Each First Year SEC Coach's Biggest Advantage in 2013
When your conference is as competitive as the SEC, results are in high demand.
You either produce victories consistently, or you are one of the programs that will be experiencing a coaching change.
There were four SEC programs that experienced such a change this offseason.
Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee will all be starting the 2013 season with a new head coach.
All of these new coaches will be given a certain amount of time to turn their new programs around, and they are expected to show improvement immediately. The truth is, however, that it takes time to start seeing results with a new coaching staff.
And it may take a little longer than the fanbase would like.
However, each of these SEC head coaches are joining a team that has a major advantage entering the 2013 season. Whether it is on the offense, the defensive side of the ball or recruits that are coming in to make an impact, each of these teams has that one thing working in its favor.
With the coaching staff introducing themselves and getting familiar with everybody, here is the biggest advantage for each new head coach in the SEC.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Biggest Advantage: A veteran defense
Arkansas went from being a high-scoring team that won on the offensive side of the ball, to relying heavily on the defense.
Nearly every recognizable face on offense has either graduated or bolted for the NFL draft a year early.
There may also be somewhat of a personality clash between the offensive coordinator and the new head coach.
Jim Chaney will want to air out the ball every chance he gets.
Head coach Bret Bielema, however, will want to run the ball down the opposing teams throat.
This means that the defense is going to be leaned on heavily in 2013.
The good news is that seven starters return, including a veteran defensive line and three starters in the secondary.
The bad news is that the defense was ranked 12th in the SEC last year, allowing more than 400 total yards a game.
Still, even with those numbers not looking so hot, you can never go wrong with an experienced unit. Chris Smith and Trey Flowers, who combined for 15.5 sacks last year, will both be returning. A.J. Turner will of course continue to make a strong impact for the Razorbacks. Plus, the defense will get some help from young blood Rohan Gaines.
The Razorbacks have key players defensively and will be the strength of this team until the offense can come together.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Biggest Advantage: Experience
Gus Malzahn is in a really unusual position.
It isn't very often that somebody leaves a program only to return as head coach a year later.
Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for Auburn from 2009-11 and helped the Tigers win a national championship in 2010. He then had one season of success as the Arkansas State head coach, and now he's back and calling the shots at Auburn.
With such a short time span between positions, Malzahn is already really comfortable with his roster and has relationships with a lot of the guys on the team.
This is an incredible advantage that none of the other coaches on this list have.
And it will help play a role in turning this program around much sooner.
Being familiar with the program, knowing how things operate and having past relationships with players gives Malzahn a huge jump start for 2013.
You can talk about depth charts and overall talent, but familiarity and knowing what to expect is something that usually takes a while to build.
Malzahn already has that down with most of his guys.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Biggest Advantage: An offense with potential
Now before you choke on your beverage, you must know that Kentucky has pieces in place to be much better offensively than it was last year.
While the Wildcats ended last season ranked 13th in the SEC in total offense, a lot of that had to do with injuries and youth on the roster.
The first thing that should help is having Neal Brown as an offensive coordinator.
Coming from Texas Tech, he will install a spread offense that has been very successful for him over the years and will put players in position to make plays. The Red Raiders finished last season ranked 13th in the country in total offense.
That type of production should give Wildcats fans some hope heading into the new season.
Another positive is that quarterback Maxwell Smith will be returning from injury. The same goes for running back Josh Clemons, who missed all of last year with a knee injury.
Kentucky truly needs all the help it can get on both sides of the ball, but the offense seems to be in better shape with guys coming back from injury and young players being added to the mix.
Now Mark Stoops just needs to address the defense.
Butch Jones, Tennessee
Biggest Advantage: A terrific offensive line
Tennessee still has some unanswered questions.
There is an open battle at the quarterback position with Tyler Bray leaving for the NFL. The receiving spots took a hit with Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Mychal Rivera leaving one way or another. There are also severe questions defensively with a unit that ranked dead last in the SEC a year ago and finished 110th in the country.
However, if we are going to look at the positives, the Volunteers do have an incredible offensive line to build around.
This was a group that led the SEC last season with only eight sacks allowed, which was also good for the third fewest allowed in all of college football.
Tiny Richardson at left tackle is somebody you will soon watch play on Sundays. James Stone at center, Ja'Wuan James at right tackle and Zach Fulton at right guard are all four-year starters and will help bring experience to the table.
One of the most difficult things to do as a coach is to get an entire offensive line to play together and develop chemistry.
But Jones will be inheriting a group of guys who have already proven they are worth the hype and will be reliable throughout the year.
Sure, it won't be a cakewalk for Butch Jones in his first season, but having one of the best offensive lines in the country to work with gives him a huge advantage heading into battle.
Which Coach Will Have the Most Success in Year One?
Every one of these coaches has his work cut out for him.
After all, it is very rare for a new coach to walk into a perfect situation. There is a reason for a head coaching change in the first place, and the new guy is often the one left to pick up the pieces and make it work.
But the coach that will be the most successful in the upcoming season is Gus Malzahn.
The reason is because he has already been around the program long enough which gives him a huge advantage over everybody else. Chemistry plays an important role in the overall success of a team, and Malzahn won't have to wait a year or two before actually seeing results.
Arkansas has major questions on the offensive side of the ball and it will take time to iron out the wrinkles. Tennessee was awful defensively, and without an answer at quarterback, it could be another long season for the folks in Knoxville. No matter what Kentucky is doing, or who is coming back from injury, this is a team that will remain at the bottom for quite some time.
Auburn, on the other hand, returns with 15 starters (the second most of any SEC team) and has a head coach that has already bonded with most of the guys.
Because of that, Auburn will have the best season in year one.
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