With the SEC season less than four months away, here’s a look at how the conference’s coaches rank in 2015.
Several readers questioned my rankings of their favorite coaches so, rather than just give you a master document with links to each article, I’ll further explain.
My main reasoning was simple: If you could hire any coach in the SEC right now, who is your first choice? This isn’t considering 1996 Steve Spurrier, but rather the stubborn 70-year-old man who refuses to adapt to a changing game.
I call this logic the “Harbaugh factor” for the obvious reason that he was ALWAYS Michigan’s fantasy hire and the move ultimately came to fruition.
Let me also add that every SEC coach is great. If not, they wouldn’t be coaching in college football’s top conference. Derek Mason may go winless in conference games for the second consecutive year, but would likely dominate at a program like Boise State or Memphis.
My ranking of these coaches broke into several groups. First there’s Saban, who’s in a class all by himself. Then there’s the coaches who won conference championships during their current tenure: Malzahn, Miles and Richt.
Pinkel gets an honorable mention to this group by making back-to-back SEC Championship game appearances with a program that was expected to be a conference doormat after joining in 2012.
Freeze and Mullen lead the coaches with rising stock category. Both exceeded expectations in 2014, however, also suffered collapses late that prevented them from winning the SEC West.
The group continues with Sumlin, Jones and Bielema, who have all made a splash in the SEC, but haven’t yet achieved the success of the aforementioned coaches. As I noted, each coach has the potential to rank higher next year.
Then there’s Spurrier, who again, is a far cry from the offensive wizard fans remember from the mid-90s. Yes, he made South Carolina a respectable program during his tenure, but he’s been outcoached and outrecruited the past two seasons and doesn’t show any signs of improving.
If this was 1996, Spurrier would rank as a top-5 FBS coach. In 2015, he’s not a top-10 coach in his own conference.
McElwain ranks at No. 12 because we don’t know what to expect from him. He has potential, but it would be foolish to rank him higher than any of the coaches mentioned previously. The Mountain West Conference isn’t the SEC and there’s no guarantee he’ll succeed.
Stoops and Mason rank lowest because they led the only two teams that failed to earn bowl eligibility. Again, both coaches have potential but are at the helm of the conference’s two worst programs.
Stoops enjoyed an early start at 5-1, but ended the season on a very Kentucky-esque six-game losing streak. Mason never got started, dropping a blowout loss to Temple in the season opener and ending with a 3-9 (0-8 SEC) record.
So yes, this is how I rank the SEC’s coaches based on the “Harbaugh Factor.” Obviously, there’s not much argument against Saban as the conference’s top coach.
With 14 total coaches, there’s bound to be some disagreement and complaints from rabid fans. I’m not Moses and this list is hardly set in stone, so take it for what it’s worth.