Where every SEC head coach was 10 years ago
A lot can happen in 10 years.
In the coaching world, another year is never guaranteed, and the SEC is no exception.
Only 1 school (Alabama) has the same HC as it did in 2010, and 4 teams trot out new faces to lead their program this season.
With a never-ending coaching carousel, many of the men now in charge of SEC programs have spent decades traveling the country, adding countless entries to their lengthy resumes.
It’s a guessing game trying to remember where each coach got their start, so let’s take a look to see where each one was on their journey a decade ago.
Alabama: Nick Saban
The standard for which coaches aspire to, no man has had a more successful decade than Saban with the Crimson Tide. The 68-year-old coach arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007 after 2 seasons with the Dolphins in the NFL and hasn’t looked back since rejoining the collegiate ranks.
Following a bumpy 7-6 season to start Saban’s tenure, his Alabama teams have never failed to breach the double-digit-win threshold in each of the past 12 seasons. Saban has won 5 national titles with the Tide, a feat only bettered by Bear Bryant’s 6. Last season was the first time that a Saban-led team failed to qualify for the College Football Playoff. While Saban has remained on Bryant-Denny’s sidelines for 13 years, 10 of his Alabama assistants have gone on to lead FBS programs, including 4 in the SEC.
Arkansas: Sam Pittman
One of the 4 new SEC head coaches in 2020, Pittman brings 32 years of coaching experience to the Razorback sideline. Pittman served as the North Carolina offensive line coach for the 2010 and 2011 seasons before leaving to take the same role with Tennessee for a season. The long-time assistant then joined Brett Bielema’s staff at Arkansas for the 2013-15 seasons, again serving as the offensive line coach. Pittman made one more stop in Georgia with Kirby Smart for the past 4 seasons before landing his current job. He has coached 7 offensive lineman selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Auburn: Gus Malzahn
Much has changed, and much has remained the same for Malzahn in 10 years. The Auburn OC in 2010, Malzahn won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach while helping lead Cam Newton and the Tigers win the BCS National Championship.
Malzahn stayed 1 more season with Auburn before departing to take the head coaching job with Arkansas State. He went 9-3 and won the Sun Belt Conference before returning to Auburn to replace Gene Chizik for the 2013 season. Since rejoining the Tigers, Auburn has appeared in 2 New Years’ 6 bowl games (2016, 2017) and lost in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. Malzahn was named the 2013 Coach of the Year by several outlets following the Tigers’ SEC Championship season.
Florida: Dan Mullen
Mullen was 1 year deep into his head coaching experience at Mississippi State when the 2010 season kicked off. That team finished ranked 15 in the AP, the second-best finish for the Bulldogs during his 9-year tenure in Starkville. Mullen’s 2014 team rose to No. 1 and finished No. 11, the same season he was awarded the Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year. He guided the Bulldogs to 8 consecutive bowl games — a program record. (Their streak stands at 10.)
Since replacing Jim McElwain for the 2018 season, Florida has achieved double-digit victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008-09. Mullen became the first coach in the BCS/Playoff era to start at a new place with consecutive BCS/New Year’s 6 bowl victories.
Georgia: Kirby Smart
A product of the Saban coaching tree, Smart was the defensive coordinator for Alabama in 2010, a position he held from 2008-15. Coming off the 2009 national title, Smart was offered the DC job at Georgia, where he played, in January of 2010 but opted to stay with the Tide. He then helped Alabama win national titles in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Smart was named the 2012 AFCA FBS Assistant Coach of the Year, and following the 2015 season, left Tuscaloosa to replace Richt at Georgia. The Bulldogs have won 3 consecutive SEC East titles, won the 2017 SEC championship and reached the national title game.
Kentucky: Mark Stoops
In 2010, Stoops was the defensive coordinator at Florida State. He left in 2012 to replace Joker Phillips at Kentucky and began the process of rebuilding the Wildcats into a Top 25 program.
After 3 years righting the ship, Stoops has led the Wildcats to 4 consecutive above-.500 seasons, culminating in the 2018 season with a Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State. Stoops was named the SEC Coach of the Year that season. From 2013-2018, the Wildcats were the only school in the nation that tied or improved its win total in 6 consecutive seasons. The streak ended last year, but the Cats still reached a bowl game for the 4th consecutive year.
LSU: Ed Orgeron
The past 10 years have been quite a ride for Orgeron, but one that has him atop the college football pecking order with his reigning champion Tigers. The Louisiana native was the defensive line coach under Lane Kiffin at USC in 2010 following an unsuccessful stint as head coach of Ole Miss.
