SDS Mailbag: Who should Tennessee hire? How will Shane Beamer fare? Is Kentucky a football school now?
There has been plenty of drama already this SEC offseason, from coaching changes to the assistant coach carousel and the entire mess at Tennessee. It has certainly been interesting to keep up with all the comings and goings.
In today’s Mailbag, we’ll discuss the situation at Tennessee. We’ll also look at South Carolina’s prospects under Shane Beamer. Then, we’ll switch to hoops, where Kentucky continues to implode.
Here are your questions for this week’s Mailbag!
The Vols are experiencing deja vu from 2017 all over again. This time around, who do you think they should hire as head coach?
Well, it’s looking likely that interim coach Kevin Steele will be in a good position to keep the interim tag through the 2021 season. At this point, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. The Vols hired UCF AD Danny White to replace Phillip Fulmer, which is a move I really like. But, he needs to have time to make the right hire for the future of the program.
So, keep Steele around in 2021 all while looking ahead to the 2022 season for a new coaching hire. My SDS colleague Mark Nagi wrote a piece in which he named Gus Malzahn, Tom Herman and Bill O’Brien as guys the Vols should target.
I think O’Brien would be a home-run hire after he spends a year as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. He has experience rebuilding a program (at Penn State after one of the ugliest scandals in sports history) and seems like the kind of guy who could succeed in Knoxville.
Again, though, I don’t think the Vols should rush into anything. Let Steele run the show in 2021 and position yourself to start really rebuilding in 2022. This rebuild is going to take a few years, especially since we don’t know what sort of NCAA penalties the Vols will be hit with. Patience (which isn’t a Tennessee strength) will be of the essence.
How successful can Shane Beamer be at South Carolina? If he is successful, how can it be sustained?
Well, he’s not going to be very successful the first couple of years. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience and in one of the more bizarre non-Tennessee stories this offseason, new Auburn coach Bryan Harsin raided his staff for some reason, hiring OC Mike Bobo, OL coach Will Friend and DL coach Tracy Rocker away from the Gamecocks.
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s 2021 class (so far) ranks No. 88 in the nation (last in the SEC, per the 247Sports composite rankings), behind such heavyweights as Rice, New Mexico, Northern Illinois and others. He has a lot of work to do on National Signing Day.
I’m not saying there’s no chance he’s successful in Columbia. I’m just saying it’s going to take some time to get back to an above-.500 team. If I were the Gamecocks, I wouldn’t count on being competitive in the SEC East until 2023 at the absolute earliest. And even that is going to require Beamer to put together one heck of a 2022 recruiting class.
If Beamer is successful, how can he sustain success? Well, like the rest of college football, it comes down to recruiting. Will Muschamp was actually a good recruiter, for all of his other faults. If Beamer can’t improve on that, the Gamecocks will likely tread water for 4-5 years before they find themselves looking for another coach.
Is Kentucky a football school now?
It has been a no-good, awful, very bad year for the Kentucky men’s basketball team. After a last-second loss at Georgia, the Wildcats are 4-9 on the season. A surprising 3-0 start to SEC play is miles in the rearview mirror after this latest 3-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, coach Mark Stoops has worked wonders with the Kentucky football program. The 2020 season was a bit rough, but the Wildcats still managed to end it with a nice win over NC State in the Gator Bowl. Next year, the Wildcats return star RB Chris Rodriguez and several other key players, so they could be a dark horse contender in the SEC East.
Even with all that, though, Kentucky will never be a football school. It just won’t. I know fans love the football team and have been great the past few years, but basketball is king in the Bluegrass State.
However, if the Wildcats continue to struggle in hoops, it won’t matter how good the football team is. Everyone will be miserable.
How many games can Steve Sarkisian win at Texas in 2021?
After leading Alabama’s offense to a dominant performance in the national title game, Steve Sarkisian is heading off to Texas to replace Tom Herman as the Longhorns’ head coach. He’ll continue calling plays this fall, which is good news for Texas fans.
Meanwhile, the Longhorns currently have the nation’s No. 17 recruiting class (per the 247Sports composite rankings). It’s the best class of any school other than Tennessee that has a new coach. And, with the way Tennessee’s class is dramatically shifting, that could change quickly.
But, he’ll have to find a new quarterback after Sam Ehlinger (finally) left school for the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, there’s plenty of talent on the roster.
I don’t think the Longhorns will make it to the Big 12 title game in Sark’s first year, but I could see them going 8-4. My predictions? Losses at Arkansas, at Iowa State, vs. Oklahoma in Dallas and vs. Oklahoma State. We’ll see what happens! I think Sark is going to do pretty well in Austin, though.
Have a question for next week’s Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.