Butch Jones to Tennessee: Re-Ranking the SEC Coaches
It didn't take long for the SEC to fill its vacant head-coaching positions. Now every program has replaced the guy who was recently let go.
The latest to take over an SEC program is Butch Jones, the new head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
Jones began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Rutgers in 1990 and has had success at pretty much every stop since then.
But how does this move impact the SEC coaching rankings?
We recently ranked the coaches when two other hires were made earlier in the week.
Could this move possibly shake up things in college football’s toughest conference?
Let's take a look at how all of the SEC coaches stack up now that every program has its guy.
Note: The rankings are based on accomplishments. Success in the SEC is not earned overnight. You have to put together a top-notch resume before being considered elite. It doesn't much what you did at smaller schools. It matters what you have done recently at bigger schools.
14. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
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If Mark Stoops is anything like his older brother, Bob Stoops, then Kentucky hit a home run. He has done a wonderful job coaching defense for many years and for several schools. But we have no idea how he will do as a head coach because this will be his first gig as the guy in charge.
Maybe he will be a success, or maybe he will flat on his face. We simply have no idea. Some guys were born to be coordinators, while some are able to make the transition to head coach.
With Stoops, we all have to wait to see how he will pan out.
I do know that it won't be easy.
Stoops will be dealing with far less talent than he had at Florida State and will be going up against tougher competition.
13. Butch Jones, Tennessee
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Did Tennessee make the right hire?
Going with Butch Jones is kind of surprising knowing that other big-name coaches were in the running.
However, Jones has been a winner everywhere he has gone, from winning MAC Championships with Central Michigan to picking up the pieces that Brian Kelly left at Cincinnati. He has had success and could bring offensive excitement to the Volunteers.
The problem is that he has not won on a major stage. Succeeding in the Big East is one thing, but the SEC is a league where only the strong survive.
It will be interesting to see how things play out. After all, the last coach before Jones to leave the Bearcats is coaching in the BCS National Championship Game.
12. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
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After a couple of losing seasons under Houston Nutt, Hugh Freeze came in to save the day at Mississippi. A program that only won six games in the previous two years has now won six games in 2012. It has also reached a bowl game for the first time since 2009.
If Freeze is able to turn Mississippi into a winner, you know he is doing something right.
Even with his successful debut success, the jury is still out on the Rebels' head coach. This is his first gig at a bigger program, so we haven't had a chance to see what he is truly capable of.
But if this year was any indication, it is only going up from here.
11. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
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There aren't many coaches who have been with a program as long as Gary Pinkel has been with Missouri. He has coached the Tigers since 2001. He has turned this into a solid program that usually earns a bowl bid and has helped produce many NFL players.
He is a veteran coach who is often overlooked when discussing above-average head coaches.
However, even with all of those years on the job, Pinkel still has yet to be able to turn the corner and really make an impact in the college football world. Reaching a bowl game is cool, but winning a conference title or appearing in a BCS bowl game would do wonders for Missouri.
With the move to the SEC, Pinkel is in the spotlight. Next year could make or break him.
10. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
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Dan Mullen went from a secure job running the offense at Florida to a more challenging head-coaching position at Mississippi State. Before his arrival, it had been nearly impossible to recruit at Mississippi State State, which was considered one of the bottom-feeder teams in the SEC West.
But in four years as head coach, Mullen has led the Bulldogs to three straight bowl games and their ability to recruit quality athletes has improved. A program that was bullied in the SEC for years is now making progress each and every season.
It is still a steep hill to climb, but with Mullen only 40, things are looking up for Mississippi State.
9. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
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James Franklin is only this low because everybody else either has more experience or a longer track record. But don't expect him to be one of the most underrated coaches in college football much longer.
It is only a matter of time before people begin to take notice of Franklin, who has turned Vanderbilt into a respectable football team. The Commodores may not be able to beat teams such as Alabama, LSU and Florida just yet, but don't expect them to go down quietly.
In just two years as head coach, Franklin has led Vandy to two straight bowl games. This is a program that had only earned one bowl bid since 1982 before he arrived on campus.
A great motivator, Franklin will soon have any job he wants in the country, or else he'll decide to stay at Vanderbilt and make it another quality SEC program.
8. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
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Gus Malzahn has little college head-coaching experience. I'm talking one year at Arkansas State, which makes him a baby by SEC standards.
