2012 SEC East Coaches
The Hot Seat Factor
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SEC West Coaching Analysis & Hot Seat Status
Picture this. You're a beleaguered athletic director with an opening at the top of the football organizational chart. Your checkbook is open, and your fan base is glaring at you with unwavering anticipation. Which of the
SEC's current head coaches would you put in charge of the program for the next five or so years? Knowing that your own job hangs in the balance, to which man would you entrust your future?
This is NOT necessarily a ranking of how good the head coaches are. This is a ranking based on who would be best to take over a program and build it up, so age is a major factor. A coach might be legendary, but he might not have another five years of greatness left. So with that in mind, who are the top candidates to run your program?
7. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
It's not working. He's in a tough spot, and while there are several viable excuses, he simply isn't getting the wins. To be fair, the Vols had some big injuries last year, and he was left a bit of a mess after Lane Kiffin skipped town for USC, but he hasn't come up with anything special in his first two years. Can he get down and dirty enough to survive the brutal SEC recruiting wars? He's a good guy and a straight arrow, but, sadly, those aren't necessarily positives. Tennessee should be one of the nation's premier programs, and it was a superpower among superpowers in the 1990s, but Dooley has gone 11-14 in his first two years and there's not a lot of hope for a big turnaround in the near future.
Hot Seat Status: Smoky. The first two years on Rocky Top could be glossed over and explained away as a time to rebuild, but it's not like he turned Louisiana Tech into a player in his three seasons. Granted, he set the foundation for the Bulldogs, but he went just 17-20 in Ruston and 12-12 in WAC play. He doesn't have to win the SEC East this year, but there has to be a major sign of improvement.
6. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Phillips has the unenviable task of trying to keep the program relevant at a place where the basketball program is as strong as ever and in a conference with few layups. A good offensive coach, he has done what he can over the last two seasons, but things fell off the map last year after needing a slew of replacements in key spots. Still, he took the Cats to a bowl game in his first season and last year was a rebuilding campaign, so his tenure is still too young to make a proper judgment. A key part of the program as a coach since 2003 and as a receiver in the early 1980s, he knows the program. Turning 49 this year, he's still young enough to make a big impact.
Hot Seat Status: Mild. Kentucky football is Kentucky football and it would take a minor miracle and/or a quirky system to hold up against all the power programs. Getting five wins out of a team that finished 118th in the nation in total offense was impressive, but he has to find a way to go bowling on a consistent basis.
5. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
If nothing else, Franklin has taken the pitch-perfect attitude to the Vanderbilt job. It's Vanderbilt. There won't ever be any SEC titles, and it'll take most of the East to get hit by NCAA sanctions to be within ten miles of going to the title game, but Franklin won't have any of it. He won't listen to any excuses and won't accept any barriers or past gripes; he's going to win and he's going to do it at Vanderbilt. He has a good offensive mind and he has the youthful energy of a 40-year-old head coach, but will it all work? He might be a better fit at a bigger program in need of an attitude adjustment, like Illinois or UCLA, but he was able to take the Commodores to a bowl in his first season and he'll be tireless in his efforts to produce a winner.
Hot Seat Status: Vandy might have a hard time keeping him. If he can take the Commodores to a bowl game every other year and be competitive enough to be more than a speed bump, he'll be doing his job.
4. Will Muschamp, Florida
It's only been one year, and he did a nice job on the recruiting trail, but he was handed a heater by Urban Meyer and did nothing with it. Remember, Florida had some epic recruiting classes during Urban's final years, and the new coaching staff didn't do anything with it. There are four and five-star talents across the board; Florida should roll out of bed and win ten games. To be fair, going on the road to LSU, Auburn, and South Carolina, along with the dates with Georgia, Alabama, and Florida State, didn't make it easy, but the Gators lost ALL of those games. Turning 41 this summer, Muschamp is still one of the most talented young coaches in college football, but he really, really needs a good 2012. His defenses will always be special, but he needs the offense to follow suit. 105th in the nation in total offense isn't going to cut it.
Hot Seat Status: 8-5, 8-5, and 7-4. Ron Zook never went 7-6. Winning games isn't enough at Florida. This is a program that's used to being in the SEC title chase and national championship hunt every year, and if Muschamp doesn't come up with a big step forward, 2013 will be a make-or-break season.
3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
The Ball Coach did pulled it off. This run South Carolina is on is by far the greatest in the history of its shockingly mediocre program, highlighted by a fantastic 11-2 2011 coming off an East title in 2010. His run at Florida was legendary, and while the disaster with the Washington Redskins hurt his legacy and reputation, the last seven years got it all back. Not only has he done the nearly impossible by giving the success-starved Gamecock fans a consistent winner, but he is going stronger than ever with a few loaded recruiting classes beefing up the talent level. Now, because of Spurrier and what he's been doing, there's a legitimate reason to throw out the idea that USC could be good enough to be in the BCS championship chase. However, he's turning 67 this year and probably wouldn't be the coach you'd want to rebuild a program. At the immediate moment, though, he's still among the best in the business.
Hot Seat Status: After mediocre seasons from 2007 to 2009 there was a thought that Spurrier might not have the magic anymore. After the last two years, though, and after the greatest season in school history, he'll be able to close out his coaching career however he wants. There are golf courses with his name on it, but they might have to wait a few more years. He has amassed too much talent to retire now.
2. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
From 1984 to 2002 Missouri had just two winning seasons. Pinkel took over the program in 2001 with his no-nonsense approach and did a great job of building up the talent level, but it took a little while with three losing seasons in his first four years. And then Mizzou became special with a three Big 12 North titles in four seasons, highlighted by a special 2007 with the puck on its stick in the conference title game for a chance to play in the BCS championship. The seven straight winning seasons under Pinkel has made him one of the best coaches in the program's history, but things are about to get a whole bunch tougher in the SEC East. Turning 60 this year, there are no signs of slowing down as he takes the program to a whole other level. However, he's going to have to ramp up the recruiting to compete keep the winning seasons rolling.
Hot Seat Status: He plead guilty to a DWI, and while he was disciplined and suspended for a game, there was never any serious thought of getting rid of him. Missouri isn't in the SEC this year if Pinkel hadn't turned the program into a power, and while last season might have been a bit of a disappointment, winning at least eight games a year is the norm. This is his program and Mizzou has a national profile now because of what he was able to do.
1. Mark Richt, Georgia
If he was at almost any other school he'd be a legend with ten winning seasons in 11 years, seven double-digit win campaigns, five SEC East titles, and six top ten finishes in ten years with four in the top six. And it's not enough. With Florida, LSU, Auburn, and Alabama winning national titles in the SEC's recent amazing run, Georgia is waiting for its turn at bat. Richt was great at taking the program from Point A to Point B, but is that it? The SEC East-winning 2011 season got him off the hot seat for now, but that was partly due to a schedule that missed all the big boys from the West until the SEC title game. But does he have control over his program? With problem after problem with rules violations, including current issues with safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, what should be a fun 2012 is starting out to be anything but.
Hot Seat Status: No high-profile head coach was on a hotter seat going into last year, especially after an 0-2 start, and then the schedule got easy, the Dawgs beat everyone they were supposed to, and now Richt has a five-year extension. However, one more clunker year and there will be plenty of talk about a buyout, especially if the off-the-field problems keep on happening. However, if and when the 52-year-old gets canned, he'll be snapped up in a heartbeat.
SEC West Coaching Analysis & Hot Seat Status