2011 SEC College Football Preview
This is the second part in a series previewing 2011 SEC College Football.
Some new and old faces in different places:
With a high level of play in the SEC year after year, is it fair or cruel to say, “Welcome to the SEC” to the several new coordinators and two new head coaches? James Franklin has the daunting task of turning the fortunes around at Vanderbilt, and Will Muschamp takes his talents as a defensive coordinator to the feeding frenzy fans in the Swamp.
Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators
Muschamp graduated from the University of Georgia in 1994, played safety for the Dawgs, and was the team captain in his senior year. He had stints as an assistant coach with three SEC teams before coming to Florida from Texas after being the Texas Longhorns' defensive coordinator. He was previously the graduate assistant at Auburn from 1995-1996, the linebackers coach at LSU in 2001, defensive coordinator at LSU from 2002-2004, and the defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2006-2007.
Muschamp better be a SEC-savvy coach by the time he gets to the coin flip against Tennessee. He’ll have to make a quick adjustment to life in the SEC, as Florida’s schedule is one of the toughest in the nation.
What Will Muschamp Bring to the Table for Florida in 2011?
Muschamp had some great defenses while at LSU. How much of that talent is due to the recruiting and coaching talents of Nick Saban remains to be seen.
During his time as the defensive coordinator at Texas, Muschamp could boast some great rushing defense and sacks per game statistics, but that was the Big 12 and this is the SEC. The Big 12 has been a passing conference over the past six years with few notable premier running backs and poor defensive play.
His coaching mentors in Mack Brown and Nick Saban should help him as a head coach when times get tough and in preparation. Furthermore, his background in Texas and success in Florida will help him pull recruits from the two biggest recruiting pools in the nation. Charlie Weis may add some luster to recruiting by flashing his Super Bowl rings and dropping Tom Brady’s name every chance he gets.
Florida's New Offense
Weis will run a pro-style offense at the University of Florida, which will be much different than the spread option Urban Meyer ran. A traditional I-formation and drop back passing will replace the “Wild Hog,” not “Wildcat,” running and passing featured by their previous starting quarterbacks. That’s essentially what it was even if they didn’t call it that.
For all the hype and “genius” labels previously attached to Weis, he has not had success at the college level to date. Florida will be able to recruit talent. That's never been a problem. But if Weis’ time at Notre Dame is any gauge of what to expect, this could be an exciting first year for Gators fans, and then little to no success offensively from here on out.
National publications kept Weis’ recruiting classes in the top 10 year after year to sell recruiting magazines; how many five-star QB's make a top 10 recruiting class each year? Weis’ teams constantly fell flat against weaker schedules than what he will face week in and week out in the SEC.
Vanderbilt's New Head Coach, James Franklin
James Franklin is going to need more of the recruiting coups he managed in 2011 if he’s to make Vanderbilt into a contender. A great quarterback can make a big difference for any college football team and Lafonte Thourogood (Virginia Beach, VA) could be the future for Franklin and staff.
Thourogood was committed to Virginia Tech and switched his commitment on signing day. Thourogood was a track star in high school and he may need those wheels on Saturdays if he can win the starting job from senior Larry Smith.
What to Expect from Mr. Franklin
The good thing for Franklin is that he has 10 returning starters on offense and eight on defense. The bad thing is that his offense was statistically one of the worst in college football during the 2010 season.
Vandy is young and Franklin could make a splash while trending upwards in the win-loss department; he really can’t do much worse than the 3-9 overall record and 1-7 record in the SEC that Vandy posted last season. His young team is SEC-ready and should respond to a new head coach and positive leadership.
Franklin was the offensive coordinator at Maryland last year with no head coaching experience or SEC experience. He’ll face some learning curves during his first season in the SEC.
The New SEC Coordinators: David Lee, Geoff Collins, and Steve Kragthrope
David Lee returns to the SEC to help Houston Nutt’s offense. Lee was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas when he unleashed Darren McFadden and the Wild Hog. Lee is credited with bringing the Wild Hog, now called the Wildcat, to the NFL and the Miami Dolphins for Ronnie Brown.
Nutt, a former college quarterback at Arkansas and Oklahoma State, only knows two pass routes: a 15-yard out and the fly route (straight down the field). Lee will have a tough time getting Nutt to sign off on any other passing plays; Nutt kept a stranglehold on Gus Malzahn in 2006 when he was the OC at Arkansas.
Geoff Collins Is the New Defensive Coordinator for the MSU Bulldogs
The softest landing of any new coordinator may be Mississippi State’s Geoff Collins. Collins will share the title and duties with Chris Wilson, who held the same position last year. Collins comes to Starkville from Florida International.
MSU has seven returning starters on defense and a good offense with a better-than-good rushing attack. MSU should move the ball and eat up the game clock, which will allow for a rested MSU defense to wreak havoc on opposing SEC offenses.
Collins' first task is to replace linebackers Chris White and K.J. Wright. All three linebacker positions are up for grabs. How quickly the new linebackers adjust to playing every down in the SEC could heavily influence MSU’s ability to gain ground in the SEC West.
Steve Kragthrope Is in Charge of Getting Production out of LSU's Offense
The toughest coordinating position in the SEC this season has to be the offensive coordinator’s position at LSU. Steve Kragthrope knows Tigers fans are hungry for another SEC and BCS title. The lackluster performances from quarterback Jordan Jefferson over the past two years has the Tiger faithful calling for Les Miles’ head even though he’s averaged 10 wins per season over the past five.
Last year’s mantra in Baton Rouge, “if we only had an offense,” could be heard throughout the country. With a roster full of talent and 15 total starters returning, fans are expecting big things from Kragthrope (previously head coach at Tulsa and Louisville).