Coach O took over the Trojans midseason in 2013 after Kiffin was fired. He led the team to a 6-2 finish but was unable to land the full-time gig.
Following 2 seasons as the LSU defensive line coach, Orgeron was promoted to interim HC after the firing of Les Miles and was officially given the job that offseason. Since taking over, the Tigers are 34-7 in 3 full seasons under Orgeron, highlighted by last season’s perfect 15-0 mark.
Mississippi State: Mike Leach
If the SEC was short on coaching personality, well, Mike Leach is an easy fix.
In 2010, the former Texas Tech head coach was not even on the sidelines, but rather in the booth calling games for CBS.
He returned in 2012, when Washington State hired him as head coach.
The Pullman Pirate coached the Cougars for 8 years, with his best season coming in 2018 when WSU won the Pac-12 North and finished ranked No. 10 by the AP. Leach was also named that year’s AFCA Coach of the Year. Before coming to Starkville this season, Leach-led teams have led the FBS in passing 10 times (6 at Texas Tech, 4 at Washington State).
Missouri: Eli Drinkwitz
Another new face to the SEC, Drinkwitz has been successful nearly everywhere he has been, despite just 1 year of head coaching experience at the FBS level.
In 2010, Drinkwitz was a quality control coach on the Auburn team that won the national championship with Cam Newton. Drinkwitz was 27 years old.
Since leaving Auburn in 2011, the 37-year-old has made stops as an assistant at Arkansas State, Boise State and NC State before landing his first head coaching job last season with Appalachian State. The Mountaineers set a Sun Belt record with 12 wins, and Drinkwitz was named an Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalist.
Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin
One of the best villains of college football, Kiffin was just starting his tenure as head coach of USC in 2010 after a year in the same position at Tennessee.
Kiffin led the Trojans to a 28-15 record and 2011 Pac-12 South title before his midseason firing on an LAX tarmac in 2013.
Kiffin then spent the next 3 seasons as the offensive coordinator at Alabama before returning to the head coaching ranks with Florida Atlantic in 2017. The Owls twice won the Conference-USA before Kiffin made the move to Oxford for the 2020 season.
South Carolina: Will Muschamp
In 2010, Muschamp was the defensive coordinator at Texas and presumably the de-facto heir to Mack Brown’s throne.
Rather than wait for Brown’s retirement, which came in 2013, Muschamp succeeded Urban Meyer to take over as HC for the 2011 season at Florida, where he coached for 4 seasons and appeared in 1 BCS bowl game.
Muschamp was fired in 2014 and spent the next season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator.
In 2016, South Carolina hired him as the full-time replacement for Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks have won 26 games in his 4 seasons in Columbia, trailing only Spurrier for the best start in program history.
Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt
Another Saban disciple, Pruitt was in his 2nd of 3 stints at Alabama in 2010, this time serving as the defensive backs coach until the end of the 2012 season. Pruitt then departed Tuscaloosa for Tallahassee as the Florida State DC, where the Seminoles led the nation in scoring defense and won that season’s BCS National Championship. He then joined Georgia for the next 2 years and Alabama, again, for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He was named Tennessee’s head coach for the 2018 season. In 2 seasons, the Volunteers are 13-12 and finished last season with a victory in the Gator Bowl.
Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher
In 2010, Fisher was tasked with the biggest challenge of his career: Replacing the legendary Bobby Bowden at Florida State.
Fisher found immediate success, leading the Seminoles to their first 10-win season since 2003. Fisher won the 2013 BCS National Championship and finished his 8-year tenure with a .773 winning percentage, then the best in ACC history. (Clemson’s Dabo Swinney now holds the mark at .807.)
Fisher signed a 10-year deal with Texas A&M after the 2017 season and has led the Aggies to a 9-4 and 8-5 record in the past 2 seasons and finished both years with a bowl victory.
Vanderbilt: Derek Mason
The 2020 season is the 7th for Mason as the HC of the Commodores, but 10 years ago Mason was still an assistant at Stanford. Mason was a DB coach on Jim Harbaugh’s staff in 2010 before his promotion to DC upon David Shaw’s hiring with the Cardinal. Mason was a finalist for the Broyles Award in 2012.
Since joining Vanderbilt in 2014 to replace James Franklin, Mason has gone 27-47 and reached 2 bowl games, with the most recent being a defeat in the 2018 Texas Bowl.