Here’s an incredible stat in the Southeastern Conference entering the 2018 season, the league features 10 new offensive coordinators (counting Florida’s co-OCs as two). Following so much turnover at the position, here’s something to know about each of the top offensive minds in the league this season.
Mike Locksley – Alabama
Mike Locksley is the first of many offensive coordinators on this list without any playcalling experience in the SEC. Taking that into account, it’s difficult to offer much schematically with Alabama’s new offensive coordinator, but one thing from his past as an OC suggests he could be an ideal fit to run the Crimson Tide offense in 2018.
During his four-year stretch as Maryland’s offensive coordinator from 2012-15, Locksley managed to share the wealth between his running backs and give his key contributors an opportunity without hamstringing himself to one back. In 2012, his main backs split carries 90 to 85 to 69. In 2013: 166 to 140, in 2014: 161 to 103 and in 2015: 150 to 109.
This history bolds well for the Tide in 2018, as the team once again features several running backs capable of carrying the offense toward another SEC Championship if given the opportunity to do so.
Joe Craddock – Arkansas
Having worked under Chad Morris his entire coaching career, Joe Craddock was an easy choice as the Razorbacks new offensive coordinator. The two have now made three coaching stops together and have proven how quickly their impact can be made in Year One at a program. During their previous stop at SMU, Craddock’s offense immediately improved by an average of 16.7 points per game (from 11.1 points in 2013 to 27.8 points in 2014). In just three years time, SMU went from having the nation’s worst scoring offense to having the nation’s No. 12 scoring offense under Craddock’s guidance.
Chip Lindsey – Auburn
This spring, Auburn is searching for the right combination of running backs to play in the fall in an attempt to replace the production lost from the early departures of Kerryon Johnson and Kam Pettway from the program. While Chip Lindsey has noted that pass protection will be key in determining which running backs he allows on the field, the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield could be just as paramount to having success in Lindsey’s offensive system.
Last season, Johnson caught 24 passes (fifth-best on the team) for 194 yards and a pair of scores in Lindsey’s offense. His Arizona State offenses utilized the backs in the passing game even more. Sun Devils RB Kalen Ballage ranked third on the team in catches with 44 in 2016 while starting RB Demario Richard notched another 17 that season. In Lindsey’s final season as OC at Southern Miss, his top two running backs (Ito Smith and Jalen Richard) combined to catch 79 passes for 799 yards and five touchdowns.
Billy Gonzales, John Hevesy – Florida
While remaining co-coordinators for several years and spanning two schools is quite usual, so is the relationship Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy have with Dan Mullen — especially considering today’s landscape that often seems like a revolving door of assistant coaches. Hevesy has worked with Mullen for 18 years now, with Gonzales working 14 years with the two.
In their first year at Mississippi State as co-offensive coordinators, the Bulldogs improved from having the SEC’s 10th best scoring offense to having the 2nd best scoring offense. MSU’s total offense also improved from the SEC’s 9th best to No. 1 in the league that year.
Jim Chaney – Georgia
Well known for his excellent ability to mold college quarterbacks, Jim Chaney has worked wonders for Jake Fromm, Tyler Bray, Jonathan Crompton and soon to be NFL Hall of Famer Drew Brees at Purdue, but he quietly has excelled at producing great college running backs, too.
Dating back to the 2013 season, Chaney’s offense have featured seven players that would go on to reach 1,000-yards rushing in a season. He’s done so at Georgia (Nick Chubb 1,345, Sony Michel 1,227 in 2017; Chubb 1,130 in 2016), Pitt (Qadree Ollison 1,121 in 2015), and at Arkansas (Jonathan Williams 1,190, Alex Collins 1,100 in 2014, Collins 1,026 in 2013).
Eddie Gran – Kentucky
There may not be an offensive coordinator in the league that’s worked with better SEC running backs than Eddie Gran. Having coached Auburn running backs Kenny Irons, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Rudi Johnson as well as Ole Miss standout Deuce McAllister, it’s clear Gran knows what he’s doing when it comes to running backs. When it’s all said and done, Benny Snell may be the best of the bunch, as Kentucky’s rising junior has already broken the school’s all-time rushing touchdown mark with 32 in two seasons.
When those running backs have been the featured backs under Gran’s, they combined to average 1,112 rushing yards a season.
Steve Ensminger – LSU
Outside of his interim stint in 2016, Steve Ensminger hasn’t been an offensive coordinator this century. While that’s an alarming stat for LSU fans to consider, his eight-game stretch as play caller for Ed Orgeron that season resulted in several school records being set on the gridiron.
