The SEC is certainly home to three of the top 10 coaching staffs in the country. While there are prominent head coaches, there are some seasoned veterans and some new young guns who make up the best assistants in this league. While some of these assistants are content to stay at the assistant level, some are destined to become successful head coached down the road.
Here are the 10 best assistant coaches in the SEC. Let’s give this a shot:
1. John Chavis, LSU, Defensive Coordinator
Particulars: Age: 55. This is his 4th season with the Tigers.
The Buzz: The former Tennessee offensive lineman is figuring out ways to dominate the position he once played. He’s made a living at it, too. John Chavis won the Frank Broyles Award for the top assistant coach in college football last year due to his leadership of one of the most dominant defenses in the country. Chavis has expressed no desire to become a head coach. He made his name as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator in the Vols’ dominant years in the 90’s. He’s happy where he is at LSU, and I think his job security is pretty set.
2. Kirby Smart, Alabama, Defensive Coordinator
Particulars: Age: 36. This is his 5th season at Alabama.
The Buzz: Kirby Smart has quickly become the SEC’s most obvious coordinator destined for a head coaching position. He’s been groomed under ‘the process’ of Nick Saban, and he is destined for a big-time coaching gig at some point. Smart’s defense in 2011 was one of the most dominant defenses in the history of college football in almost every statistic possible. He’s been in the NFL with the Dolphins in 2006, and played safety for Georgia from 1995 to 1998. He started his coaching career at Valdosta State as a defensive backs coach.
3. Todd Grantham, Georgia, Defensive Coordinator, Associate Head Coach
Particulars: Age: 45. This is his 3rd season at Georgia.
The Buzz: Todd Grantham has brought the physicality back to the Georgia Bulldogs’ defense that has been missing since Brian VanGorder left. His 3-4 defense allowed OLB Jarvis Jones to be the leading sacker in the SEC last year. Grantham comes from the NFL, having coached the defensive line or been a coordinator for 11 years, and he’s learned under some prominent head coaches in Nick Saban and Frank Beamer. He’s expressed his desire to be a head coach some day.
4. David Yost, Missouri, Offensive Coordinator, Recruiting Coordinator
Particulars: Age: 41. This is his 4th season at Missouri.
The Buzz: If you don’t know David Yost, and most of you don’t, he’s easy to spot with his surfer boy floppy haircut. But this guy can coach an offense. He assumed the offensive coordinator position in 2009 after having been the quarterback coach. He was the quarterback coach who helped develop Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert, and now, James Franklin. Yost is also the recruiting coordinator, and he’s on the fast track to a head-coaching gig in the near future.
5. Frank Wilson, LSU, Running Backs Coach, Recruiting Coordinator
Particulars: Age: 39. This is his third year at LSU.
The Buzz: Frank Wilson has emerged as one of the top recruiters in the SEC and the rest of the country in his short career. LSU is always inking top recruiting classes, and he’s assembled possibly the deepest running back rotation in all of college football. The Tigers ran for 202.6 yards per game last year, tied a school record with 35 touchdowns and had three backs surpass the 500-yard mark for the season. He’s a dynamite recruiter and great position coach.
6. Brian VanGorder, Auburn, Defensive Coordinator
Particulars: Age: 53. This is his 1st season at Auburn.
The Buzz: Auburn head coach Gene Chizik tabbed Brian VanGorder to be his defensive coordinator after Ted Roof left town. This may only be VanGorder’s first season at AU, but he’s had a decorated NFL and college career. Previously, he served as Georgia’s defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2004, and UGA hasn’t had a physical defense until last year since he left. VanGorder then took his talents to the NFL and coached with the Jaguars and Falcons, serving as a linebacker coach and defensive coordinator. He has talent to work with at Auburn now, too.
7. Sal Sunseri, Tennessee, Defensive Coordinator
Particulars: Age: 53. This is his 1st season at Tennessee.
The Buzz: Derek Dooley nabbed Sal Sunseri to transform Tennessee’s defense, literally, into a 3-4 scheme. Sunseri has both college and NFL experience, most notably being Nick Saban and Alabama’s assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the last three years. Before Alabama, Sunseri coached the defensive line for the Carolina Panthers for seven years after a long stint in the collegiate ranks. The former Pittsburgh linebacker brings his experienced career to Knoxville to lead Dooley’s defense.
8. Shawn Elliott, South Carolina, Offensive Line Coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator
Particulars: Age: Approaching 40. This is his 3rd season at South Carolina.
The Buzz: Shawn Elliott has done a wonderful job at South Carolina during his time. He previously served as the running game coordinator, but Steve Spurrier gave him a promotion to co-offensive coordinator. In his first year with the Gamecocks, Elliott transformed the running game from last in the SEC to eighth, and his offensive lines have been some of the best over the last couple of years. Spurrier continues to rave about this guy. Elliott previously served at his alma mater Appalachian State.
9. Rodney Garner, Georgia, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Particulars: Age: 46. This is his 14th season at Georgia.
The Buzz: One thing that the Bulldogs can’t be criticized for is their recruiting. Rodney Garner has done a great job of getting guys on campus, but the development has obviously lacked in a number of positions. Garner has done a great job assembling a top defensive line in the SEC. He’s coached four first-round draft picks in his career. Garner has been a hot commodity in the coaching ranks for a while, as several schools try to pull him away from Georgia every year, but to no avail.
10. GA Mangus, South Carolina, Quarterbacks Coach
Particulars: Age: Early 40s. This is his 4th year at South Carolina.
The Buzz: GA Mangus is probably most known for his off-the-field incident in last summer’s arrest. But on the field, this guy can coach. Formerly the quarterback who played under Spurrier at Florida in late 80s and early 90s, GA Mangus has blossomed into very good coach. Mangus took a 2-8 Delaware Valley program and turned it around, with a 33-4 record in the next three seasons. He found his way at South Carolina in 2009, and he had a hand in developing Stephen Garcia and now Connor Shaw (8-1 as a starter). Mangus will be a head coach at some point.