But don't let that fool you. Malzahn is a offensive mastermind who should do well at Auburn. He already has experience with the Tigers. He was an offensive coordinator for the team and the brain behind Auburn's 2010 national championship team.
Malzahn is well-respected in college football circles and would have been a strong candidate for any number of openings. But Auburn is the best fit.
7. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
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Bret Bielema put together a successful resume at Wisconsin, winning three Big Ten titles in seven years. What makes that impressive is that all three came in the last three seasons, which may be a sign that the 42-year-old coach is beginning to enter his prime.
This could foreshadow fabulous stuff for the folks out in Arkansas.
Bielema was able to win nearly 74 percent of his games with the Badgers and hasn't missed a bowl game throughout his coaching career.
But until he proves he can rack up the victories in the SEC, everybody has to take a wait-and-see approach.
6. Les Miles, LSU
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Les Miles at No. 6 is sure to raise some eyebrows.
Look, I know he has won a national championship and helped many of his former assistants get head-coaching positions. However, he choked in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game against Nick Saban and led a team that was considered more "talented" than a year ago to only 10 wins this season.
That doesn't include all of the other incidents involving the LSU coach, such as grass eating and poor clock management.
This isn't a shot at The Mad Hatter, it is more about the respect I have for some of the other coaches in the SEC. Miles is a terrific coach, but would you trust him on the sidelines in the final minutes of a close game?
I think that speaks for itself.
5. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
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Kevin Sumlin is the type of coach who just comes off as a winner, and he has the track record to prove it.
People noticed when he turned Houston into a respectable program, but the question remained if he could do the same thing on a bigger stage.
So Sumlin left for the SEC, started a redshirt freshman quarterback and still won 10 games. People, this type of stuff does not happen by accident. His success is not a fluke.
This is a guy who will hold his own in the recruiting world and will continue to have success. He is a player’s coach who knows what it takes to win.
With Sumlin in charge, there are many great things in store for the Texas A&M Aggies.
4. Will Muschamp, Florida
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While it takes most head coaches at least three years to get the ball rolling, Will Muschamp was able to put Florida back on top in two. A program that looked lost when Urban Meyer stepped down was only one win away from playing in the national championship game this year.
Florida's recruiting is top-notch once again, the team is playing better than ever and fans in Florida are feeling good about the Gators.
Players have quickly bought into what Muschamp is trying to sell. A tough-minded defense coach usually does well in the SEC, and that is exactly what the Gators have running their program.
He went from being questioned a season ago to shooting up the list as a top coach in this conference.
3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
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If Nick Saban gets all the credit for winning at two SEC programs, I think Steve Spurrier needs some love as well. While what he accomplished at Florida seems like it was 25 years ago, he has also been able to turn around the Gamecocks.
South Carolina final appears to be a consistent winner.
This is a program that has never had any big-time success, and he has managed to win at least 10 games in the last two years.
The "Ole Ball Coach" has turned South Carolina into a desirable place to play for top recruits, as the Gamecocks have become one of the best teams in the SEC East.
With six SEC titles under his belt, it is nice to see Spurrier reinvent himself and join the party once again as a top coach in the country.
2. Mark Richt, Georgia
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Many blew a gasket when I put Mark Richt at the No. 2 spot.
He chokes in the big games. He has never won a national championship. He was on the hot seat last year and is still lucky to have a job.
Those were some of the things that were said and everybody has a point. However, he has won 74 percent of his games at Georgia and has eight double-digit win seasons in 12 years. He hasn't missed a bowl game throughout his coaching career and is by far one of the more consistent coaches in college football.
Could he perform better in big games? Sure.
But we simply don't see this type of consistency in the SEC anymore. Just look at all of the coaches who have been fired recently.
And, by the way, that championship will come sooner than you think.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
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Nick Saban and his No. 1 spot remain intact. It doesn't matter which head coach decides to join this conference.
Saban has led the Crimson Tide to three of the last four national championship games and is well on his way to creating a dynasty at Alabama, winning the title in 2009 and 2011.
Saban isn't just the best coach in the SEC; he is by far the best coach in the country and one of the more successful head coaches of this era.
Some fans in Tuscaloosa may say he needs to add a few more championships before being compared to the great Paul "Bear" Bryant, but he is well on the way to joining that elite company.
Saban and his top spot aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.