Where every SEC defensive coordinator was 10 years ago
From a 33-year-old wunderkind to the wily veterans, SEC defensive coordinators span the whole spectrum.
The conference consistently produces some of the top defenses in the nation and likes to recycle names from intra-conference foes.
The SEC’s best defense from a year ago (Georgia) is led by a man with one of the shortest resumes, others have spent the past decade getting to know United States geography very well.
Which DCs have moved the most and which have become synonymous with their school? Let’s take a look at where the conference’s DCs have been since 2010.
Alabama: Pete Golding
Golding is back for his 3rd season in Tuscaloosa as the DC and inside linebackers coach after joining the Tide for the 2018 season when he served as co-DC with Tosh Lupoi. The former college safety was just starting his coordinator responsibilities at his alma mater Delta State in 2010 before leaving for Southeastern Louisiana in the same role for the 2012-13 seasons.
For the first time since Year 2 under Saban (2007), the Alabama run defense failed to rank nationally inside the top 10 in both seasons with Golding as DC (No. 19 and No. 37). The pressure is on in 2020.
Arkansas: Barry Odom
The SEC loves to recycle its coaches, and Arkansas is a prime example. Odom joins Sam Pittman’s staff after 4 years as the head coach at Missouri with a 25-25 record. In 2010, the former Missouri LB was the team’s safeties coach until 2012 when he left for Memphis to be DC and linebackers coach. Odom returned to Missouri in 2015 as the Tigers’ DC and led his unit to 6th in the nation in total defense. Last year’s Missouri’s defense ranked 15th in total defense and 6th in average passing yards allowed per game (179.3).
Auburn: Kevin Steele
Steele brings 10 years of DC experience into the 2020 season, dating to his first year as DC at Alabama in 2007. Another former LB, Steele was the DC at Clemson in 2010 in Year 2 of his 3-year tenure with the Tigers. Following a year out of football, Steele returned to Tuscaloosa in 2013 as the Tide’s director of player personnel before taking a different position the following year as the team’s linebackers coach. Steele then spent 2015 as DC for LSU before landing in Auburn for the 2016 season. He was a Broyles Award finalist in 2017 after improving the Tigers’ total defense to 13th in the nation.
Florida: Todd Grantham
The former Cleveland Browns DC enters his 4th season overall with Dan Mullen and 3rd at Florida. Grantham was just beginning his 4-year tenure at Georgia in 2010, serving as the Bulldogs’ DC and LB coach.
Bobby Petrino then brought Grantham in to be Louisville’s DC for 3 seasons before Grantham was hired by Mullen to the same position at Mississippi State. He followed Mullen to Florida. Last season’s Gators defense ranked 2nd in the SEC with 1.8 turnovers per game and led the conference in sacks with 49, a full 12 more than the next best team (LSU).
Georgia: Dan Lanning
The rise of the 2nd-youngest DC in the SEC has been rapid. A Broyles Award finalist last season, the 34-year-old was an assistant at Park Hill South High School in 2010. Lanning made the jump to college football in 2011 serving as a GA for Pittsburgh for a year. He moved to the same position for another year at Arizona State before being promoted to recruiting coordinator the following season. Lanning spent 1 season as the DB coach at Sam Houston State, finally launching him to the SEC and Alabama where he was again a GA for the 2015 season.
Lanning was then hired to coach the linebackers at Memphis before he returned to the SEC as an LB coach for Georgia. Following the 2018 season, Lanning was promoted to DC after Mel Tucker left to take the Colorado job. Last year’s Georgia team led the nation in scoring and rushing defense.
Kentucky: Brad White
White returns for his 3rd season in Lexington and 2nd serving as the team’s DC and LB coach. In 2010, White was getting his start as an inside linebackers coach at Air Force for 2 seasons before heading to the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts, where he served as a quality control coach and LB coach over 6 seasons. After spending the 2018 season as the Wildcats’ LB coach, Mark Stoops promoted White to DC following the departure of Matt House to the Kansas City Chiefs.
White helped groom LB Josh Allen into 2018 National Player of the Year honors. Kentucky’s total defense ranked No. 20 in the nation last season.
LSU: Bo Pelini
Pelini is back for his second act in Baton Rouge, 13 years removed from winning a national title with the Tigers as their DC. Pelini was at his first head coaching stop in Nebraska in 2010, a position that he held from 2008-14 before taking the same job at Youngstown State in 2015. The Ohio State alum led the Penguins to the 2016 FCS Championship game but never won more than 6 games in any other of his 5 seasons with the team.
Pelini replaces Dave Aranda, who had been LSU’s DC for 4 years but left to become the head coach at Baylor.
