SEC's 5 best coordinators this season
You’re only as good as the company you keep.
One can tell a lot about a football team’s strength based on the core of its assistants and there’s several top-notch coordinators leading their respective staffs in the SEC this season.
RELATED: SEC’s 5 coordinators who could be fired
Here’s five SEC assistant coaches who should be up for awards at season’s end:
Dave Wommack, Ole Miss, Defensive coordinator — One of the SEC’s elder statesmen, Wommack’s the Great White leader of the Landsharks defense this season, guiding one of the most impressive units in league history. The Ole Miss defense isn’t quite 2011 Alabama good — yet — but the Rebels rank No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (10.6), first in interceptions (15) and third in total takeaways (23). Last week’s win over Tennessee was as dominant an outing one defense could make with four takeaways and nine sacks. Wommack’s defenses at Ole Miss have steadily improved since he arrived in 2012, replacing Tyrone Nix whose unit ranked last in the SEC at 419.3 yards per game during the 2011 campaign.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama, Offensive coordinator — This spunky and ego-centric playcaller’s been Nick Saban’s offseason grand slam of a hire thus far as the Crimson Tide’s offensive mastermind. Speeding up the pace and getting the ball out faster to edges, specifically in the hands of All-American wideout Amari Cooper, has led to a record-setting 514.6 yards per game average in his first season. Alabama’s passing offense with Blake Sims is second only to Texas A&M’s Air Raid attack and the star-studded run game’s ranked fifth in the SEC at 223.7 yards per game. Kiffin’s provided new wrinkles to traditional Alabama sets and gives opposing defensive coordinators fits thanks to a willingness to go down the field when he sees something he likes.
Jeremy Pruitt, Georgia, Defensive coordinator — Hired away from defending national champion Florida State to push the Georgia defense to another level, Pruitt’s passed his rookie season test with above average scores across the board in rush defense and total defense — categories where the Bulldogs rank in the SEC’s Top 5. Considering Georgia lost several starters at the back end prior to the season opener, 10 interceptions (second in the East) after seven games is a commendable total for an inexperienced secondary. Known to be a heavy blitzer, Pruitt’s pressure-happy scheme has led to an average of 2.57 sacks per contest — the highest number since 2007 when the Bulldogs finished 11-2 and beat Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia’s recent 34-0 win at Mizzou was the program’s first road shutout of a ranked team.
Billy Gonzales, Mississippi State, Co-Offensive coordinator/Wide Receivers — The Bulldogs’ offensive attack has seen major improvement during Gonzales’ second season in Starkville, Dan Mullen’s right-hand man at several coaching stops over his 20-year career. Besides the obvious elite development of quarterback Dak Prescott into one of college football’s best players, Gonzales’ work with De’Runnya Wilson is paying off in a big way for Mississippi State’s balanced attack. Wilson’s six touchdowns — all of the highlight variety — has helped offset a relatively quiet season from top return Jameon Lewis. The Bulldogs are averaging an SEC-best 529.7 yards per game and a West-leading 41.8 points per game.
Frank Wilson, LSU, Running backs/Recruiting coordinator — Arguably LSU’s top recruiter, Wilson’s in his fifth year as the Tigers’ running backs coach and has helped develop a handful of future NFL draft picks. He’s been the puppeteer this season for one of the SEC’s top rushing attacks at 220.8 yards per game and 22 touchdowns. Wilson’s been able to bring Leonard Fournette along at a manageable pace without forcing the issue, helping the prized freshman adjust to the college game without the heavy mileage. Three tailbacks have rushed for over 300 yards this season but Fournette’s the guy who has separated himself from seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. Wilson’s done a nice job splitting the carries between the three with a recent emphasis on his five-star playmaker.