SEC Football: Power Ranking the 14 Head Coaches for 2012

Jeremy Hillman@@SECpigskinContributor IDecember 26, 2011

SEC Football: Power Ranking the 14 Head Coaches for 2012

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    The SEC is has added three new head coaches since the end of the 2011 regular season.

    Ole Miss changed their head coach and Missouri and Texas A&M are set to join the conference in 2012.

    With these additions to an already elite list of coaches, it begs the question, which SEC football teams have the very best coach?

    Winning a very tough SEC takes effective coaching, recruiting and experience. Who is the best in the Southeastern Conference, and who will outpace the others in 2012 and beyond?

    Click through my power ranking of the SEC coaches as we roll into bowl season and push into 2012...

14. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

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    Coach Freeze was introduced as the new Ole Miss Head Coach just weeks ago.

    Overall record as head coach: 10-2

    Record as head coach at Ole Miss: 0-0
     

    2011 record at Arkansas State: 10-2

    With only one season of head coaching experience at the BCS level at Arkansas State, it is hard to see how Ole Miss administrators felt Freeze was the best available coach for Ole Miss.

    As a matter of fact. Freeze has just one year of BCS level coaching at any position, not just head coach.

    He may do a great job, but his inexperience is alarming and should be a concern for Rebel fans.

    Freeze must rebuild an Ole Miss program lacking in confidence and skill position talent. He will need to recruit fast and furious, and do whatever he can to get the Rebels back on track.

13. Joker Phillips, Kentucky

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    2012 will be Joker Phillips' third year as head coach with Kentucky.

    Overall record as head coach: 11-15 

    Record at Kentucky: 11-15

    2011 record at Kentucky: 5-7

    Joker Phillips benefited from a very talented athlete on offense, Randall Cobb, in 2010 and was able to win six games and qualify Kentucky for a bowl game. Without Cobb this season, the Wildcats struggled on offense and won just five games.

    A big upset win over Tennessee in the last week of the regular season has more or less left Phillips off the hot seat with fans and administrators.

    However, the recruiting needs to pick up this offseason, and Joker Phillips can't afford to miss the post season again in 2012.

12. Derek Dooley, Tennessee

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    Dooley is headed into his third season in Knoxville as the Volunteers' head man.

    Overall record as head coach: 28-34 

    Overall record at Tennessee: 11-14

    2010 record at Tennessee: 5-7

    Dooley has a losing record as a head coach, in four years combined at La Tech and Tennessee.  Many questioned his hire when it was announced, and those people are beginning to look right.

    His seat is warm, but largely given a pass for this season's five wins because of key injuries to the Vol's top offensive skill players.

    However, a losing record will not cut it for Dooley moving forward. He has one more year to prove he is a quality head coach that can win in the tough SEC.

11. Will Muschamp, Florida

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    Will Muschamp will be in his second year as Florida's head coach in 2012.

    Overall record as head coach: 6-6

    Overall record at Florida: 6-6

    2010 record at Florida6-6

    Muschamp proved at Auburn and Texas that he can build and coach top defenses. However, he is inexperienced as a head coach and struggled out of the gate in Gainesville.

    He now must replace his offensive coordinator, since Charlie Weiss left for Kansas, and get some bigger and stronger players on the roster—especially at offensive line and linebacker—this upcoming recruiting season.

    With experience, and the right coordinator hire, Muschamp should continue to improve as the head coach at Florida...if the frustrated and impatient Gator nation gives him the time to do so.

10. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

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    Dan Mullen will be in his fourth year as the Bulldogs' head coach next season.

    Overall record as head coach: 20-17

    Overall record at Mississippi State: 20-17

    2010 record at Mississippi State: 6-6

    Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs may have been one of the bigger flops in the nation this year. After week one, they were ranked 16th in the nation and had aspirations of challenging the top teams in the SEC.

    However, the Bulldogs finished with just a 6-6 record and ranked well outside the top 25 in the country.

    Even so, Mullen qualified his team for a bowl game in both of his first two seasons as the head man in Starkville, and as a head coach in general.

    His name has been mentioned for the open job at Penn State, but if he returns the Bulldog nation will expect better success next season.

    That being said, most Mississippi State fans are happy that Mullen has their program well ahead of rival Ole Miss.

9. James Franklin, Vanderbilt

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    This was James Franklin's first season as head coach at Vanderbilt.

    Overall record as head coach: 6-6

    Overall record at Vanderbilt: 6-6

    2010 record at Vanderbilt: 6-6

    The inexperienced Vanderbilt coach led the Commodores to an improbable bowl invitation this season.

    Franklin was a coach-in-waiting at Maryland before accepting the head job at Vanderbilt. He has shown in a short time that he is a young up and coming coaching star.

    Vandy stepped up and signed Franklin to an extension recently, signaling that the brass in Nashville may finally be taking football more seriously.

    Look for a tough year for Franklin next season, as he rebuilds the talent, but for continued to success in elevating the Commodores program. There is definitely a new attitude surrounding the team.

8. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

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    Just a couple weeks ago, Texas A&M hired Kevin Sumlin to replace fired head coach Mike Sherman and lead the Aggies into the SEC.

    Overall record as head coach: 35-17

    Overall record at Texas A&M: 0-0

    2010 record at Houston: 12-1

    Sumlin was one of the top offensive coordinators in the nation when he was at Oklahoma, and leveraged that into a head coaching at Houston. Sumlin led Houston to 35 wins over four season, including an impressive 12-win campaign this season.

    He will now have the daunting task of winning as a first-year head coach in the SEC with a team built to play in the Big 12.

