The SEC had four open jobs – Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee, but Mark Stoops was hired earlier today at Kentucky. Now, several of the candidates are mentioned for the same three jobs that are open. When it comes to ranking the remaining head coaching positions, the opinions vary.
Let’s give this a shot:
1. Tennessee Volunteers
Advantages: There are several advantages to coaching the Vols. It’s a rich history and tradition, filled with championships and NFL players. The Vols play in the SEC East, and they don’t face LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M or Auburn every single year. The facilities are second to none, and there is money in the athletic department, despite being ‘broke’. Tennessee’s fans are very passionate, and it is nearly an elite job – even after the Lane Kiffin debacle and Dooley era.
Disadvantages: The biggest disadvantage to coaching in Knoxville is recruiting. In order to recruit well at Tennessee, it has to be done on a national level. Phillip Fulmer won at Tennessee largely because he could recruit California, Florida and Georgia. Tennessee will require significant rebuilding. With players like Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson most likely leaving early, whoever the next coach will be should be on a five-year plan.
Top Candidates: Coaches like Jon Gruden, Mike Gundy, Gary Patterson, Al Golden, Jimbo Fisher and Charlie Strong are on the list. But Gruden isn’t coming, or he would have been already hired. You can’t go wrong with any of the others on the list.
Who I would hire: I would hire Charlie Strong at Tennessee. He has an SEC pedigree, and he can recruit nationally as well as anyone in the entire country. He has head-coaching experience at Louisville, and he has coached in the SEC for a number of years at South Carolina and Florida. It’s time to bring Charlie home. I think he’d be a terrific hire at Tennessee, although to most Vol fans, he’d be an underwhelming hire.
2. Auburn Tigers
Advantages: Auburn, unlike Tennessee, is built to win right now. The main problem with Gene Chizik wasn’t recruiting, it was developing the players who are already on campus. Chizik hauled in multiple top recruiting classes, and there is one already assembled right now for next year’s class. Of the four jobs, I think Auburn could have some success early with the talent already there.
Disadvantages: The biggest disadvantage is nothing in and of Auburn itself, but it’s Alabama and Nick Saban. Saban is showing no signs of slowing down, and whoever takes this job knows he’ll be measured against Saban, not wins or losses. The Tigers’ program has also come under some NCAA investigations recently because of the Jovon Robinson situation.
Top Candidates: Much like Tennessee, Charlie Strong, Jimbo Fisher and Gary Patterson are on the list. Two coaches also with shots to nab the job are Gus Malzahn and the maligned Bobby Petrino.
Who I would hire: If I’m Jay Jacobs, I’m feeling risky. I would absolutely pursue Stanford’s David Shaw to the fullest, as he’s said to be tops on the list, and I would make Petrino my floor hire. Malzahn is a Jay Jacobs guy, but I’m not sold on Malzahn as a head coach. Without a dynamic quarterback, what kind of offense are you going to have? Jimbo Fisher may be the coach who ends up there, although he could be leveraging his FSU position by saying he’s interested. Fisher would not be a bad hire at all, and he’s a proven recruiter. Lastly, like Tennessee, I would pursue Charlie Strong.
3. Arkansas Razorbacks
Advantages: The Hogs have some of the sweetest facilities in the SEC, and it’s a very loyal and rabid fan base. There is a history of winning and a tradition already in place, combined with recent success from Petrino’s regime. With no pro team in the state, the Razorbacks get the spotlight, which can be both good and bad.
Disadvantages: Arkansas is a tough place to recruit. The Hogs have to dip down into Texas and Oklahoma because the pool of blue chip recruits in the state of Arkansas is somewhat slim. It is going to take time to rebuild the program again, with many impact players graduating. Can it be done? Sure, but it’s going to take time, and competing with Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M every year will delay the process.
Top Candidates: Gary Patterson, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Tommy Tuberville, Chris Petersen and James Franklin headline the list.
Who I would hire: Petersen is the hot name here, but I would make a strong push for Gary Patterson before Texas fires Mack Brown and hires him. Patterson is a defensive-minded coach, and I would pay him $4 million per year to coach my football team. He just beat Texas and has strong ties in the state. And what makes you think he’d be afraid to strap it on in the SEC West? As far fetched as it may seem, Patterson might be antsy enough to come to the SEC.
Photo Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE