Power Ranking SEC Football Coaches Post 2014 Spring Practice
It's the offseason, which means it's time to rank head coaches.
The star power in the SEC in the coaching ranks is as bright as it has ever been, with three men boasting national title rings as head coaches and five sporting SEC Championship trophies in the trophy case.
But which head coach is the best? Which has work to do?
Our post-spring practice SEC head coach power rankings are in this slideshow.
14. Vanderbilt: Derek Mason
SEC Record: 0-0
Overall Record: 0-0
Derek Mason is stepping into a difficult situation in his first season at Vanderbilt. Not only does he have to deal with the personnel and academic issues that persist in Nashville, Tennessee, but he also has to fight against expectations generated from back-to-back nine-win seasons and three straight bowl games.
Vandy has been successful in the past with a physical, gritty defense. Mason has that on his resume from his time at Stanford but not as a head coach.
It's going to be a bit of a rebuilding year in Nashville this season, but with time, Mason can keep the 'Dores dancing around bowl eligibility on an annual basis.
13. Kentucky: Mark Stoops
SEC Record: 0-8
Overall Record: 2-10
Much like Derek Mason at Vanderbilt, Mark Stoops is the right man for the job at Kentucky.
It's just going to take some time.
Kentucky is recruiting its tail off by Kentucky standards, securing then-junior college transfer Za'Darius Smith before last season and 4-star quarterback Drew Barker in the class of 2014. That's a fantastic start for Stoops, but it hasn't translated to the field yet.
It might in 2014, and that could send him shooting up this list in a hurry next May. But until then, he's still hanging out in the lower tier of the SEC.
12. Tennessee: Butch Jones
SEC Record: 2-6
Overall Record: 55-34 (5-7 at Tennessee)
If you're looking for a head coach who's primed to vault up this list in a hurry, look no further than Butch Jones.
A great head coach is a fantastic recruiter and a solid X's and O's guy who wins big. Jones has the recruiting part nailed down. He has made Tennessee a destination program for the first time since Lane Kiffin was selling it prior to the 2009 season.
On the field, though, he's still a work in progress.
Jones did get that signature victory under his belt in Year 1 with a win over South Carolina but missed out on a bowl for the third straight season. If he can get some more key wins this year, it will add fuel to the recruiting fire, send him up these rankings and transform the Volunteers from a pushover into a contender.
11. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze
SEC Record: 6-10
Overall Record: 45-18 (15-11 at Ole Miss)
Hugh Freeze inherited a mess when he took over for Houston Nutt prior to the 2012 season and has turned Ole Miss around into a competitive program again. He's led the Rebels to back-to-back bowls (both wins) and transformed the program from an afterthought for high school prospects into a destination program.
But where's the ceiling?
Ole Miss took a small step forward last season with eight wins, including an upset over LSU. But it lost the Egg Bowl to Mississippi State and never really found the between-the-tackles running game it so desperately needed.
Freeze has the recruiting aspect of head coaching down, and that needs to translate further to the field this year to prove he's a top- or middle-tier SEC head coach.
10. Arkansas: Bret Bielema
SEC Record: 0-8
Overall Record: 71-33 (3-9 at Arkansas)
Bret Bielema is tough to rank in these SEC coach rankings. Overall, his resume is tough to top. He led to Wisconsin to three straight Big Ten titles from 2010-2012 and three straight Rose Bowl appearances.
But that was at Wisconsin, not Arkansas.
His first journey through the SEC with the Razorbacks didn't go according to plan, as his Hogs lost nine straight games to close out the season including all eight games against SEC foes.
Yes, he inherited a mess. But he didn't do anything to clean it up in Year 1 on the field. Until he proves that he can recapture the magic that got him the job in the first place, Bielema's merit as a top SEC head coach is still questionable.
9. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen
SEC Record: 16-24
Overall Record: 36-28
Mullen is still a ways off from getting Mississippi State in the discussion for the SEC West title, but four straight bowl games in postseason-starved Starkville will go a long way toward stabilizing a program that has lacked stability for quite some time.
He feasted on lower-tier programs for the better part of his career and lacked a signature win, but last season's regular-season finale over Ole Miss served as one that can not only be a jumping-off point for him to build momentum into the offseason but serve as a reminder to prospects in the state that the Bulldogs are here to stay.
No, Ole Miss wasn't great last season. But they were trending in an upward direction. Mullen slowed that momentum.
That's big for him and the program.
The next step for him is to get the program in contention for the division, which is easier said than done. But he has brought consistency to Starkville, which is a step in the right direction.
8. Florida: Will Muschamp
SEC Record: 13-11
Overall Record: 22-16
Of all the coaches in the SEC, the one on the hottest seat in America is Florida's Will Muschamp. His Gators sputtered to a 4-8 last season, just one year after finishing 11-2 and earning a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
Muschamp, a defensive-minded head coach, has kept the Florida defense cooking at an elite level even in the face of the difficult 2013 season. Offensively, his desire to use a pro-style offense has proved to be disastrous.
Coaches have egos, and he swallowed his pride this offseason and went to more of a new-school approach with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. He will bring his hurry-up, no-huddle scheme to Gainesville, which should work well with Florida's athletes.
Muschamp has proved that he can recruit at an elite level, win big and adapt when necessary. He's down on this list based on last year's results but could fly back up if Florida gets on track this season.
7. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin
SEC Record: 10-6
Overall Record: 55-23 (20-6 at Texas A&M)
Kevin Sumlin's first two seasons in the SEC have been nothing short of spectacular.
He led Texas A&M into the SEC with a fury, winning 11 games in 2012, upsetting Alabama in Tuscaloosa and helping quarterback Johnny Manziel become the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
His encore was a bit disappointing. The Aggies finished 8-4 and produced a defense that was more of a punch line than a power. That's exactly what will make this season so interesting in College Station. The defense remains largely intact, so a major step forward should be expected.
But can it make up for the absence of Manziel, one of the most dynamic offensive playmakers in college football history?
That's the challenge for Sumlin. He adapted his scheme to fit Manziel during his first season as Texas A&M's head coach, and he's going to have to make sure his offense can pick up the slack for the defense if it struggles again in 2014.
6. Missouri: Gary Pinkel
SEC Record: 9-7
Overall Record: 175-100-3 (102-63 at Missouri)
Gary Pinkel is still somewhat of an unknown commodity in SEC circles, but he shouldn't be.
Now in his 14th season as the head coach of Missouri, he led his Tigers to the SEC East title in 2013 and has produced double-digit wins in four of the last seven seasons.
He doesn't recruit at the level of some of his SEC counterparts, but he develops talent as well, if not better, than anybody in the SEC. Now he has the challenge of sustaining success in the SEC, which is a bit different than sustaining it in the Big 12.
If Missouri can repeat as division champs despite roster turnover in key places or just stay in the discussion in late November, Pinkel will solidify himself as one of the SEC's best.
5. Georgia: Mark Richt
SEC Record: 72-32
Overall Record: 126-45
Mark Richt has yet to win a national title, but he has two SEC titles and five SEC Championship Game appearances and came within five yards of earning a BCS National Championship Game berth following the 2012 season.
He withstood a lull in 2009 and 2010 and has his Bulldogs back in the discussion for the division and national titles, which should be the case again in 2014.
His soft-spoken demeanor can be perceived as complacency, but make no mistake: Richt wants to win and win big. He caught a break when Todd Grantham left to become defensive coordinator at Louisville, and all Richt did was lure Jeremy Pruitt—complete with his recently produced national title ring—to Athens, Georgia.
Richt is a superstar and a legend, even if he never breaks through that glass ceiling and wins it all.
4. Auburn: Gus Malzahn
SEC Record: 7-1
Overall Record: 21-5 (12-2 at Auburn)
All Gus Malzahn did in his first season as Auburn's head coach is take a 3-9 program to the SEC title and within 13 seconds of winning the national title.
What will he do for an encore?
His hurry-up, two-back, power attack out of the spread proved nearly impossible to stop in Year 1 on the Plains, and he gets nearly the entire cast—including quarterback Nick Marshall—back for another shot at the title in 2014.
Defense doesn't win championships anymore—"just enough" defense does. That's a moving target based on the offensive scheme a team runs. Auburn's offense is nearly unstoppable, so if Malzahn can get his defense to be just 13 seconds better in 2014, he may get that title.
3. South Carolina: Steve Spurrier
SEC Record: 128-43 (41-31 at South Carolina)
Overall Record: 219-79-2 (77-39 at South Carolina)
Steve Spurrier has led South Carolina to three straight 11-win seasons.
Think about that for a second. South Carolina. Eleven wins. Per season.
Playing at that level was unthinkable 10 years ago when the program had precisely one double-digit win season in its history before Spurrier arrived. When he got there, the Gamecocks were the Chicago Cubs of college football—the program that had no hope but still managed to boast one of the most passionate fanbases in the sport.
Since Spurrier's arrival, he's given the fanbase something that it lacked forever: hope. Three straight top-10 finishes have transformed the program into a perennial division title contender, a team that's on the periphery of the national title discussion and, with five straight wins over Clemson, the unquestioned top dog in the state.
That's a compliment to Spurrier's ability has the Head Ball Coach, because it has never been better than this for South Carolina.
2. LSU: Les Miles
SEC Record: 52-20
Overall Record: 123-45 (95-24 at LSU)
He's quirky. He's bizarre. He's unorthodox. His grasp of the English language is unparalleled in college football.
He's the "Mad Hatter."
Les Miles' methods don't always make sense, but there's a method to his madness.
He has LSU in full-on reload mode, where 10-win seasons are the floor and national titles are the expectation. He fought against the criticism of "winning with Nick Saban's players" early in his LSU career, went through a bit of a lull in 2008 and 2009 and now has the program routinely contending for the SEC West, SEC and national titles.
He's one of the top coaches in the game and has proved that time and time again throughout his LSU coaching career.
1. Alabama: Nick Saban
SEC Record: 71-22 (43-10 at Alabama)
Overall Record: 165-57-1 (74-15 at Alabama)
Alabama has lost two games in a row and panic has set in. That's how high Nick Saban has set the bar in Tuscaloosa.
He recruits at a level that's unmatched in college football. If he wants a prospect, more than likely he will get him. He built and sustained a dynasty during the BCS era, which is unfathomable for a coach at any school, much less for one at an SEC school at the pinnacle of SEC supremacy.
Ten-win seasons mark down seasons, and anything short of an SEC West title is considered a massive disappointment in Tuscaloosa.
Quite the departure from the Mike Shula era, which seems like it was a century ago.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All coaching records exclude wins vacated by the NCAA, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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