    How he finishes in recruiting for the Aggies, who before he was hired had one of the very best commit list in the nation, will be the first challenge for Sumlin.

    Look for short-term struggles and long-term success for Kevin Sumlin in College Station.

7. Gary Pinkel, Missouri

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    Next season will be Gary Pinkel's 12th season as head coach at Missouri.

    Overall record as head coach: 156-91

    Overall record at Misouri: 83-54

    2010 record at Missouri: 7-5

    It was an up and down season for Missouri this season, with plenty of disappointments along the way.

    The biggest disappointment for fans and Missouri administrators was the D.U.I. Pinkel received late this year. He has apologized publicly, but the negative attention it gave the program did not go unnoticed by the Tiger nation.

    After a seven-win season and off the field issues for the coach, Pinkel kept his job and will lead Mizzou into the tough SEC in 2012.

    With young talent, such as sophomore quarterback James Franklin, Pinkel will have the players to compete but will need to recruit well to keep pace with their new conference foes.

    With over 150 wins in his 21-year career, Pinkel is experienced and will be ready for the challenge of the Southeastern Conference and should keep producing winning seasons in Columbia.

6. Gene Chizik, Auburn

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    Gene Chizik will enter his fourth year as Auburn's head coach in 2012.

    Overall record as head coach: 34-29

    Overall record at Auburn: 30-9

    2010 record at Auburn: 7-5

    With or without Cam Newton, 30 wins in three seasons is an impressive feat in the SEC. The national championship in 2010 certainly added to his resume.  

    Gene Chizik now needs to replace both his offensive and defensive coordinators this offseason. His hires for these two spots will largely determine his success in upcoming seasons.

    With coordinator changes occurring, Chizik and the remaining staff will have to close hard in recruiting, currently having a top 15 class according to most recruiting services, to keep pace with top SEC teams in the talent department.

    However, there is plenty of young talent on Auburn's roster, much of which gained significant playing time this season, and Chizik should be able to keep Auburn in the top half of the conference moving forward.

5. Mark Richt, Georgia

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    Mark Richt is heading into his 12th season as the head coach at Georgia.

    Overall record as head coach: 106-37

    Overall record at Georgia: 106-37

    2010 record at Georgia: 10-3

    Mark Richt was on a very hot seat in Athens after losing the first two games of the 2010 season.

    However, the veteran coach and the Bulldogs then won 10 straight games to win the SEC East Division Title.

    It is actually pretty crazy that a coach that has won almost 75 percent of his games, a very impressive record in such an elite conference, could ever be on a hot seat.

    However, the people in Athens want a championship and some are frustrated that Richt hasn't delivered a national title shot, unlike so many other SEC teams over the past six years.

    With a new contract extension, Richt will keep winning plenty of games at Georgia.  Yet, I don't expect a national championship from this staff.

4. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas

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    Bobby Petrino will enter his sixth season as Arkansas' head coach in 2012.

    Overall record as head coach: 74-26

    Overall record at Arkansas: 33-17

    2010 record at Arkansas: 10-2

    Back-to-back 10-win seasons have shown that Petrino can coach in the tough SEC.

    The defense has kept Arkansas from winning championships under Petrino, which is why he is changing defensive coordinators this offseason.

    His hire of Ohio State defensive coach Paul Haynes is taking over the defensive duties for the Razorbacks. If he can get the defense to play at the level of offensive-minded head coach Bobby Petrino's offense, it could mean big things for the Arkansas program in upcoming seasons.

3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

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    Next season will be Steve Spurrier's 22nd season as a head coach. It will be his seventh season as head man at South Carolina.

    Overall record as head coach: 196-75

    Overall record at South Carolina: 55-34

    2010 record at South Carolina: 10-2

    Steve Spurrier's success at Florida has been well documented. He is now working on his legacy in Columbia, SC.

    The Gamecocks won 10 games for the first time in program history this season, and are poised to be one of the favorites in the SEC next year.

    Spurrier's offense struggled this season, with problems at quarterback, but the defense, not usually a Spurrier strength, was solid.

    If Spurrier can get the offense on track next season to match the production of the defense, it could be a special season.

    That being said, South Carolina lost elite defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who left to be the head coach at Southern Miss. 

    If Spurrier can effectively replace the defensive coordinator and find a way to get back to the SEC Championship game next season, it will be a very impressive addition to his resume.

2. Nick Saban, Alabama

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    Next year will be Nick Saban's sixth season at Alabama.

    Overall record as head coach: 146-54

    Overall record at Alabama: 54-12

    2010 record at Alabama: 11-1 

    Nick Saban won just six regular season games in his first season at Alabama. However, since then he has had great success, including winning a national title in 2009 and setting up to play for another one this bowl season.

    Saban's teams rely on dominate defense and a solid running game to wear down opponents.

    His system also relies on recruiting, something he and his staff have excelled in over the past four years.

    With big time talent at almost every position and Saban at the helm, Alabama will continue to play at an elite level.

1. Les Miles, LSU

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    Les Miles will enter his eighth season as the head coach at LSU next season.

    Overall record as head coach: 103-38

    Overall record at LSU: 75-17

    2010 record at LSU: 13-0

    Les Miles is a quirky head coach and doesn't always seem to fit the mold of an elite head coach. He eats grass, calls frequent trick plays and frequently gives zany quotes.

    However, he is slowly becoming the very best coach in the country and one of the better college coaches in history.

    To be 75-17 in the SEC is more than just impressive, it is incredible.

    His defenses are tough and his offenses seem to always be able to produce.

    Miles has LSU consistently in the top of the recruiting rankings and he may win his second national championship in January.

    If Saban and Alabama win the national championship game, this ranking could change at the top.