The SEC is widely regarded as the nation’s premier conference. The SEC consistently has the best players, the best facilities and the best coaches. However, for some reason, several coaches have come into the SEC and had tremendous success in their second and third seasons.
The University of Georgia head coach, Mark Richt, led the Bulldogs to a record of 13-1 in his second season and they won the SEC championship and the Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs were one play away from the BCS national championship game. The previous season, the Bulldogs were 8-4.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban led the Tide to the SEC championship game in just his second season, and the Crimson Tide were defeated by the eventual national champions, Florida. The Tide finished the season 12-2 and would go on to win the BCS national championship in Coach Saban's third season. Alabama was just 7-6 in Coach Saban’s first season.
Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer led Florida to the BCS national championship in his second season with the Gators. Florida finished the season 13-1 and dismantled Ohio State 41-14 in the championship game. Meyer would later lead the Gators to a BCS championship game in his fourth season. However, in his first season, the Gators were only 9-3.
Two seasons ago this trend continued as Coach Gene Chizik led the Auburn Tigers to the BCS national championship in just his second season as head coach. The 14-0 Tigers experienced a six-game win increase from his first season when they finished 8-5.
Last season, the Florida Gators limped home to their second consecutive disappointing season and their first under new head coach Will Muschamp. The boys from Gainesville finished the season 7-6.
How many games will UF win in 2012?
This has many fans fearing for the worse. What if the Gators begin to dwell in the land of mediocrity once again?
I don’t think any sane person would believe that Florida would ever return to the pre-Spurrier days. However, there is genuine concern that if Muschamp is not the man for the job, he could set the Gators back several seasons.
While I am far from sold on Muschamp at this juncture, there is no way I would mark him off at this point. Nick Saban looked lost in his first season back in the SEC. Mark Richt cost his team two games with poor clock management his first season. Gene Chizik and Les Miles have had several early gaffes that had skeptics doubting.
All of those coaches, however, were competing for national championships within two to three seasons. It could be the same course for Muschamp.
As horrific as the Gators were on offense, they finished in the top 10 in the nation in total defense. Their defense should take another step forward in 2012, and this could mean a dramatic improvement.
Florida has a lot going against them because they have lost the few playmakers they had on offense last season. However, recent history is on their side.
Will Muschamp be a great coach? Too early to tell. However, next season could be a coming-out party for him.