It’s SEC preview week and here is a look at the league’s best coaches, up and comers and more.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama – What else can be said that hasn’t already about Saban? After another national championship, there’s little doubt that he’s not only the best coach in the game, but the best to ever walk the sidelines. Words have little use in describing just how dominant Saban has been so I won’t waste your time.
2. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M – He’s already won a title at Florida State, and we saw what’s transpired in Tallahassee since he left. The Aggies have improved every season under Fisher and it’s only a matter of time until they make the playoff (even without expansion). He’s bringing in really high end talent every year, and they’re certain to break through sooner rather than later even after Texas joins the SEC.
3. Dan Mullen, Florida – You can’t forget how impressive Mullen was at Mississippi State – he took a program that has historically been the dregs of the conference to some of the highest points it’s ever seen. And he has made headway at UF as well, toppling Georgia last season despite having clearly less talent. While he’s not the best recruiter, he’s as good as any in developing talent.
COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
1. Mike Leach, Mississippi State – Year 1 of the Leach era in Starkville did not go as planned, and we saw a ton of players leave the program. Culturally his fit has not been very good so far, and despite a couple of good showings, the offense just wasn’t where we expected it to be. Another rough season could spell bad news for the Pirate. He’s not going to be fired after two seasons, right?
2. Ed Orgeron, LSU – Just one year removed from a national title, things are not all roses in Baton Rouge. This has less to do with LSU’s on-field performance (although the Tigers were very underwhelming last year) and more to do with off-field scandals plaguing not just him but the entire athletic department at the moment. But if the Tigers have another lackluster season, don’t be surprised if the brass decides to cut bait and push the restart button on the program even just two season removed from a national title.
3. Mark Stoops, Kentucky – It’s tough to find too many guys on the hot seat in the SEC with so many coaches in their first or second season on campus, and a handful more who have immense job security, so it’s kind of Stoops by default. But with that being said, Stoops has made five consecutive bowls at Kentucky, so I doubt he’s going to be gone after this season without some sort of massive implosion. But expectations are getting higher.
1. Sam Pittman, Arkansas – For most coaches, a 3-7 record in their first season would not be considered all that impressive. But considering just how far the Razorbacks had fallen during the last years of Bret Bielema and the entirety of the Chad Morris era, what Pittman was able to do in his first season in Fayetteville is unbelievably impressive. The program had won one SEC game in the previous three years. Pittman won three in his first season. The culture that he has quickly established at Arkansas is going to put them on track to climb back into the mix within the next few seasons.
2. Shane Beamer, South Carolina – Beamer obviously comes from a strong lineage as the son of hall of fame coach Frank Beamer, but he has established a name for himself in coaching circles. He’s worked under some pretty great coaches too, including Phil Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, Kirby Smart and Lincoln Riley, not to mention his own father. If there’s anyone who can get the Gamecocks out of their rut of mediocrity, it’s Beamer.
3. Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri – After going 5-5 in his first season at the helm, Drinkwitz will be looking to improve in his second season leading the Tigers. But his team made big strides against an all-SEC schedule, despite losing their last two in blowout fashion. He’s surrounded himself with a good mix of young and veteran assistant coaches, and has a very favorable schedule this season, with only one game being really out of reach (at Georgia). Don’t be surprised if Mizzou sneaks up on people this season.