SEC Football: Power Ranking Coaches After Gus Malzahn, Bret Bielema Hires
The SEC has undergone some serious coaching changes in the last month, as four coaches in this conference were fired. With not much time to waste, many of those programs have already hired a replacement. The newest coaches to roam the sidelines in the SEC will be Gus Malzahn and Bret Bielema.
Malzahn has left Arkansas State to replace Gene Chizik at Auburn, while Bielema will leave Wisconsin to become the new head coach at Arkansas. Two very surprising moves on the same day that will affect the SEC moving forward into a long offseason.
But with a conference that is already loaded in talent and coaching, where do these coaches fit in all of this?
Let's take a look.
Note: Rankings are put together on simple overall accomplishments. Success in the SEC is not earned overnight, and you have to put together a top-notch resume before being looked at as elite. It doesn't matter what you did at smaller schools. It matters what you have done now.
14. Vacant, Tennessee
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With Derek Dooley currently in the unemployment line, Tennessee is a team that is still searching for a head coach.
13. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
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Mark Stoops is a defensive-minded coach who will fit in perfectly in the SEC. He has done tremendous work everywhere he has gone and was able to turn Florida State into a national powerhouse on the defensive side of the ball.
There is no question that he is a terrific coach and should continue to have success.
However, he has never been a head coach before, which kind of makes him difficult to grade. I also question the amount of talent he will actually be able to bring to Kentucky.
This is no easy task, and it makes you wonder if he is really going to stick around for the long haul.
12. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
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This may surprise some people, especially with the performance Hugh Freeze was able to give in his first year at Ole Miss. But as you continue to read, you will notice that there is quite a list of talented head coaches in this conference that have a much longer track record.
With that said, you have to give Freeze credit for leading the Rebels to a bowl game for the first time in three years. He has had success everywhere he has coached but hasn't been a head coach for very long.
Moving up this list is possible as early as next season, but coaches in this conference have to earn their stripes before being put on a pedestal.
11. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
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Gary Pinkel has been the coach of the Missouri Tigers since 2001 and has really helped build the program into what it is today. He has helped put the Tigers in the AP poll in eight seasons, produced many players that have gone on to the NFL and had a seven-year streak of reaching a bowl game.
So why is he so low on the list?
Well, he has always been accused of not being able to get over the hump, as he has yet to lead this program to any major success over the years. He also couldn't hack it in the first year in the SEC, which is understandable with the culture shock from leaving the Big 12.
Seeing how he does next year will ultimately determine his fate.
10. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
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This may surprise college football fans everywhere, but Dan Mullen has done a surprisingly good job at Mississippi State. It’s a place where it isn't the easiest to recruit, and despite going up against powerhouse programs in the SEC West, he has gotten the Bulldogs into three straight bowl games.
Recruiting has improved under Mullen's watch, and the program looks to be on the cusp of turning the corner rather rapidly.
The good thing about Mullen is that he is only 40 years old and appears to have his best coaching days ahead of him.
As long as he remains happy with Mississippi State, great years remain ahead for the Bulldogs and Mullen.
9. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
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James Franklin has only been the head coach of Vanderbilt for two seasons but has put together a 14-11 record in that time. He has also led the Commodores to two consecutive bowl games in his first two years as head coach.
Maybe you do not understand what I typed.
Franklin has led Vanderbilt, a school that will produce more doctors than football players, to two straight bowl games. He is a master motivator and is somebody that many players would end up running through a brick wall for.
Expect Franklin to continue to climb up the rankings.
8. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
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Gus Malzahn has only been a head coach for one season but was able to lead Arkansas State to a 9-3 record in the Sun Belt.
Besides that one year of running a team, Malzahn has picked up the reputation of being one of the brightest offensive minds in the sport of football. He already helped lead Auburn to a national championship as the offensive coordinator and has had great success in other places as an offensive coach.
Malzahn has experience working in the SEC and should fit right in, considering he is only a year removed from being a part of this coaching staff.
Everybody should expect wonderful things with this hire sooner than later.
7. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
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Bret Bielema was able to win three Big Ten titles in his days with Wisconsin and was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year back in 2006. He put together a 68-24 overall record and gradually became one of the more respected coaches in the Big Ten.
He has a similar style to SEC football, as he prefers tough-nosed football and big offensive linemen and wants to wear down his opponent with a power running game.
So why is he a little low on the list?
Well, he hasn't proved anything in the SEC. This is a conference where you have to prove yourself before you are given respect.
6. Les Miles, LSU
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Les Miles has never been considered the smartest head coach in the world. He has issues with clock management, draws up the craziest plays known to man and has been known to eat grass.
However, the Mad Hatter has won a national championship, two SEC titles and 81 percent of his games at LSU.
He may drive Tiger fans absolutely nuts at times, but he brings in the talent and is still one of the few coaches capable of going toe-to-toe with Nick Saban in the SEC West.
5. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
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Kevin Sumlin left Houston for Texas A&M and was instantly thrown into the toughest division in college football. Basically, he went from playing community colleges to playing mini-NFL teams.
Despite bringing along a completely new coaching staff, dealing with all-new players and starting a freshman quarterback, the Aggies racked up 10 victories. This is the same team that SEC fans didn't want in the SEC because it was a mediocre Big 12 team over the years.
Sumlin deserves some Coach of the Year honors and has immediately shot up the leader board with this year’s success.
4. Will Muschamp, Florida
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Remember when Florida Gator fans were questioning if Will Muschamp was the right guy for their program?
After just two seasons, nobody is questioning the head coach any longer.
He has put together one of the best coaching staffs in the SEC, and with many first-year coaches at Florida, things only look to improve moving forward. Muschamp has gone through one of the most difficult schedules in all of college football this year and was able to lead his team to a BCS bowl.
His tough-minded style of coaching fits well in this conference and will take him even further as the years go by.
3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
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Steve Spurrier has earned the right to move up this list the last couple of seasons for what he has done for South Carolina. A few years ago, you could have probably called the "Ole Ball Coach" a has-been, but he has quietly found his coaching magic with the Gamecocks.
After everything he was able to do with Florida back in the days, he has now led his current program to two straight double-digit-win seasons.
South Carolina is a school that hasn't experienced much success in the past, but with Spurrier around, it appears that all of that is changing.
2. Mark Richt, Georgia
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How many head coaches can you name that have been as consistent as Mark Richt the last decade?
Don't worry, I'll wait.
Out of 12 seasons with Georgia, Richt has led the Bulldogs to eight seasons of at least 10 wins. He has reached a bowl game every season as a head coach and has gotten his team into the SEC championship game five times.
So he can't win the big game?
If that is the only thing missing, the complaining should die down a little bit.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
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Was there any question who would be the No. 1 coach?
Nick Saban isn't just the best coach in the SEC but is arguably the best coach in all of college football. He has led his team to two national titles and three national championship games in the last four years, recruits better than most in the sport and has proven he can win anywhere he ends up.
Saban is a perfectionist who simply doesn't lose many games. Whether you love or hate him, you can't deny that you would love to have him on your side.
He is by far the best coach in this conference, and until somebody knocks him off or builds a better resume, it will remain that way.