Another year of big changes among SEC coordinators
For the second consecutive year, there have been football coordinator shifts at a majority of the Southeastern Conference schools.
Four teams made no changes – Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. All four of those teams increased their victory total in 2015. Three schools will have new head coaches in 2016 which means there are going to be new coordinators at Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina.
Two head coaches fired offensive coordinators – Mark Stoops dismissed Shannon Dawson at Kentucky and Kevin Sumlin replaced Jake Spavital at Texas A&M. One head coach fired a defensive coordinator – Butch Jones dismissed John Jancek at Tennessee.
Alabama and Auburn will have new defensive coordinators after Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp became the head coaches at Georgia and South Carolina, respectively. LSU and Mississippi State had their defensive coordinators make lateral moves – Kevin Steele to Auburn and Manny Diaz to Miami.
Continuity as regards the coordinator positions has not been present in the SEC. Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze is the only head coach who will have the same coordinators for a third straight season – Matt Luke and Dan Werner as co-offensive coordinators and Dave Wommack as defensive coordinator.
Here are the offensive and defensive coordinators for the SEC teams heading into the 2016 campaign.
2015: Head coach – Jim McElwain; offensive coordinator – Doug Nussmeier; defensive coordinator – Geoff Collins
2016: Same three coaches
SKINNY: The Gators won ten games even though their offense was hurt by the midseason suspension of starting quarterback Will Grier. Nussmeier will be judged by how he develops the quarterback position in Gainesville. There is no way Florida will win the SEC East again without a more productive offense. Collins inherited some excellent talent on defense as evidenced by the on-field results.
2015: Head coach – Mark Richt; offensive coordinator – Brian Schottenheimer; defensive coordinator – Jeremy Pruitt
2016: Head coach – Kirby Smart; offensive coordinator – Jim Chaney; defensive coordinator – Mel Tucker
SKINNY: For the first time since 2000, Richt will not be on the Bulldogs sidelines. Georgia won at least nine games in four of the past five seasons. However, not winning a SEC title since 2005 cost Richt his job. Smart is a former Bulldogs player, who has been Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama during its national championship years. Smart hired two veteran coordinators – Chaney, who was in the SEC at Arkansas and Tennessee from 2009-14, and Tucker, who has been a NFL defensive coordinator for three organizations.
2015: Head coach – Mark Stoops; offensive coordinator – Shannon Dawson; defensive coordinator – D.J. Eliot
2016: Head coach – Stoops; offensive coordinator – Eddie Gran; defensive coordinator -- Eliot
SKINNY: An inefficient offense was the reason Stoops, a defensive-oriented coach, fired his coordinator on that side of the ball. Gran was quite successful as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator under Tommy Tuberville. In 2015, the Bearcats averaged nearly 540 yards per game and scored 54 offensive touchdowns. Gran was an assistant coach at Auburn before going to Cincinnati.
2015: Head coach – Gary Pinkel; offensive coordinator – Josh Henson; defensive coordinator – Barry Odom
2016: Head coach – Odom; offensive coordinator – Josh Heupel; defensive coordinator – Demontie Cross
SKINNY: Poor health caused Pinkel to resign as Tigers coach. Odom, who was Missouri’s defensive coordinator, was promoted to the top job. Odom tabbed Cross, who has never been a defensive coordinator, to take his spot. Odom hired Josh Heupel as his offensive coordinator. Heupel had been dismissed as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator a year ago. Heupel ran the offense at Utah State in 2015. The Aggies averaged 371 yards per game and scored 43 offensive touchdowns last season.
2015: Head coach – Steve Spurrier; co-offensive coordinators – Shawn Elliott, Steve Spurrier, Jr.; co-defensive coordinators – Jon Hoke, Lorenzo Ward
2016: Head coach – Will Muschamp; co-offensive coordinators – Bryan McClendon, Kurt Roper; defensive coordinator – Travaris Robinson
SKINNY: Spurrier resigned as head coach in midseason with Elliott being named the interim coach. Elliott was retained by Muschamp, but he will merely be the offensive line coach. Muschamp will have co-offensive coordinators with McClendon and Roper. McClendon, the interim head coach for Georgia in its bowl game, has never been a coordinator. Such is not the case for Roper, who ran Muschamp’s offense at Florida in 2014. Roper had been a long-time offensive coordinator under coach David Cutcliffe at both Ole Miss and Duke. Robinson, a former Auburn player, has no experience has a coordinator. However, Muschamp will be in charge of the Gamecocks defense.
