The SEC and the first-year effect

One thing I factor into my projections when I compose my SEC preseason prediction post in August is staff turnover.  The odds are, at least in my judgment, that new head coaches and coordinators are going to have their teams progressing through a learning curve that at best will have a steep arc en route to a high plateau and at worst will never really climb at all.  By and large, though, you have to figure that somewhat rocky times are ahead in the short run as systems have to be learned and players have to buy into the changes.

This all passed through my head reading this AP piece about the five (!) new head coaches in the conference.  Moreover, some of these programs, like Arkansas and Florida, are making dramatic changes in coaching philosophies from the prior staffs.  Add to that coordinator changes at Alabama, LSU, Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt (apologies if I’ve left somebody out) and you’ve got a lot of uncertainty being introduced into the system.

No doubt some programs will handle these changeovers better than others — don’t cry for me, Tuscaloosa — but you have to figure some won’t fare so well.  Is SOD, who’s never been an offensive coordinator before, going to transition Missouri’s offense successfully?  Is Will Muschamp really prepared to live with the consequences of a hurry-up offense run by another rookie coordinator?  Does Orgeron have a clue what he wants offensively?  Does Chad Morris have the personnel left over from Bert’s regime to run his kind of offense?  How about Dan Mullen?

If you had to bet on programs to succeed sooner than later with their new coaches, which would you pick?



Filed under SEC Football

37 responses to “The SEC and the first-year effect

  1. Jim

    There you go again. Blaming Kirby for being loyal to coordinators when everyone else is changing. Reading comprehension FTW!


  2. Rebar

    Mullen would be the one who transcends fastest


  3. The other Doug

    I think Mullen is the most likely to be successful. Florida can easily get talent and he has HC experience in the conference.


    • I also imagine it being easier to sell kids on his kind of offense – fast paced, more plays more points. It can’t be hard to get kids excited for that – It really depends on a competent QB right? If there is one thing he’s been able to do consistently, its get production from QB’s, whether they are highly rated or not.


  4. I think the guy under the radar is Moorehead at Miss State. They have pretty good players, and he turned Trace McSorley into a good QB. Nick Fitzgerald is still raw as a passer, but there’s talent there.

    Mullen clearly has the highest expectations and also the most pressure to produce quickly.


  5. 3rdandGrantham

    I think Mullen will do well; however his weakness is in recruiting, thus he will most likely operate with a talent deficiency when going up against UGA and possibly even FSU for the foreseeable future.

    IMO this is Muschamp’s make or break year, as he will either continue the north trend at SCU (and win 9 games while challenging us in the east), or pull back a bit and end up winning only 6-7. Last year he got very, very lucky with several close wins (NCST, UT, etc.) and had a large TO margin advantage as well. He certainly can’t count on the same luck this year, and overall his recruiting up to this point has been very mediocre.


  6. Uglydawg

    South Carolina. CWM must believe he has the defense to back up the HUNH. If so, it could be very good as the season progresses.
    HUNH is a gimmick but it could serve USC well against UGA if the USC defense can get a few stops on Georgia’s offense. This is a game where turnovers could be huge. Chubb and Sony seemed to hold on to the ball exceptionally well. With the competition at RB at UGA, I hope we don’t see a slew of fumbles from young’uns trying to get that extra yard and getting stripped of the ball.
    In a nutshell, this game worries me because it is so early in the season and the Dawgs are young. Georgia will need sustained, clock eating drives.


    • CWM must believe he has the defense to back up the HUNH.

      Maybe Sides will chime in here, but I got the impression the move to the hurry-up was about using Bentley’s skill set more effectively. From what I saw in their spring game, it’s not a bad bet in that regard.


      • Sides

        From what I have gathered through interviews, it is simply to create holes in the running game. They are going to get to the LOS fast and see if lineman and linebackers are out of position. They can’t let Bentley run because they can’t afford for him to get hurt (no read option). The running game will allow Bentley to use his arm more effectively.


  7. ChiliDawg

    I’d actually go with Chad Morris at Arkansas simply because I think he’s got the lowest bar. Arkansas was atrocious and I think the addition of a competent offensive mind will see them looking much better relative to the baseline than some of the other programs.

    I would not say Mullen. Too radical a change, and too high of expectations that won’t be tempered just because it’s year one.


  8. Derek

    Mullen will be the quickest to show improvement. He has a decent roster and the qbs to run his system in place. I don’t think he’ll succeed in the long run tho. He’ll come to regret bringing CTG with him. Good dc but his system is too complex and he’s not a good enough recruiter. Both Mullen and CTG are going to have to outperform their histories for that situation to be a success.

    I give the nod to Jimbo over the long term. I think he could straight up win the West in a couple of years. I think pruitt has a chance if they give him time and Saban leaves while he’s still in place there. I think Tennessee could be a perennial 2nd or 3rd in the east. I don’t know whether that will be good enough for the toothless inbreeds.


    • Nashville West

      I am also interested to see how Jimbo will do. I think a big question mark is how well he can recruit Texas. He can’t count on building a team in College Station by raiding Florida and Georgia like he did at FSU. In addition, the schedule in the SEC West is going to be a lot more challenging than the ACC.


  9. Biggus Rickus

    I don’t think any of them will be particularly successful in year one. In year two, Mullen seems like the best bet. He has more pieces to work with if he can get adequate play out of his offensive line and develop one of his QBs this year.

