Ranking the 10 best SEC assistant coaching hires
True to form, the SEC had some very sexy hires for new assistant coaches. Obviously, some of the new coaches have been around the SEC, while others haven’t tasted the passion and madness yet.
Top of the line
1. Ellis Johnson, DC, Auburn
2. Cam Cameron, OC/QBs, LSU
The most important hire for any head coach – new or veteran – was defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. He’s one of the most well respected defensive minds in the college game, and he just happens to have 16 years experience in the SEC. Johnson guided South Carolina’s defense to 3rd in the nation in 2011 before leaving for Southern Miss. Johnson is tasked with transforming the 81st overall defense into a winner on the Plains…Cam Cameron is a huge name for Les Miles and LSU as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Cameron has proven to have a hand in developing elite passers, but can he make LSU’s offense click? The former NFL coordinator and one-time Miami Dolphins head coach carries weight in the coaching ranks, but was he the right hire for LSU? 2013 will tell.
3. Chris Ash, DC, Arkansas
4. Neal Brown, OC/QBs, Kentucky
5. Mike Bajakian, OC/QBs, Tennessee
6. Jim Chaney, OC, Arkansas
Chris Ash has one of the strongest resumes of any coach in the SEC you’ve never heard of. He’s been a part of three Big Ten Championships at Wisconsin, and the Badgers have finished in the top three in total defense in the last two years he was a coordinator. Ash has coached college ball for 17 years at four different schools…One of the sexiest hires of the offseason was Neal Brown by Mark Stoops. Brown brings an impressive resume and history of explosive offenses to Lexington. In each of Brown’s three seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the Red Raiders were ranked in the top 10 in passing offense, top 15 in total offense and top 25 in scoring offense. I’m so interested to see his offense at Kentucky…Mike Bajakian followed Butch Jones from Cincinnati to Tennessee. He has NFL experience and a high-profiled, high-scoring offense. His offenses have scored over 30-plus points per game in 55.1 percent of his career games. The Bearcats led the Big East in scoring offense, rushing offense and yards per play… Jim Chaney has a big resume with experience in the SEC, NFL and Big Ten. He recently guided Tennessee’s offense to the fourth-best scoring offense in the league and the second-best passing offense. Chaney was prominent in coaching Drew Brees at Purdue, too. Now, he takes over a depleted offense void of star players and has to make hay with what he inherits.
7. Mario Cristobal, OL, Alabama
8. Joker Phillips, WR, Florida
9. Rodney Garner, DL, Auburn
Alabama made the sexiest position coach hire in former FIU head coach and Miami assistant Mario Cristobal. Not only does he have head coaching experience, but he can own Miami in recruiting for the Tide. Cristobal is now in charge of the biggest question mark on Alabama’s team in the offensive line. The unit lost three starters and has a new position coach…Will Muschamp made a splash hire in former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips. Not only does Phillips know the SEC and is known as a great recruiter, but he takes over the worst aspect of Florida’s offense in the receivers. He may not be a great head coach, but he can coach up receivers as well as anyone in the conference. You could make the case that Phillips was the biggest assistant coaching hire…Rodney Garner is one of the best recruiters in the country. Some have knocked and questioned his defensive line coaching, but the guy can go toe-to-toe with anyone for a blue-chip prospect. Garner takes over one of the most underachieving units from the Auburn defense in 2012.
Best under-the-radar hire
10. Brad Lawing, DL, Florida
Florida’s defense was arguably tops in the country entering the Sugar Bowl. Even after the Louisville fiasco, the Gators finished top five in total defense. And they did it all finishing 9th in the conference with just 30 sacks. Brad Lawing’s Gamecocks led the SEC with 43 sacks. Now, that’s a strong hire that instantly makes the Gators’ defensive line better. Lawing is known as a great coach and motivator, so we should see a difference in the Gators’ sack production in 2013.
Photo Credit: Chuck Cook – USA TODAY Sports