Along with high school recruiting and spring practice, coaching changes are among the most exciting offseason happenings for a college football fan base. This rings especially true in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference, where winning is everything.
There was no shortage of new hires in the SEC following the 2013 season, as a number of schools were affected by the coaching carousel. While there weren’t nearly as many head coaching changes as in the previous year, there will nonetheless be plenty of new faces on the sidelines next season.
Following, in descending order, are the postseason coaching changes that will most heavily impact the SEC in 2014.
6. LSU Offensive Line Coach Jeff Grimes
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa was a member of Les Miles’ staff at LSU for seven seasons before getting fired after the Tigers’ bowl game. Studrawa’s replacement, Jeff Grimes, was an assistant under Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech in 2013, and he brings the reputation as a top-notch recruiter to Baton Rouge.
Grimes was the offensive line coach at Auburn when the Cam Newton-led Tigers raised the crystal ball in 2010. LSU’s pass protection was subpar this past season, and Tiger fans on the bayou are expecting major improvements in 2014 and beyond.
5. Texas A&M Defensive Backs Coach Terry Joseph
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that Texas A&M was terrible on defense in 2013. The Aggies repeatedly relied on the dynamic duo of quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans to outscore their opponents.
After defensive backs coach Marcel Yates left College Station for Boise State, A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin brought in Nebraska secondary coach Terry Joseph. During Joseph’s two years in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers’ pass defense ranked first and fourth in the Big Ten.
There’s no reason to think his hiring won’t result in improvements to the Aggies maligned pass defense, which ranked 12th in the SEC this past season.
4. Vanderbilt Head Coach Derek Mason
After three straight winning seasons, Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin jumped ship to take over for the departed Bill O’Brien at Penn State.
To replace Franklin, Vanderbilt brought in Derek Mason, who served as Stanford defensive coordinator from 2010-2013. Prior to his stint working under current Cardinal head coach David Shaw, Mason also worked under former Stanford and current San Francisco 49ers head man Jim Harbaugh.
Mason has also coached as an assistant in the NFL, and he appears to be a fine choice to take over at Vanderbilt.
3. Georgia Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt
While highly decorated senior quarterback Aaron Murray helped the Bulldogs put up points in droves, the Georgia defense had yet another disappointing season in 2013. The Bulldogs gave up 29 points per game, which was unacceptable in Athens.
After defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left his post to join the newly hired Bobby Petrino’s staff at Louisville, Georgia coach Mark Richt went out and plucked Jeremy Pruitt from Florida State. The Seminoles’ defense was one of the nation’s elite in 2013, and Pruitt was a huge reason why.
The hire has injected new life into the Bulldog fan base, and rightfully so. Expect Pruitt to make considerable improvements to the Georgia defense in 2014.
2. Florida Offensive Coordinator Kurt Roper
For the better part of the 2013 season, the Florida defense was among the nation’s best. The offense was abysmal, however, and the lack of production resulted in the firing of coordinator Brent Pease.
Head coach Will Muschamp took his time with the search for Pease’s replacement, and he eventually nabbed Kurt Roper of Duke. Roper has worked under Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe since 2008 as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He had a heavy hand in Duke’s improbable run to the ACC Championship game this past season, and he’s mentored three different 3,000-yard passers in his career.
Roper is joined in Gainesville by new offensive line coach Mike Summers, who worked in the same capacity at USC. Gator fans should expect a significant offensive upgrade in 2014, as Roper brings in an up-tempo style that should mesh well with Muschamp’s ultra-aggressive defense.
1. Alabama Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin
College football fans, and media alike, from across the country are still scratching their heads at this one. The thought of Lane Kiffin joining forces with Nick Saban seems farfetched, but it’s now a reality in Tuscaloosa.
The bold, brash Kiffin, son of long-time NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, isn’t a stranger to the SEC. After just one season as head coach at Tennessee, he left Knoxville to take the USC job. It’s safe to say that Volunteer fans won’t be rolling out the orange carpet when Alabama visits Neyland Stadium in October.
By all accounts, Kiffin is a good recruiter and an accomplished offensive coordinator. Alabama fans won’t have to worry about him shooting off at the mouth, either, as Saban doesn’t allow his assistants to speak with the media.
Kiffin’s hire is certain to make an impact in the SEC. Whether that’s good or bad for the Crimson Tide remains to be seen.
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