SEC: Why Gary Pinkel Is NCAA Coach of the Year over Gus Malzahn
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
You might as well change the "S" in SEC to stand for surprises.
No one saw Auburn and Missouri coming into the championship fold after their less than impressive performances a year ago. Missouri had a losing record last season and won just two conference games. Auburn had a year they just don't want to think about all-around. Even then, most SEC fans would probably say they'd expect Auburn to turn into a contender again before Missouri was a threat.
Nix all that, because heading into the final week in October, both teams control their own destiny to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
Auburn has survived the loss of Gene Chizik with flying colors. His successor, Gus Malzahn, has led the team to a 6-1 overall record a year after the team went winless in SEC play. The win this past Saturday at College Station over Texas A&M has got folks in Auburn thinking their team may be for real.
Gary Pinkel has led his team through the criticism that he couldn't win in the SEC. His successes on the Big 12 level were laughed at by longtime SEC fans. But his team is doing it all right now, as they are one of two teams along with Oregon that have won every game by at least 15 points this season. Defensive end Michael Sam is tied for the national lead in sacks. Mizzou hasn't looked this good since the 1960s.
So what's the difference? What separates these two coaches at the end of the day? Both have pulled off two of the great turnarounds of 2013. It's hard to really say who deserves the award of not only SEC Coach of the Year, but NCAA Coach of the Year as well.
But there is one difference across the board that makes the extra effort of phenomenal coaching plain for all to see.
Take this into consideration: In the last five recruiting classes according to Rivals (which would include current seniors who took a redshirt year), Auburn has acquired 57 4-star recruits, and six 5-star recruits. Missouri over that same period of time, has 11 and two in those same categories, respectively. What Gary Pinkel has been able to do with mostly under-the-radar recruits is an absolute testament in his ability to coach.
Auburn was bound to get better at some point with all the skill they have. There's just simply no way you get so many talented football players together and not have them eventually find success. Not to say that Malzahn wasn't there, he clearly put an amazing plan in place when he took over, and it has the players believing they can beat anyone now. But without question, he's had a lot more to work with.
Pinkel has believed in a family concept for the team, and they embrace it. The team constantly speaks of how they're very well-knit. This, along with his ability to adapt to new situations and find ways to win, makes him the prime choice for SEC Coach of the Year and perhaps even NCAA Coach of the Year.
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