Should everything go as expected, the SEC will see four new coaches debut with their respective schools this September. With new coaches added to the mix along with the ever-changing dynamics in college football, 2020 should be an interesting season to say the least.
The SEC is, undoubtedly, the great college football conference in America. There is no other conference that boasts the rich traditions, rabid fan bases and the consistent on-field dominance that the SEC does. It is also home to many of the best head coaches in football.
Ranking the SEC football coaches
14. Sam Pittman (Arkansas)
Pittman is no stranger to coaching or to the SEC. He has been an offensive line coach in college football for more than 25 years including stops at Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas (2013-2015). Pittman is inheriting a complete mess of a program that has now had three head coaches within a 25 month span. He exhibits numerous bizarre behaviors but is known as a solid recruiter. Perhaps he’s just what the Razorbacks are looking for, but at 58, is he really the long-term answer?
13. Derek Mason (Vanderbilt)
It’s quite possible that we don’t really know just how good of a coach Derek Mason is given Vanderbilt’s disadvantages in the SEC. His 25-41 record is definitely not good, however, he has led the Commodores to a Bowl game in 2 out of the last 3 seasons. Unfortunately, the momentum has not continued into 2019 as his team finished the season 3-9 with only one conference win to show for it.
12. Eliah Drinkwitz (Missouri)
Drinkwitz comes to Missouri as a practically unknown commodity. He had great success (12-1) during his lone season as the head coach at Appalachian State, but he could have a long road to hoe to guide Mizzou back to prominence as he will have to learn on the job at least initially. Drinkwitz has already proven to be a promising young recruiter which will be pivotal as Missouri tries to rise from the mediocrity that Barry Odom left them in.
11. Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee)
This ranking, in particular, is certain in flux and ever-changing. Pruitt looked to be on the edge of complete disaster after a 5-7 season in 2018 followed by a 2-5 start in 2019. A six-game winning streak to end the season followed by a current top-3 recruiting class has many thinking Tennessee is on the rise. The talent level is certainly improving and the time could be right for the Vols to be the program that challenges Georgia atop the SEC East. Or, in the next 24 months, Pruitt could be fired and we could be doing this all over yet again in Knoxville.
10. Will Muschamp (South Carolina)
Muschamp received heavy criticism throughout his tenure at Florida and for good reason. 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.
Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss)
Many believe Kiffin’s hiring at Ole Miss was a slam-dunk. He has a name that re-energizes a starving fan base and (surprisingly) quietly humbled himself while coaching at Florida Atlantic for three seasons. Kiffin has the pedigree and the idefiable energy to have success in the SEC although, as always, in the western division there is quite the hill to climb.
8. Mark Stoops (Kentucky)
Credit the University of Kentucky for being patient with Stoops and letting him build the program. Success has not come quickly, but fan support, facilities and recruiting are all on very solid ground. Two years ago, Stoops led UK to its first 10-win season since 1977 and kept the program’s head above water despite major quarterback issues in 2019. It seems unlikely that Stoops will reach that 10-win plateau for quite some time but could remain in Lexington indefinitely with his ability to keep the program on steady ground.
7. Mike Leach (Miss. State)
From the dull and boring Joe Moorhead to the always-entertaining Mike Leach, the Mississippi State program has gone through a quick, dramatic change. The college football world is waiting to see what Leach can do in the SEC and it should provide high drama in Starkville. Leach accomplished about all he could at Washington State and this figures to be his last stop at a major university.
6. Gus Malzahn (Auburn)
Just when you think you are about to see the end of Gus Malzahn at Auburn, he goes and does something crazy like beat Alabama. Of all coaches in America, perhaps none are as good at circling the wagons as Gus Malzahn. He has lived on the proverbial hot seat for the past few seasons and, when all hope seems lost, he seems to deliver a great season out on the plains of Auburn. He boasts a 62-31 record at Auburn including an SEC title back in 2013 and an appearance in the BCS Championship game that same season.
5. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M)
Texas A&M has all the fan support and resources that is required to have an elite program. Luring Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State was a huge coupe for the school and expectations were immediately through the roof. A 9-4 season in 2018 helped send the A&M hype machine into overdrive as the Aggies began 2019 with an admirable top-15 national ranking. The team wound up 8-5, which was certainly a disappointment but the arrow remains pointing way up on Texas A&M’s future.
4. Dan Mullen (Florida)
Not only is Mullen doing a great job of bringing Florida back to national prominence but he’s also proven his worth at a lesser SEC job (Mississippi State). Mullen helped vault the Bulldogs to #1 in the nation back in 2014 and was considered a home-run hire in Gainesville after the 2017 season. A 10-3 opening campaign followed by 11-2 (and a top 10 ranking) should be enough to springboard Mullen into the coveted top four of SEC coaches.
3. Ed Orgeron (LSU)
There were mixed feelings when Orgeron officially became the head coach at LSU back in 2016. Afterall, Orgeron already had a failed stint at Ole Miss under his belt. All he’s done since then is amass a 40-9 record, totally revamp his offense and lead the Tigers to a 15-0 national championship season in 2019. Maybe it’s just really easy to recruit to LSU and the program self-sustains regardless of who the coach is (don’t forget Les Miles won a championship there) but Orgeron has solidified himself as one of the upper-echelon coaches in the SEC.
2. Kirby Smart (Georgia)
In both 2017 and 2018, Smart had Georgia on the cusp of a potential National championship. Both times, their efforts were thwarted by Alabama and the Georgia fan base knows that if they are going to become one of college football’s elites, it’s a barrier they are going to eventually have to break down. Smart has been recruiting at a nearly unprecedented level (1st in team recruiting rankings in 2017 and 2018) while at Georgia and it feels all but a certainty that big things are ahead in Athens.
1. Nick Saban (Alabama)
Learn it. Live it. Know it. Saban represents the gold standard in college coaching excellence and has proven it time and again. Saban has won five national titles at Alabama and is an insane 152-23 since arriving in Tuscaloosa back in 2007. Alabama missed out on a sixth straight trip to the College Football Playoff in 2019, partly due to star quarterback Tua Tagovaiola’s devastating injury late in the season.