 games last season. The question is can he recruit at Vandy? I am also interested to see who he gets as offensive coordinator and one name that does interest me is former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell.
- Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama - Something wasn’t right with Doug Nussmeier and Nick Saban and to be able and go out and get a proven play caller in Kiffin is a terrific hire. Saban has reached the “Belichick” status in college and people and players will conform to do it his way or hit the highway. There is no doubt that this marriage could be good for both sides, but Kiffin has his work cut out for him. Alabama has nothing at quarterback to get excited about yet, but let’s see who he brings along in the spring before we write that position off. Kiffin mentored Jonathan Crompton at Tennessee, so I would think one of the blue-chip prospects will develop into a good player.
- Kurt Roper, Offensive Coordinator, Florida - This may be the toughest job of all the ones mentioned because of the uncertainty surrounding the program. Combine that with the fact that the Gators offense has been horrible for three straight years and Roper has his work cut out for him. First, he needs a healthy Jeff Driskel and some weapons to go around him. The offensive line (if healthy) should be pretty good considering the experience guys got this year after all the injuries. Do the Gators have any playmakers? Roper is actively recruiting a quarterback for this class considering the depth at that position and will have 15 days to infuse some confidence and big plays in the Florida attack this spring. He will look to upgrade a scoring offense that had 66 touchdowns in two seasons. Duke had 60 in 2013 alone.
- Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State – OK, I know he was the defensive coordinator last year, but FSU was hot to hire him away from Dan Mullen and the administration went out and rewarded him. Last season he made $325,000 and this year he will make $575,000 with a bump to $625,000 next year. His defense gave up one touchdown over the last two games and in the seven Bulldogs wins they gave up just 12.9 points per game. Mississippi State could be a good sleeper team in 2013.
This and that
- The college football playoff committee met this week to discuss polls and how they will be released. I think we enter a gray area when they do this because obviously those who play a tougher early schedule will be ranked higher. But what happens to the team with a stronger second-half schedule? Explain to fans whose team starts No. 2, doesn’t lose, but falls out of the top four because of schedule strength. It essentially is for the sake of discussion and that is what the BCS did. I think college football is afraid to lose that.
- It looks like Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker, who is from Mobile, Ala. will be headed to Alabama. He will graduate early and have two years to play for the Crimson Tide. The only problem is he won’t be with them in spring practice. It will be interesting to see how quickly he progresses versus the guys from the spring. The good thing is he did get game action last year behind Jameis Winston because the Noles blew everyone out. Randy Sanders believes this kids’ arm is as strong as Winston’s and could start for anyone in the country.
According to Bovada oddsmakers here is how the SEC stacks up for 2014 at this time.
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- Miss St.