Ranking football coaches in the SEC isn’t easy. One current coach was willing to give it a shot.
“Lots of unproven guys if you go off accomplishments,” a long-time SEC coach told me recently on the grounds I wouldn’t reveal his name.
That’s certainly the case at Mississippi State with Joe Moorhead and Arkansas with Chad Morris. Both are beginning their first year in the SEC. It’s also the case at Tennessee where Jeremy Pruitt is set to begin his first season as a head coach in college.
As for Missouri and Vanderbilt, they’re not exactly hanging championship banners with Barry Odom and Derek Mason, respectively. There are also plenty of questions surrounding LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Ole Miss’ Matt Luke.
So, who is at the top of the heap?
According to that unnamed SEC coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban is at the top followed by Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. After just his second season, Georgia’s Kirby Smart ranks third followed by Florida’s Dan Mullen. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn ranks fifth with Kentucky’s Mark Stoops rounding out the top six.
Saban being the top choice should surprise no one given his incredible run at Bama. Fisher won a national title at Florida State before moving to A&M. Smart won the SEC last season.
Mullen had success as Mississippi State before leaving for Florida. Winning in Starkville is no easy feat. Stoops can relate. He’s having success in basketball-crazed Lexington.
If there is a surprise among this coach’s ranking, it has to be Malzahn at fifth-best. He’s 2-3 against Alabama and his Tigers beat the Tide and Georgia last season on their way to winning the SEC West.
The X-Factor is Will Muschamp at South Carolina.
“I would say Will, but he got fired at Florida,” the coach said. “That’s hard to do in my opinion.”
Winning at South Carolina is much tougher to do than winning at Florida. If Muschamp is able to do that, the coach I spoke to said he’d certainly move up the list. That seems possible. The Gamecocks were 9-4 last season. Perhaps Muschamp just needed some seasoning.
Surprisingly, the coach I spoke to had only one SEC coach among the top coaches in the nation. In no particular order, the coach said his top six coaches in the nation consisted of Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Penn State’s James Franklin, Scott Frost, who left Central Florida for Nebraska following last season, Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Dabo Swinney at Clemson.
Of course, all of this is subject to debate. However, what is clear from the coach we spoke to is that the SEC doesn’t have a stranglehold on the top coaches in the nation.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @DaveHooker)
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