Should everything go as expected, the SEC will see four new coaches debut with their respective schools this September. While just two coaches in the conference can boast national championships, others appear right on the verge of immortality. There appear to be four six distinct coaching tiers in the league at the present time.
SEC Coaching Tiers
Tier 6. The New Kids in Town
- Eli Drinkwitz (Mizzou). Drinkwitz was the head coach at Appalachian State for just one season before being vaulted into shark-infested SEC waters. He is a complete unknown and hopes not to be pummelled by more established competition like Daniel Larusso was at the onset of the Karate Kid by established nemesis’.
- Sam Pittman (Arkansas. Pittman has been around FOREVER but as an offensive line coach. He knows the SEC and has been a proven winner but Arkansas is currently a mess and he will have to learn on the job at age 58 at a school that has won four games in two seasons.
Tier 5. The Mississippi Two
- Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss). Oh, this is not Lane’s first rodeo. Crazy to think Kiffin and Mike Leach may have not been hired at all had an Ole Miss player not lifted his leg in the end zone to mimic a dog peeing. Kiffin has been in this league before as a head coach and a coordinator and provides a “name” which has invigorated the Rebel fan base.
- Mike Leach (Miss. State). “The Pirate” is in the SEC. Let us not waste this amazing opportunity. Props to the state of Mississippi for providing viable entertainment for the foreseeable future. The Egg Bowl will, in fact, be must-watch TV for the first time in many years.
Tier 4. What Would You Say You Do Here? (The Hot Seat)
- Derek Mason (Vanderbilt). Mason has led the Commodores to a Bowl game in 2 out of the last 3 seasons. Unfortunately, the momentum did not continue into 2019 as his team finished the season 3-9 with only one conference win to show for it. The writing has been on the wall for some time here.
- Will Muschamp (South Carolina). Many scoffed at South Carolina for hiring Muschamp back in 2016. His record since then is the definition of ordinary at 26-25. After a 4-8 campaign in 2019, his team must respond or it could be another unceremonious end for Muschamp.
Tier 3. The Amazingly Average
- Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee). Has a chance to move in to a better category after 2020 but is just as close to falling back to the hot seat tier. The Vols saved their season last year with a 6-0 finish giving Pruitt a 13-12 overall record at Tennessee where expectations are, shall we say, lofty.
- Mark Stoops (Kentucky). Stoops has the program, at the very least, on stable ground but his 44-44 record over 8 seasons gives little hope for competing for much beyond menial bowl games.
Tier 2. On the Verge
- Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M). A bit difficult as Fisher won a national title at FSU but we’re going to need to see a little more in order to move him into the elite tier here in the SEC. He’s 17-9 at A&M but has not been able to reel off a defining win (unless you count the 74-72 win over LSU in 2018).
- Kirby Smart (Georgia). Smart had the Georgia Bulldogs on the verge of a national title in just his second year and his recruiting prowess has been prodigious. Will he finally get the program over the hump or will Smart slowly start heading toward Mark Richt status?
- Dan Mullen (Florida). We’ve seen success now at two different SEC schools and it’s pretty clear that Dan Mullen has Florida poised to compete with Georgia for division titles. Mullen is 21-5 in just two years and all arrows seem to be pointing up.
- Gus Malzahn (Auburn). Just when it appears Malzahn is heading towards unemployment, he reels off a win over Alabama or winds up in an SEC championship game. Gus did help Auburn engineer an astonishing turnaround from 2012-2013 and got the Tigers to the National Championship game before falling to FSU. The wheels could come off at any moment but ol Gus seems to always find his way.
Tier 1. The Elite Secret Society
- Ed Orgeron (LSU). Coach O joined the ranks of the elite after leading LSU to an undefeated national championship season in 2019. His quarterback, Joe Burrow, won the Heisman Trophy and was drafted #1 overall by the Bengals. The 2019 LSU Tigers may very well be one of the great offensive teams in college football history and he has earned his seat at the coaching head table as it were.
- Nick Saban (Alabama). Perhaps Mr. Saban deserves a category unto himself. Afterall, he is walking around with five national championship rings. Saban is the gold standard in college football coaching and likely deserves his own distinction…