The league’s coordinator carousel this offseason is another example of how things are just different down South. When it comes to coaching, there is no league in the nation more cutthroat than the SEC.
The SEC has hired 14 new coordinators since the end of the season. Six of them have coached in the SEC within the last two years, five were on staff last season and four of them are making the switch to a new SEC school in 2015.
Here are the winners and losers from the SEC’s ’15 coordinator carousel:
The Tigers went from Ellis Johnson to Will Muschamp and the former Florida coach’s impact was felt immediately. Auburn dominated headlines on Signing Day and Muschamp will undoubtly dominate offensive lines for as long as he stays on the Plains. Guschamp is as good an offense-defense tandem as there is in the nation.
It was costly but landing John Chavis in exchange for Mark Snyder was a big win for Kevin Sumlin. Chavis has a long track record of success in the SEC and for the Aggies to not only secure his services but also steal him from a division rival — one who had shut them down in two meetings — can’t be overrated.
Doug Nussmeier is a solid hire but Jim McElwain will likely control the majority of the offense. However, luring Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State and back to Gainesville was a big win for McElwain. His defensive hire was going to be significantly more important than his offensive move and Coach Juice Points was a home run.
Part of what gives Missouri the ability to “overachieve” is the coaching staff’s continuity. So losing Dave Steckel to Missouri State after 14 excellent years of service was a big blow to Gary Pinkel’s staff stability. He couldn’t have landed a better replacement, however, in Barry Odom. He played and coached at Mizzou under Pinkel (2003-11) and did fantastic work turning around Memphis’ defense in three short years.
Going from John Chavis to Kevin Steele can only be considered a major step down. Steele is a great recruiter but that isn’t what LSU needs. The last two years he was in charge of a defense, his unit allowed a pathetic 5.6 yards per play for Clemson in both 2011 and ’12 — ranking 71st and 69th nationally. And technically, Alabama’s defense, while still really good in 2014, was the “worst” it has been since '08. Just ask Urban Meyer. Les Miles did salvage the offseason somewhat by landing ace recruiter and elite D-line coach Ed Orgeron.
Mike DeBord is maybe the most fascinating hire in the SEC this year. He hasn’t coached any football since 2012, hasn’t been relevant in college football since leaving Michigan in '07 and hasn’t been a QB coach since '86. He knows Butch Jones extremely well, brings continuity to the offense and maybe even adds a much-needed power running element. And Michigan did go to two Rose Bowls during his last stint in Ann Arbor. But the game has changed dramatically since then, and normally, there is a reason someone hasn’t held a meaningful position in nearly a decade. DeBord is extremely experienced but there are reasonable questions about his upside, ability to develop young talent and knowledge of the way today's SEC works.
There should always be concerns when hiring a top assistant from a coaching staff where the head coach is really the offensive architect. Shannon Dawson posted some big numbers on offense for West Virginia last year but didn’t really design the offense and didn’t call the plays either. Dawson can only be considered a step back from a young rising offensive mind like Neal Brown.
On the plus side, Brian Schottenheimer will give Mark Richt the exact offensive style he wants, his NFL pedigree suggests that the industry’s best respect him and he knows the SEC from his playing days at Florida. However, his offenses in The League have been far from solid (despite some injuries) ranking 25th, 23rd, 30th and 28th in the NFL in total offense over the last four seasons. Generally speaking, coaches don’t leave a high-ranking NFL job for a coordinator job in college and, many times, NFL offenses are too complex for the college game. This is a step down from Mike Bobo.
Wait and See:
Being able to lure a current head coach away to become a coordinator is no small feat but Dan Enos didn’t exactly set Mount Pleasant on fire during his five-year stint at Central Michigan. He meshes very well with Bret Bielema’s offensive philosophy so odds are this will be a win for the Hogs. But Enos is still very much of an unknown in the SEC.
Andy Ludwig will bring a power offense that has been extremely successful and his ability to coach quarterbacks is a huge need. Derek Mason’s decision to coach the defense is both a win and loss simultaneously. No one can coach, manage and call that defense better than him (win) but it’s nearly impossible to manage every aspect of the game in such a demanding league when you are so focused on one side of the ball (loss). The jury is still very much out on the Dores' moves but there is no doubt they upgraded these two positions from a year ago.
The similarities between DeBord and Jon Hoke are bizarrely similar with a few small twists. Both have deep connections with their new head coaches and haven’t coached in college for a long time. The slight difference is Hoke has been coaching at a high level in the NFL while DeBord has been out of the game for three years. Another difference is Hoke is almost guaranteed to be an upgrade over Lorenzo Ward and is going to call the plays while DeBord could be a step down from Mike Bajakian and will have much less influence than Hoke.
Manny Diaz knows Mississippi State very well having coached there under Dan Mullen in 2010. He was solid for MTSU prior to coming to Starkville and was solid for the Bulldogs, but his track record is a mixed bag since. He did great work last year at Louisiana Tech, taking a unit ranked 70th nationally in total defense the year prior to 35th in '14. However, he also is partly responsible for two of the worst defenses in Texas Longhorns history, giving up over 400 yards per game in 2012-13 in Austin.
Alabama: Lane Kiffin, OC and Kirby Smart, DC
Ole Miss: Matt Luke/Dan Werner, OC and Jason Jones/Dave Wommack, DC