The slow rollout of The C&M Poll marches on. Today, it’s time to take a look at the coaches of the SEC and how they stack up to their peers. I’ve broken them into arbitrary tiers that I thought made the most sense based off of how the final votes came in. Also, the coaches average ranking is in parentheses.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama (1.00)
Let’s just be honest with ourselves and move on. The man has five national championships, including last year. Sure he’s getting older, but I would counter that he’s as likely as anyone to be the next Bill Snyder in terms of coaching into his 80’s. Oh well. Moving on.
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn (2.29)
3. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M (3.43)
3. Kirby Smart, Georgia (3.43)
5. Dan Mullen, Florida (5)
Sure, there may some bias involved with Gus here, as we are all pretty staunch supporters of his, but the point remains: sans Saban, this is the top group of coaches in the SEC. There’s a national title winner, two national championship game losses, another playoff participation (FSU in 2014), and the man who got MISSISSIPPI STATE to #1 in the country a few years ago. Kirby has a chance to move up if he can sustain what he did last year on the field and in recruiting, but that’s a big ask for a third year head coach. Also, I’m as excited as anyone to see what Mullen can do with easily accessible talent at Florida.
6. Will Muschamp, South Carolina (6.71)
7. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State (7.57)
8. Chad Morris, Arkansas (8.43)
9. Ed Orgeron, LSU (9.71)
Will Muschamp is an interesting case. For half a decade, he was the hottest name in assistant coaches after he led Auburn’s late Tuberville defenses and then was named coach-in-waiting at Texas. Ultimately, he ended up becoming head coach at Florida after Urban Meyer left, and the results were ugly. By the time you could say Muschamp had “his players” in 2013 and 2014, the team tanked, going 11-13 in those two years with an absolutely horrid offense. But, after a quick stint as Auburn’s DC again, Muschamp has appeared to have learned a few lessons about being a head coach. He’s revived the Gamecocks back to at least respectability after Spurrier’s last year went awry, and he might actually have a decent offense for the first time ever. If Muschamp wants to break into that second tier, a big year here (winning the East?) might help him do that.
Behind Muschamp are SEC newcomers offensive masterminds Joe Moorhead and Chad Morris. Both coaches will be fighting for their chance in the top half of SEC West coaches, and both bring fun offensive styles to the conference that has desperately needed something other than Saban-ball the last few years.
At the bottom of the third tier is Orgeron, who I personally had ranked lower. He’s a great football coach, don’t get me wrong, and he’s one of the best motivators in the country. But I just don’t see him as a good head coach, and at a program as... what’s the word, fighty maybe?... as LSU, I don’t buy that he’s going to be able to bring them back to where Miles had them.
10. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee (10.43)
11. Barry Odom, Missouri (10.57)
12. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (10.71)
This group had a bunch of variability in the voting, but formed a nice little cluster in their final tallies. Old Saban assistant #4 joins the conference this year in Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee, and I don’t know, maybe it works out? I’m reserving my judgement on him for at least a year or two, although with as big of a game as he talks, he better start performing quickly. I was personally a lot higher on Odom, since he took over at Missouri after a tough situation when Pinkel had to retire for health reasons. Last year you saw the team rally late to make a bowl game and go 7-5, and Odom may be fielding one of the most underrated offenses in the country. If Missouri has the year I think they will, I’d bet he surges up these rankings. And as for Mark (Bob? Mike?) Stoops, he’s just sort of gotten Kentucky into a steady get-to-a-bowl-game pace the last few years. Kentucky can be more than that, but if you’re a Wildcat fan, do you risk the more likely 2-10 seasons for a possible 9-10 win one?
13. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (11.86)
14. Matt Luke, Ole Miss (13.86)
This here is the bottom of the conference. Derek Mason has been okay at Vanderbilt, and honestly he’s been pretty good if you can just ignore James Franklin ever happened. If you can consistently be beating Tennessee and fighting for a bowl bid at Vanderbilt, based on degree of difficulty along you’ve got to be a pretty decent coach. And in last place, the man who ranked last in every ballot except for one, Matt Luke! To be fair, I think Luke is the perfect guy to get them through the next few years. You know you won’t be going bowling, and you know you’re going to have scholarship limits. You may as well hire someone who loves the school and is still going to give 110% even when the reward won’t be there on the field. If Luke can keep Ole Miss at a 5-7 win pace the next few years, they will be in great shape to come out of the sanctions strong.