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August 20, 2008

SEC Power Poll: The Coaches

Garnet & Black Attack is coordinating the second year of the SEC Power Poll and we're leading off the voting by ranking the coaches of the SEC.  My criteria was championships, consistency, and wins.  I tried to focus only on what a coach has done at his SEC program, but past jobs had an impact on my rankings.  I wasn't as analytical as some, but these are my picks, so I can set the criteria as arbitrarily as I want.  After all, college football is all about subjectivity.  Here are my rankings:
  1. Les Miles - (1 MNC, 2 BCS wins, 1 SEC Title) - I know I'm going to catch hell for this, but just look at the buffoon's numbers.   Since arriving at LSU, he has won at least 11 games every year, unmatched by any other SEC coach.  In last year's BCS Bowl, he coached circles around Jim Tressel, who enjoys a much better reputation.  He has hired fantastic coordinators, like Gary Crowton and Bo Pelini.  He is often overlooked as simply a caretaker for Saban's recruits, but this criticism is misplaced.  Miles has recruited better than Saban did while at LSU.  Plus, as a fan, who doesn't want a swashbuckling, trash-talking, cocky coach heading the program and winning in the most exciting fashion?  LSU's players, except for a certain transfer to Jacksonville State, don't get in much trouble and don't embarrass their university.  No doubt he comes across as an idiot, but the guys has consistently produced.  Have a great day!
  2. Urban Meyer - (1 MNC, 2 BCS, 1 SEC) - Before coming to UF, Meyer won a BCS game with Utah.  Utah, for God's sake.  At UF, he has fielded offensive powerhouses, coached a Heisman Trophy winner, and got the much maligned Chris Leak to a national championship.  His offense is innovative and has changed college football.  He also recruits like a demon.  The knocks on him are discipline and defense, neither of which Meyer is particularly familiar with. 
  3. Mark Richt - (2 BCS, 2 SEC) - Richt has been a consistent winner and turned Georgia into a perennial challenger for the SEC crown instead of third in the East every year.  Richt always recruits well.   The only thing keeping Richt from the top is that every year Georgia seems to mysteriously drop a crucial game that costs them a shot at bigger things (UF 2002, UT 2004, South Carolina 2007).  There is just something holding him back from his rightful place among coaching's elite.  Last year, Richt showed how good he could be unleashed from playcalling responsibilities.  Perhaps this is the year Richt breaks through.
  4. Tommy Tuberville - (1 BCS, 1 SEC) - Tubs always fields tough teams who are well coached.  He has a great, great eye for coordinator talent.  Auburn always churns out NFL draft picks, despite rarely landing top 5 recruiting classes.  The knock on Tubs is similar to criticisms of Richt.  Auburn always has a puzzling loss every year that keeps them from Atlanta.  But, to his credit, Tuberville always seems to pull an upset no one sees coming.
  5. Steve Spurrier - (1 MNC, 4 BCS, 6 SEC) - If Spurrier were still at UF, he'd be an easy No. 1.  History will show Spurrier to be the second best coach in SEC history, but right now he's languishing in Columbia.  Shiny Pants still knows how to coach, but he's learning the inherent limitations of some recruiting bases.  It seems like the league has caught up with him.  Carolina has pulled some great upsets under Spurrier, but he has failed to increase Carolina's normal slot in the conference bowl order.
  6. Nick Saban - (1 MNC, 2 BCS, 2 SEC) - This may be a shock for the world's most powerful coach, barely cracking the top half of my list.  But consider that Saban has won 10 or more games only twice in his career.  I grant that he has made those years count, but that number is well below many other coaches. Other than 2003, Saban has been good, but not great.  His rep keeps getting bigger despite not turning in consistent results.
  7. Phil Fulmer - (1 MNC, 1 BCS, 2 SEC) - It's amazing that a coach who has nine season of 10 or more wins has so little to show for it.  Fulmer is a consistent winner, but only has two conference crowns, despite an immense flow of talent through Knoxville.  Like Richt and Tubs, he is consistently good, just not great.  Plus, he's probably the most universally disliked coach in the conference.
  8. Houston Nutt - Nutt enjoys a great reputation for doing big things on small talent bases.  This reputation is well earned, but remember that Nutt had a lot of really good players during his stint in Fayetteville.  There were several times when Nutt's game management and play calling at Arkansas seemed really odd.  If Nutt can lead Ole Miss to a few bowls, I start buying into Nutt's rep more easily.  
  9. Bobby Petrino - (1 BCS) - Petrino has proven he can coach, winning big at Louisville.  He still has to prove he can coach against consistent quality competition, something he didn't see in the Big East.  It will probably take a year or two for Petrino to start inching his way up this list.
  10. Sly Croom - Croom has slowly built up State to an opponent teams must respect again.  He is somewhat of a relic, adhering to the Bryant, Dooley, Neyland school of power running and strong defense while others have moved to spreads and deep passing attacks.  If Croom can find a potent offensive weapon, he could challenge the big boys.
  11. Rich Brooks - Brooks has done well for UK, but last year may have been his zenith.  He has laid a solid foundation at UK, improving recruiting and giving the bluegrass faithful a glimpse of wins over top flight competition.  It's doubtful, however, that Brooks will ever top last season, which saw the Cats win a minor bowl game.
  12. Bobby Johnson - It's a shame Johnson is number 12 on this list.  He's beaten Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia in the past three years and came within a phantom flag of beating Florida in the Swamp.  Vandy has produced NFL draft picks and graduates its players, almost all of them.  But, with the star power on the SEC sidelines, someone, even a good coach, has to be last.  
So, I know I'm stupid for putting Miles on top, but where else have I showed my mental limitations?


