5 coordinators who could lose their jobs
Here’s five SEC assistant coaches who could be replaced at season’s end:
Mark Snyder, Texas A&M, Defensive Coordinator — On the hot seat at the end of last season with the SEC’s worst defense at 475.8 yards per game, Snyder’s side of the football is once again a poor tackling and missed assignments mess. It’s difficult to pinpoint Texas A&M’s lack of success against nationally-ranked competition in the SEC West during Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, but it doesn’t take an Xs and Os analyst to determine defense has been ongoing issue.
Against physical fronts, the Aggies crumble and get caught out of position often in passing situations. The raw numbers this season compared to last are still awfully frightening — 29 touchdowns allowed in seven games, tied with Vanderbilt at the bottom of the SEC; 97th nationally (and last in the SEC) against the run at 190.1 yards per game. Not even Myles Garrett can save Snyder after the finale against LSU when Kevin Sumlin assesses his staff and what changes need to be made. To be fair, offensive coordinator Jake Spavital’s job could also be in jeopardy.
Karl Dorrell, Vanderbilt, Offensive Coordinator — Arguably the worst SEC assistant coaching hire in the offseason based on midseason results, Derek Mason’s decision to invite the former NFL assistant and UCLA head coach to Nashville hasn’t worked whatsoever and has damaged the program’s forward momentum seized by the previous regime.
Quiet and unassuming, Dorrell’s the opposite of his boss on the sideline and hasn’t pumped any life into Vanderbilt’s putrid, turnover-prone offense. The quarterback play’s laughable and sustaining drives next to impossible. The coaching pair formed a friendship at Northern Arizona while Mason was a cornerback and Dorrell called plays. Close acquaintances since, it appears Mason did Dorrell a favor by inviting him back to the college ranks and move backfired. When business interferes with friendship, the results are often damaging.
At season’s end when the Commodores finish 0-8 in the SEC, Dorrell could be the fall guy for a tragically bad season following consecutive nine-win campaigns.
Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina, Defensive Coordinator — It’s easier to replace a coordinator than it is a head coach and Ward’s shouldered much of the blame for South Carolina’s disappointing start this season. Never has the defensive line been this weak or secondary this bad — combined — during Steve Spurrier’s tenure. You would be hard-pressed to find anything the Gamecocks’ defenses has done well this season besides limiting East Carolina to 23 points during a Week 2 victory.
South Carolina’s given up the most explosive plays (10-plus yards) in the SEC this season (111) and ranks second-to-last in the league in scoring defense, passing defense and rushing defense. Fifteen rushing touchdowns allowed through seven games is on pace to break a dubious record (over last decade) of 23 given up in 2008.
In Ward’s defense, he doesn’t have the talent he’s grown accustomed to in Columbia, S.C. this season and most assumed this unit would take step back without Jadeveon Clowney. The problem is how far the step back has become, a devastating blow for a preseason division favorite and culprit in numerous losses.
Craig Naivar, Kentucky, Special Teams Coordinator — Admittedly outcoached at LSU last weekend, Naivar’s special teams units were blistered by the Tigers’ speed and precision in the return game to the tune of 163 total yards and a touchdown.
Even more embarrassing than Tre’Davious White’s 67-yard punt return for a score after the cornerback dodged six players who had a clear shot within the initial tackle radius was Kentucky’s lack of awareness on a squib kick just before halftime. By the time several players converged on a live ball up field, LSU gunner Lewis Neal had fallen on the football. The Wildcats were caught napping and Mark Stoops was livid.
Naivar’s kickoff coverage unit has given up five returns of 30 yards or more this season, tying an SEC-high with Arkansas and South Carolina. The Wildcats have given up an SEC-worst 16.7 yard per punt return.
Mike Bajakian, Tennessee, Offensive Coordinator — Despite a proven track record of success on Butch Jones’ staffs at Central Michigan and Cincinnati as the primary playcaller, Bajakian’s tenure in the SEC could be coming to an end after this season thanks to an anemic showing despite a senior quarterback and many talented newcomers. Tennessee’s scored one fewer touchdowns than Jeff Driskel-impaired Florida this season despite playing another full game.
The Vols are at the bottom of the SEC in rushing yards per game (94.0) and Bajakian hasn’t yet found creative ways to put the ball in the hands of playmakers. Against Florida, the Vols made four trips to the red zone but came away with just nine points during a one-point loss, a microcosm of how bad it’s been throughout the season. Few adjustments have been made by Bajakian despite Tennessee’s offensive line being amongst the nation’s worst at 30 sacks allowed.
A stronger focus on the short passing game could boost Justin Worley’s confidence without having to constantly look down field amidst pressure. As a collective unit, only Vanderbilt’s offense has been worse this fall.