Rating the SEC Coaches

Travis HitsonCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2009

I know this list has probably been done here many times here, but this is my take on the top 12 coaches in the SEC.

1. Urban Meyer (Florida)

Should there really even be a debate? Meyer won two national titles in the last three years. He is a relentless recruiter. His biggest challenge in the future will be trying to satisfy gluttonous Florida fans who now expect BCS Championship appearances on an annual basis.

It's difficult to find a negative with Meyer (other than his schoolgirl crush on Notre Dame). Well, he is 0-2 lifetime against Tommy Tuberville.

2. Nick Saban (Alabama)

Playing second fiddle to Meyer is not likely sitting well with Saban. However, those who doubt "Meyer vs. Saban" won't be the classic coaching matchup of this era haven't been paying close attention.

3. Mark Richt (Georgia)

It's a compliment to Richt when a 10-3 record and No. 10 finish in the final USA Today poll is considered a catastrophe. But when you start the season No. 1 and your hated rival ends up there, there is no reason to celebrate in Athens.

Hopefully Mark Richt and company can one day get over the hump and get to the national championship game.

4. Houston Nutt (Ole Miss)

Life is good for a man who was run out of Arkansas a mere 13 months ago. In any other year, Nutt would have been the runaway choice for SEC Coach of the Year. The rap on Nutt at Arkansas was a lack of consistency, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep it rolling in Oxford.

5. Bobby Petrino (Arkansas)

The record (5-7) was mediocre but wins over Auburn, Tulsa, and LSU gave fans a taste of the future. In spite of a sub-zero personality, the guy can coach.

6. Les Miles (LSU)

It's almost humorous to say the jury is still out on a man 52 weeks removed from a national title. But only an impressive bowl win saved this season from being a total disaster.

LSU failed to make the final top 25, which could be a major warning sign. Miles continues to recruit exceptionally well at LSU, but the clock is ticking on his star-crossed career on the bayou.

7. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)

It's hard to find a Hall of Fame head coach (well, other than Bobby Bowden) whose stock has fallen faster and farther than Spurrier's. One of the legendary head coaches in SEC history, Spurrier's legacy at Florida has been dimmed somewhat by Meyer's accomplishments.

His coaching record has dipped at South Carolina, where he has a four-year record of 28-22 (15-17 in the SEC). He lost only 27 games in 12 seasons at Florida.

Spurrier remains one of the best teachers in the game. His problem may have more to do with his current location.

8. Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt)

Although Vandy had its usual late-autumn slide, this season will be remembered for the victory over Auburn (with ESPN's GameDay present) and the thrilling bowl victory over Boston College. Johnson gets as much out of his players as anyone in the league.

9. Rich Brooks (Kentucky)

Another coach who was given up for dead several years ago who has done a really nice job of keeping the UK program chugging along. Brooks' career is close to the end but fans in the Bluegrass State will remember him fondly.

10. Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)

With two national championship rings and the experience of being Tim Tebow's offensive coordinator, Mullen should make a favorable impression on the recruiting trail. He has one of the toughest jobs in the SEC, but he also has perhaps the most patient and understanding fanbase—which can matter a lot.

11. Gene Chizik (Auburn)

Chizik has weathered a punishing storm of criticism and has put together an excellent staff. Expectations have been lowered dramatically for the time being, which should also help.

12. Lane Kiffin (Tennessee)

This remains a bizarre hire for one of the elite programs in the SEC. The presence of his father as defensive coordinator and Ed Orgeron should help, but Kiffin will have a difficult time quieting the critics and proving he can coach at this level.