    I guess South Carolina has a chance to see immediate success, but I remain extremely skeptical.


  10. SemperFiDawg

    I think maybe Jimbo Fisher will be the first to succeed. He has the experience and the backing. No one is talking about them. If there’s a surprise turn around I look here first.


    • I’m not as sold on Fisher as others seem to be. He was winning until Dabo knocked FSU off the ACC perch. He’s in a much tougher neighborhood now, and Hermann and Texas may be better positioned for in-state prospects with his HUNH, spread option scheme.


      • Biggus Rickus

        I don’t think Fisher is one of the top five coaches in college football, as people claimed after 2013 and 2014, but he’s a good coach who still won 10 games in 2015 and 2016. Last year, his disinterest destroyed that team. He was also too loyal to a pretty bad defensive coordinator. I don’t think he’s going to win the West or anything as long as Alabama is Alabama, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they consistently finish second in the West under Fisher. At least until he decides he wants some other job.


        • The other Doug

          I see Jimbo at TAMU as a big problem for LSU and Auburn. He is going to push one of them down to 4th in the West, and the fan base won’t be cool with that. Jimmy Sexton is going to make some money.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Brandon

    I think Mullen will probably have the biggest improvement over last year. There was a lot of room to improve though.


    • HiAltDawg

      And he gets some bodies back from the credit card thing. A suspension of that magnitude can jack a program up. Surprised not more has been made of it as I imagine it sent a shockwave through compliance offices everywhere.


      • Russ

        Yeah, they lost some firepower last year with those suspensions. I’m sure with Mullen in town, they are now fully reformed. How many are still there?

        Also, Sackerlina was lucky with turnovers last season, but they also lost their top offensive weapon in the first game, I believe. They will make some noise this season.

        Overall, I think Mullen has the highest potential.


  12. Comin' Down The Track

    Who’s got Pruitt?


  13. TomReagan

    I’ll go with Mullen, when it comes to improvement. I think he has the personnel to put in his offense. I don’t like Franks, but he looks like a very poor man’s Fitzgerald. Their recruiting had fallen off, but Florida can only drop so far in that department. It takes effort not to get good players when you’re there.

    But for best team, my money is on Morehead at Miss State in a big way. They were a good team last year and he has a great mind. They’re the only team who had a coach poached. The rest had guys fired. I almost feel like he shouldn’t be lumped in with the rest.


    • W Cobb Dawg

      I think Franks is well suited to Mullen’s offensive approach. And their O has been so awful they’ve got nowhere to go but up. But the truth about fu is that most of their recent success has been due to defense. I think that’s where they really drop off this season.


  14. W Cobb Dawg

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict SOD won’t be able to get anywhere close to Heupel’s success at OC. Even with Lock returning, mizzou may be epically screwed. This might actually make CMR’s Schotty hire look like a genius stroke.

    I can’t fathom why Helton took the OC job at utk. If he sat tight for another year he’d likely be high on HC search lists – at least on the west coast or second tier programs. He’ll have to move heaven & earth to do as well as he would’ve at USC.

    Werner isn’t a bad hire by scu. But I’m not sure combining that with Bmac’s promotion and changing to the hurry-up is a recipe for bigger & better things.

    As far as I can see most of the other new hires around the conference are re-treads and uninspiring. I liked Enos at one time, but now who knows. Bama might actually take a real hit this time around. Chavis is Chavis. Grantham is Grantham. Is Jimbo any better than Sumlin? Until 2020 rolls around nobody is gonna care what Chad Morris does.

    As far as UGA in 2018, I think we benefit from all the coaching turnover. It definitely helped us with recruiting. I would think Kirby is pretty happy with the staff adjustments he’s made. We should go through the sec east like a hot knife through butter.


  15. I’ll bite and give my vote for Pruitt. I mean damn, they were winless in the SEC for Pete’s sake. Lots of room there for improvement. Success for them would be a Christmas bowl game.


  16. Bulldog Joe

    Immediate success this season:

    Alabama (obvious, IMO);
    South Carolina (favorable 2018 conference schedule, McClendon);
    Mississippi State (returns talent, favorable schedule, but new head coach);
    Missouri (if SOD doesn’t screw it up);
    A&M (returning talent but tough 2018 schedule);
    LSU (returning talent but tougher 2018 schedule);
    Florida (talent deficit, Grantham);
    Vanderbilt (talent deficit);
    Tennessee (talent deficit); and
    Arkansas (returning talent does not match new system).

    Most likely to use the term ‘throwaway season’: Arkansas, Tennessee.


  17. Hobnail_Boot

    When you combine recruiting efforts and magnitude of philosophy change, Arkansas has to stand out as a program staring at the abyss. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them pull a Tennessee oh-fer this season in league play.

    Talent base alone will buoy Mullen and Fisher. TBD which of them is able to coach em up, but my money would be on Mullen.

    Pruitt already looks in over his head, though it’s hard to see him doing much worse than Jones.


  18. ApalachDawg

    South kackalacky
    Muschamps D will keep them in games.


  19. Macallanlover

    Missy State will surprise to the upside next season, imo. Other programs will stay close to what is expected, or perhaps fall a little short. Change, and lesser talent will hold the newbies back, at least for 2018. Just don’t see any of them challenging us, or Bama for a spot in Atlanta. Long term, I think the next HC at TN will begin to get them out of the toilet, ot maybe the one after him.