Anonymous said...

I have more respect for B. Johnson than most of the other coaches in the league. He does more with less than any other coach. Granted, he hasn't "done" anything in terms of wins/titles, but its Vandy for crying out loud! To compete in the SEC with those entrance requirements is a win in itself. Those other bottom dwellers (Miss. schools) dont have an excuse.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with Miles at the top. He has a reputation for not being too smart and his actions back it up sometimes but as some LSU folks I know say about Miles in comparison to coaches like Tressel, Urban Cryer, and Spurrier: Our idiot just beat your Genius.

Anonymous said...

Bobby Johnson is an atrocious in-game coach. Sucks he doesn't have the talent depth everyone else does, but that doesn't excuse you being a dummy with the Xs and Os.

Spurrier won at Duke not because of talent, of course, but because his players were continually smarter than the competition. Vandy's players are perpetually moronic when it comes to crunch time.

Johnson is awful.

Truzenzuzex said...

I don't fault you for having Miles so high, and not just because I do as well. Your reasoning is strong, and Miles makes up in testicular displacement what he lacks in cognitive proficiency.

But I think Brooks is going to make you eat those words about him. Not that I'd rank him near the top, or anything, but he has done more with less than Croom, IMO. And you do realize that last year was Kentucky's second minor bowl in a row, right? And that when he took over, Kentucky was mired in Claude Bassett-induced probation?

Hobnail_Boot said...

I applaud you for putting Miles #1.

My beef is with Spurrier. As you mentioned, you have to take into account his time @ South Carolina. I really can't fathom putting him #2 on the all-time SEC coaching list. Had he stayed out of college coaching after his UF run, then yes I'd agree. But if you add his SCU stint to his UF time then for me he ranks behind:

1) Bryant
2) Neyland
3) Vaught

Ok yeah I'd put him 4th. Still on Mt. Rushmore but a victim of the Chicken Curse nonetheless.

C. Paul said...

I have no problem with Les Miles and concur with your reasoning - the numbers just don't lie.

I'd move Brooks up - but when you start squabbling over that part of the list - you have way too much time on your hands.

ChicagoDawg said...

With respect to your comments on CUM, "his offense is innovative and has changed college football". Perhaps the offense that he runs at FL has changed college football, but it is not "his" offense. It is mythology that CUM or his staff for that matter are the architects of the "Spread," although they are commonly cited as being revolutionaries. While they have clearly used it effectively and have helped to popularize it, they are not the creators of it -- although they seem to allow the media to perpetuate the idea.

ChicagoDawg said...

Also, with these types of rankings, I think one has to have a at least a 4-5 year track record at one school before any serious evaluation or ranking can be done. We have to see how they manage a program beyond one or two seasons. Can they create or sustain a winning culture, can they inspire a fan/alumni base, do they recruit kids that stay on a roster for 3-4 years, do they develop marginal players, do they adapt to changes in rules or scheme fads, can he build and KEEP together a coaching staff, does he do well with replacing the coordinators that are plucked away into HC positions, can they deal effectively with crisis/setbacks, how well do they survive and come back from down years, are they able to recruit year over year? None of these questions can be answered for CUM or Miles for that matter as both have not been at their respective schools for one full recruiting class (4yrs min).
Also, I always like to think of it this way, how would CUM, Miles, CMR, SOS, et al, do at MSU, Vandy, Auburn, LSU, etc., In other words, if we take any given coach and put him in different situations, how well might he do at these institutions? As we know, not all Universities, fan bases and recruiting territories are created equal.

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