Mississippi State: Zach Arnett
The youngest DC in the SEC (33), Arnett’s ascent up the college coaching ranks has been remarkable. Fresh out of college, Arnett didn’t land a coaching job until the 2011 season, when he was made a GA at San Diego State for 3 years before his promotion to LB coach in 2014 and then DC for the 2018-19 seasons.
The Aztecs’ defense ranked atop all the national leaderboards last season, finishing inside the top 5 of rushing defense, total defense, points per game and interceptions per game, among others.
Arnett was actually hired to be the Syracuse DC in early January before accepting a better offer from the Bulldogs a few weeks later.
Missouri: Ryan Walters
One of 2 coaches retained by Eli Drinkwitz from Barry Odom’s staff, Walters is now in his 5th season with the Tigers and 3rd as DC. In 2010, the former Colorado safety served as a GA at Arizona before being promoted to DB coach the following year. Walters then made stops at Oklahoma, North Texas and Memphis over the next 3 seasons, serving as a cornerbacks coach at all 3 schools, before being hired by Mizzou. The Tigers’ total defense has improved in each of the 2 seasons with Walters as DC, moving from 83rd the year before his promotion to No. 15 last year.
Ole Miss: D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge
Durkin joins Lane Kiffin’s staff after a quick hiatus in the NFL for a season, serving as a consultant for the Atlanta Falcons. In 2010, Durkin was hired by Urban Meyer to coach linebackers and special teams at Florida. In 2013, he was promoted to replace Dan Quinn as the Gators’ DC and served as the interim head coach for a game in 2014 following Will Muschamp’s departure. Durkin then spent a year as the Michigan DC before becoming the HC at Maryland for 3 seasons.
Partridge comes to Oxford after 5 years in Ann Arbor. He served as a special teams coordinator for 4 seasons along with being a safeties and linebackers coach during his time with the Wolverines. Partridge spent the first part of the decade (2010-14) as the HC at Paramus Catholic High School, where he turned the program into one of the nation’s best, ranked No. 4 by USA Today. He has twice (2016, ’17) been named the National Recruiter of the Year by Scout and 247Sports, respectively.
South Carolina: Travaris Robinson
A former NFL safety for the Falcons and Buccaneers, Robinson is in his 5th season as DC and DB coach in Columbia with Will Muschamp. Robinson began his coaching career serving as a GA under Muschamp as a DC at Auburn in 2006. In 2010, Robinson made a stop for a season as DB coach for Texas Tech before following Muschamp to Florida as the Gators’ DB coach for 4 years. Robinson made one more stop back at Auburn as the Tigers’ DB coach in 2015 before joining the Gamecocks.
Tennessee: Derrick Ansley and Jimmy Brumbaugh
Ansley begins his 2nd season at Tennessee as a DC under Jeremy Pruitt. He was a GA at Alabama for the 2010-11 seasons before coming to Tennessee for the first time as a DB coach in 2012. Ansley was then a DB coach at Kentucky for 3 years and then Alabama for 2 before a quick stop in the NFL as the DB coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2018. His pass defense finished ranked 16th in the country last year.
This season will be Brumbaugh’s first in Knoxville after spending the 2019 season as a co-DC at Colorado. He was a defensive line and defensive tackle coach for Syracuse in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Brumbaugh was then the DL and strength and conditioning coach at East Mississippi Community College in 2012 before joining the Kentucky coaching staff for 4 seasons as its DL coach. The former Auburn All-SEC defensive lineman then was the co-DC at Maryland for 2 years before his season at Colorado.
Texas A&M: Mike Elko
The DC since Jimbo Fisher took over in 2018, Elko made the move to College Station after a single season as DC for Notre Dame. The longtime DC was at Bowling Green in 2010 in Year 2 of his 5-year DC tenure that also included him coaching safeties and linebackers. In 2014, Elko moved with HC Dave Clawson to coach at Wake Forest in the same role. Elko maintained his status there until 2017, when he replaced Brian VanGorder in South Bend. Last year’s Aggies defense ranked 8th in the SEC.
Vanderbilt: Ted Roof
A second Appalachian State coach to land a prominent role in the SEC this year, Roof takes over the Commodores’ defense under Derek Mason. Roof, a former head coach at Duke, has been busy moving the past 10 years, starting the decade as the DC and LB coach at Auburn from 2009-11. Roof then spent a month as the DC at UCF before accepting an offer from Bill O’Brien at Penn State to be DC.
Following 1 season in Happy Valley, the former linebacker headed to Atlanta and served as the Georgia Tech DC for 5 seasons. Roof then served as co-defensive coordinator at NC State in 2018 under HC Dave Doeren before leading Appalachian State to the 25th-best total defense in 2019.