SEC Football Power Rankings: Top 7 Assistants Who Are Next in Line

Robert MaloneContributor IIIMarch 13, 2012

SEC Football Power Rankings: Top 7 Assistants Who Are Next in Line

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    When it comes to filling head-coaching vacancies, the SEC's been a farm system for finding quality, competitive assistants ready to take on their own programs.  

    We've seen assistants like Les Miles, Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong take this plunge and be successful at each of their respective schools.  

    With the SEC's booming success, this practice is to be expected and, going into next season, here’s a list of the top-seven assistants balancing enough reputation, pedigree and winning to earn themselves an opportunity in the next few years.  

Frank Wilson, LSU Running Backs Coach

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    Every list of this caliber needs a long shot, and Wilson is just that.

    More the long-watch assistant of the group, Wilson put himself on the map with LSU’s 2011 rush attack.  Without last season’s leading rusher, Stevan Ridley, and facing issues at quarterback, the Tigers put on a show with the rushing offense’s newest names. 

    Most in the SEC already knew about Spencer Ware, but huge efforts from guys like Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard put LSU’s rush attack among the top 25 in the nation.

    Wilson is relatively young to the game, but as long as the Tigers continue to win and recruit as well as they have, he’s only going to become a brighter option for a team in need.  He’ll obviously need to prove himself as a coordinator first, but given five years, he should be exceeding that role by then.

Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina Defensive Coordinator

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    Since 2009, Ward has been sharing the coordinator duties with Ellis Johnson, but his main focus was working with the secondary. 

    Under Ward’s watch, Stephon Gilmore and friends made up a competitive pass defense and, just this past season, ranked second in the nation behind only the Tide. 

    Now, with Johnson moving on to coach Southern Miss, a greater responsibility has befallen Ward and with little recognition waiting in return.  He’ll still be expected to produce these top-tier defenses, but unless the Gamecocks start to win consistently, it’ll take time before he gets noticed over coaches from more nationally prominent SEC teams like LSU and 'Bama. 

    Regardless, Ward is still a name to watch for when teams start looking for a new head coach.  

Greg Studrawa, LSU Offensive Coordinator

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    Studrawa unexpectedly inherited this offense in wake of tragedy. 

    Originally, Steve Kragthorpe was hired to replace Gary Crowton, but a life-altering health concern forced him to take a lesser role with the team.  In 2011, Studrawa took over the offense, coached the SEC’s best offensive line and coached the LSU's rush attack into the top 25 in the nation without highlighting any one performer. 

    Next year should only get better for him.  He gets a lot of his weapons back, loses the baggage that was his two senior quarterbacks and will have less pressure from Miles to use a dual-QB system. 

    While he might need another stop along the way, Studrawa is presently on a path to being a head coach.

Mike Bobo, Georgia Offensive Coordinator

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    We’re talking 10 years of creating QBs at the University of Georgia. 

    Bobo gave us Matthew Stafford and David Greene, and now he’s giving us Aaron Murray.

    His resume with quarterbacks has been undeniably impressive, but it's his work in other areas that's starting to get recognized.  When A.J. Green served his suspension in 2010, there were multiple receivers stepping up their game to produce offense. 

    Then we saw a whole new group do it again this past season when Green chose the NFL and Kris Durham graduated. 

    Last season, when the roster unexpectedly thinned at running back, Bobo had true freshman Isaiah Crowell ready to carry the team’s rush attack on his back. 

    Successfully overcoming these kinds of challenges with a winning record will open teams’ eyes to Bobo’s potential, essentially earning him a head coaching opportunity sooner rather than later.  

John Chavis, LSU Defensive Coordinator

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    As a head coach, Chavis has the best potential on this list, but a continued failure to take that next step hurts his chances every year. 

    His many years with Tennessee haunted SEC offenses, and that has only continued with LSU.  His defenses always seem well prepared and ready to challenge even the top-ranked offenses. Just watch the Oregon game from last year. 

    He’s worked with some of the SEC’s greatest coaches like Johnny Majors, Phil Fulmer and Les Miles, which gives him great overall knowledge for the game and solid recognition with recruits. 

    However, at 55, his age makes it tough to get noticed when everyone is looking towards youth in their next option.  Even his alma mater, Tennessee, passed on him after nearly 20 years of service for the barely-experienced Lane Kiffin

    His window to a head coaching gig is closing, but all it will take is one team to give him that chance; a chance they won't regret.

Paul Petrino, Arkansas Offensive Coordinator

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    Teams looking for a new coach love two things: pedigree and offense.  Petrino has managed to succeed in both. 

    Younger brother to Arkansas head coach, Bobby Petrino, the family ties work well with his pedigree, but lucky for him, he's got more than brotherly love supporting him; his resume is stacked with accomplishments.  

    In Petrino’s first stint with Arkansas, he produced amazing results in Ryan Mallet’s first season in 2009, bumping the Hogs' total offensive national ranking from 49th in 2008 to 19th the following year.  

    Then, moving on to Illinois, he got the Illini offense to reach new heights on the efforts of A.J. Jenkins and Mikel Leshoure. 

    Now back with the Razorbacks, Petrino has an opportunity with Tyler Wilson to further impress and attract any teams in the hunt for a new offensive-minded head coach.

Kirby Smart, Alabama Defensive Coordinator

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    Smart is the clear favorite to get a head coaching job following the 2012 season. 

    This 2009 Broyles Award winner took over this defense that same year, and they’ve never ranked below fifth in the nation since.  He’s decorated with two national championships as a DC, tons of NFL prospects, which is TNT for mining recruits, and a pedigree with Nick Saban, a man with a coaching tree already in bloom. 

    Being young, experienced and consistently successful, Smart hits many of the criteria teams are looking for in their future head coach.