2015: Head coach – Butch Jones; offensive coordinator – Mike DeBord; defensive coordinator – John Jancek
2016: Head coach – Jones; offensive coordinator – DeBord; defensive coordinator – Bob Shoop
SKINNY: The pressure will be on Jones in 2016 as the Volunteers will probably be favored to win the SEC East. The Tennessee defense has not been championship caliber. Therefore, Jones made a change – bringing in Shoop. While at Vanderbilt under coach James Franklin, Shoop turned out excellent defenses for three bowl teams.
2015: Head coach – Derek Mason; offensive coordinator – Andy Ludwig; defensive coordinator – Mason
2016: Same two coaches
SKINNY: Mason made the decision to run the defense himself after his first year as Commodores coach. The Vanderbilt defense was much improved in 2015. The offense was marginally better with Ludwig in his first year. Ludwig must develop a good quarterback if the Commodores are going to challenge for the postseason again.
2015: Head coach – Nick Saban; offensive coordinator – Lane Kiffin; defensive coordinator – Kirby Smart
2016: Head coach – Saban; offensive coordinator – Kiffin; defensive coordinator – Jeremy Pruitt
SKINNY: Saban lost his long-time defensive coordinator Smart, but quickly hired Pruitt. Saban is quite familiar with Pruitt, who was the defensive coordinator at Florida State and Georgia after being the secondary coach for the Crimson Tide. This transition should be quite smooth. It looks like Kiffin will be back for a third year although there are still NFL openings.
2015: Head coach – Bret Bielema; offensive coordinator – Dan Enos; defensive coordinator – Robb Smith
2016: Same three coaches
SKINNY: Bielema’s rebuilding job is continuing in Fayetteville. Enos has done an excellent job in developing a productive passing attack to go along with Bielema’ power ground game. Smith also has the Hogs playing solid defense. Everything seems to be in place for more progress being made by the Razorbacks.
2015: Head coach – Gus Malzahn; offensive coordinator – Rhett Lashlee; defensive coordinator – Will Muschamp
2016: Head coach – Malzahn; offensive coordinator – Lashlee; defensive coordinator – Kevin Steele
SKINNY: Malzahn is one of three Western Division head coaches who will be on the hot seat in 2016 – along with LSU’s Les Miles and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin. Muschamp left Auburn to become the head coach at South Carolina. The hiring of Steele did not produce much excitement from Auburn fans. Steele’s defense at LSU in 2015 was the worst in Miles’ tenure.
2015: Head coach – Les Miles; offensive coordinator – Cam Cameron; defensive coordinator – Kevin Steele
2016: Head coach – Miles; offensive coordinator – Cameron; defensive coordinator – Dave Aranda
SKINNY: Miles may have made the best hire of any SEC head coach with Aranda. During his time at Wisconsin, Aranda had top-ten defenses in the nation each year. Without a doubt, Aranda will have more talented players with the Tigers than he had with the Badgers. It appears that Cameron will be retained as offensive coordinator. Cameron must have a more balanced offense if LSU is going to contend for a SEC title.
2015: Head coach – Hugh Freeze; co-offensive coordinators – Matt Luke, Dan Werner; defensive coordinator – Dave Wommack
2016: Same four coaches
SKINNY: Freeze has increased the Rebels victory total in each of his four seasons. Freeze named Luke, Werner and Wommack to these positions when he became Ole Miss head coach in 2012. Obviously, Freeze made excellent decisions.
2015: Head coach – Dan Mullen; co-offensive coordinators – Billy Gonzales, John Hevesy; defensive coordinator – Manny Diaz
2016: Head coach – Mullen; co-offensive coordinators – Gonzales, Hevesy; defensive coordinator – Peter Sirmon
SKINNY: Diaz has left Mullen at Mississippi State for the second time. Previously, Diaz moved from the Bulldogs program to become defensive coordinator for Mack Brown at Texas. Now, Diaz is heading for Miami with its new head coach Mark Richt. Mullen is gambling with an inexperienced defensive coordinator in Sirmon, who was an assistant at Southern California this past season.
2015: Head coach – Kevin Sumlin; offensive coordinator – Jake Spavital; defensive coordinator – John Chavis
2016: Head coach – Sumlin; offensive coordinator – Noel Mazzone; defensive coordinator – Chavis
SKINNY: There may be no more experienced offensive coordinator in the country than Mazzone. He has run offenses at Ole Miss, Auburn, Oregon State, North Carolina State, Arizona State and UCLA – dating back to 1995. The Aggies offense has been ineffective since Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy season in 2012. Sumlin’s future at Texas A&M is tied in with the success of Mazzone and the offense.