Changing of the guard

So, the dust has settled, and the SEC has five new head coaches:  Chad Morris at Arkansas, Dan Mullen at Florida, Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State, Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee and Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M.

This piece on Morris and his brand of offense got me to thinking (again) about the topic of why there’s been so much coaching turnover in the conference in the past three seasons and what athletic directors are hoping for with the changes they’ve made.

Saban, of course, is my response to the first question.  As for the second, that’s a bit more convoluted to winnow out.  Start with this:  what’s the background for the current group of SEC coaches?


  • Alabama:  Saban, former defensive coordinator
  • Arkansas:  Morris, former offensive coodinator
  • Auburn:  Malzahn, former offensive coordinator
  • LSU:  Orgeron, former defensive line coach
  • Mississippi State:  Moorhead, former offensive coordinator
  • Ole Miss:  Luke, former offensive line coach
  • Texas A&M:  Fisher, former (Saban)  offensive coordinator


  • Florida:  Mullen, former offensive coordinator
  • Georgia:  Smart, former (Saban) defensive coordinator
  • Kentucky:  Stoops, former defensive coordinator
  • Missouri:  Odom, former defensive coordinator
  • South Carolina:  Muschamp, former (Saban) defensive coordinator
  • Tennessee:  Pruitt, former (Saban) defensive coordinator
  • Vanderbilt: Mason, former defensive coordinator

The first thing that jumps out at you there is that schools in the East are more oriented towards defensive guys, particularly former Saban assistants, running their programs than are their Western peers.  In the vast scheme of things, I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes.  Since 2010, Saban’s last mediocre season (at least by Saban’s standards), Alabama’s lost eight times to SEC West teams and once to an East program.  Of those nine, two were to LSU; the rest were to teams that were coached by offensive-minded head coaches.

Even within that overall framework, though, there are some interesting individual cases.  Arkansas and Florida in general favor offensive coaches.  Missouri may have a former defensive coordinator calling the shots, but the Tigers have been much better on the other side of the ball.

If this is a case of more than one way to skin the Saban, it should be interesting to see which way, if any, has more staying power, and, in turn, if that leads to more imitation in hopes of similar results, although I can’t help but wonder if we’ve already seen the first example of that in Kirby Smart’s success and Tennessee’s hire of Pruitt.


Filed under SEC Football

21 responses to “Changing of the guard

  1. Heyberto

    What is surprising to me, is all the talk of Saban,s assistants. So many have either been pale imitations of him with most not duplicating what he brings. That says to me these ADs are just chasing a name. Arguably, Kirby seems like the only guy who has truly tried to import The Process. Easy to see why… Saban was his mentor at a formidable time, and he was with him for a number of years. It’ll be interesting to see if Pruitt can do the same. But for all the “Sabanization” that is chased, by ADs… very few seem to really be working out.


    • gastr1

      Pruitt seems like a far too headstrong individual to be interested in any process other than his own, IMO.


    • Argondawg

      I think you are spot on about our own Sabanization if you will. The kids Saban signs now will be looking at a 70 year old Saban when they graduate. As a not so young guy myself I wonder how he can continue to go at the pace that he has set for himself. At what point do 18 year old kids start to wonder when he finds a new challenge that doesn’t grind much younger guys to dust with 80 hour work weeks. That old “Saban is getting up there” negative recruiting is going to start to have some teeth. I think currently with Kirby and his philosophies we are on track to take up that mantle. Sooner than later.

      Corch already looks the same age as Saban. Then again Saban may live forever. There is a reason my spell check always auto corrects his name to Satan. Just sayin


  2. Dolly Llama

    Even though many of them would never admit it, I’d have to think UT fans — at least the ones that are halfway paying attention — are happy about the Pruitt hire because of Kirby Envy.

    Volnation is still a joy to read, from relitigating the coach search to bitching about Pruitt coaching through the playoffs. The Swampgas board at Florida seems to overall like the Mullen hire, and they really want us to stink it up against Oklahoma. Stingtalk is still on password-protected, members-only lockdown.


  3. TnDawg

    Seems to me the coaching in the East has taken a definite leap forward. West has maintained status quo. I see a shift of power to the East.


    • I think Moorhead may be the most underrated hire of the offseason. I wouldn’t sleep on Morris, either.


      • Skeptic Dawg

        I tend to agree with you Senator on the Chad Morris hire. I will be interested to see how that move plays out.


      • Mayor

        I agree with you about Moorhead, Senator. But it comes with a big IF: IF Moorhead can recruit in the deep south. Morris….I really don’t think a guy who is 14-22 as a college HC is much of a threat. Good HS coach though. I don’t really think the Arkies did themselves a very big favor here. Mullen will be Mullen at FU and win a few more games there than he did at Missy State but I don’t see him as the guy to go head to head with Kirby and the Dawgs either in recruiting or in games. The guy who scares me is Pruitt–if Phat Phil will support him and otherwise leave him alone. Another big IF.


        • Obviously, it remains to be seen but I’ll be surprised if Moorhead suffers on the recruiting front. As the article points out, he has access to Texas, known to produce a few good players. If he hires/retains assistants with deep south connections, I don’t think there will be a falloff in recruiting.


        • Macallanlover

          You never know how things will evolve but I would put Pruitt as the most likely train wreck of all the new hires. discussed above. I see TN being more physical on defense but the recruiting to TN and organizational hurdles make me think things will fall apart before they get back to Atlanta again.

          Mullen would be my pick of the new coaches to succeed the longest, in fact he is already the most successful given that he had success in Starkville. I know many would make the case for Jimbo but you have to take in consideration he squandered a commanding lead that FSU had over Clemson, who has now won 3 straight ACC titles.


  4. Bright Idea

    Can any of these guys win big enough soon enough to slow this revolving door? With the nature of fans and media it is near impossible not to have 2 or 3 coaches on the hot seat in the SEC at any time. One TV show is making a living on it 5 hours daily.


    • Uglydawg

      Maybe one or two can..but in this era where fans demand instant gratification (Conf.Champs…National Champs) and are convinced that their school is positioned somewhere between Alabama and Everyone else when it comes to records, tradition, awesomeness, etc. (see “Hillbilly Nation, where perception is reality until you’re trying to find a super-coach, worthy of your lofty tradition) coaches have an almost impossible hill to climb. They’ll get 5 on 6 years at a place like Sippy State, Arkansas or South Carolina, but less at Tennessee and LSU…and LSU fans may have a case, but the only case the Tennessee fans have is a case of the dumbass.


  5. Ty

    I’m trying to remember which East team Bama has lost to since 2010, but coming up blank?


  6. ChiliDawg

    I’ve always felt that calling Jimbo a Saban guy was overstating the amount of influence he likely had on him. The case could easily be made that Jimbo should be considered part of the Bowden or the Miles tree, as he worked as much time with those guys as Nick.


    • 92 grad

      I agree. I have never made that connection in my own mind either, never felt right.

      And I agree on Pruitt. I think he is headstrong enough to try to do things “his way” which may be influenced by his time and experience in Birmingham but maybe not. Either way, it will work or it won’t. That program isn’t stable enough for anything in between.

      I also think Kirby is headstrong enough to do his own things, not cut and paste the process. As it happens, the process may have its genesis rooted in both Kirby AND Saban. We will never know but the evidence suggests that Kirby was a key component to the rise of Alabama since 2007. (Evidence basically the weight of our turn around and how much momentum our program has built rather quickly)