The Tigers set a school record for yards (634) against an SEC opponent and time of possession (both against Mizzou) while both Leonard Fournette (284 yards against Ole Miss) and Derrius Guice (285 yards against Texas A&M) set the individual school rushing record during that span. Before Ensminger took over the unit, LSU was averaging 18 points per game. During his eight games, averaged 32 points per game without playing a single non-conference opponent in the regular season.
Phil Longo – Ole Miss
During his early days as a coach, Phil Longo first found his offensive identity after hearing then-Kentucky offensive coordinator Mike Leach speak. After getting a chance to pick Leach’s brain, Longo would continue to do so often during his 20+ year coaching career.
“Every time I go to Mike — even if I don’t bring back something specific — I come back with a better coaching point or a little wrinkle or just looking at things from his viewpoint, which is really creative,” Longo said to FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman back in 2016. “It’s been incredibly beneficial.”
While he admits to learning much from Leach, their systems aren’t exactly the same. According to Longo, one key difference in his system is he doesn’t ask his QBs to do as much at the line of scrimmage. Instead, Longo hands off some responsibilities to the other offensive players on the field, which he believes allows his QBs to play quicker.
Luke Getsy – Mississippi State
It’s hard to get into much detail regarding what Luke Getsy will bring to the offense in Starkville, he has not worked as an OC at the FBS level, and last did so for Indiana University of Pennsylvania back in 2012, but he did play for and began his coaching career under Joe Moorhead at Akron. Taking into account the familiarity between the two coaches, the comfort level connecting MSU’s head coach and OC should be incredibly high in 2018.
While getting into his schematics is tough, Getsy has shown in the past his willingness to get creative to help his players work on their fundamentals. When he was receivers coach in Green Bay, he introduced several Packers receivers to juggling footballs and working with bricks to incorporate better hand-eye coordination.
Derek Dooley – Missouri
This is another tough one to break down, as has been noted several times when Mizzou hired Derek Dooley, he has no experience as an offensive coordinator or a quarterback coach. You’d think Barry Odom would want someone with a background in one, or ideally both, while inheriting the SEC’s best statistical passer for the 2018 season.
To Dooley’s credit, in his final year as Tennessee’s head coach, the offense was loaded with six NFL draft picks and that doesn’t even include quarterback Tyler Bray who likely would have been drafted had he returned to school for his senior season instead of declaring early for the NFL draft and going undrafted. With Drew Lock expressing his desire to learn more sophisticated offenses in his final season in Columbia, Dooley’s experience with the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys should prove invaluable to the senior QB.
Bryan McClendon – South Carolina
The son of former Georgia standout running back Willie McClendon, Bryan McClendon’s only game as the sole offensive coordinator came during last season’s bowl victory over Michigan. Meaning he too doesn’t have much tape to go off of as a coordinator. He did serve as Georgia’s interim head coach for the bowl game following the firing of Mark Richt.
The one thing McClendon is best known for is his ability to sign elite talent, in particular at the running back position. In Athens, McClendon helped Georgia land Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. That history certainly won’t hurt South Carolina in the Gamecocks’ pursuit of 2019 five-star athlete Quavaris Crouch, who may play running back at the next level.
Tyson Helton – Tennessee
Known by most for his development of USC quarterback Sam Darnold, a more traditional pro-style passer, into a projected first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Tyson Helton also has experience working with dual-threat quarterbacks. While coaching at UAB, Helton worked with future NFL quarterback Joe Webb. During that time, Webb became the first player in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards or more and rush for 1,000 yards or more in consecutive seasons. That experience could serve Helton well in Knoxville over the next few seasons as Jarrett Guarantano possess the tools to develop into a similar threat for the Volunteer offense.
Darrell Dickey – Texas A&M
After beginning his coaching career in College Station, Darrell Dickey returns to Texas A&M following a historic run as an assistant on Memphis’ staff. Since 2014, the Tigers ranked no worse than No. 3 in the American Athletic Conference in scoring with an average just under 42 points per game during the last four seasons. That’s even more impressive when you factor that run spans a head coaching change and the loss of first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch at quarterback. His Tiger offense ranked second in the nation last season after averaging 45.5 points per contest.
Andy Ludwig – Vanderbilt
In his 24 years of experience as an offensive coordinator, Andy Ludwig has been able to coach seniors that he recruited as freshmen twice before in his career. Next season in Nashville will be only the third time in his career he’s been afforded the opportunity to coach his unit all four of their seasons in the program.