Thursday, July 27, 2006

 

Ranking the Sec's Coaches

With all the Coaches flapping their jaws at media days this week I wanted an oppurtunity to rank them from worst to first. Please excuse me while I make some fans mad.

1. Steve Spurrier- Without a doubt the class of the league in regards to coaching. The man won at Duke for goodness sake, not to mention dominating the Sec throughout the 90s. Surprisingly, he is also 1 of only 2 coaches in the Sec to win a national championshiop. Antagonists say, "what have you done lately?" Well, he guided a South Carolina team to within a game of the Sec East crown and did it in a fashion that is far from the fun n gun days of Florida. The best coaches are the ones who can adapt to the players' abilities, not the other way around. Spurrier may do it better than anyone and when he gets "his" guys in Columbia, look out.

2. Mark Richt- Richt is the model of consistency in a league where consistency is hard to come by. Richt has guided the Dawgs to 3 of the last 4 Sec championship games while racking up 10 win season after 10 win season. Richt does it old school style, running the ball and playing defense, while stretching the field when called for. Richt has had the benefits of having 2 stable qbs for the last few years and this year could be the crown achievement in his career if he guides the Dawgs back to Atlanta with an extremely "green" stable of qbs. Did I mention he may be the classiest coach in the Sec???

3. Tommy Tuberville- I'm not sure Tuberville is one of the best coaches in the league, but he is by far the best CEO in the league. He gets it done by recruiting very good ball players, recruiting very good assistant coaches, and turning the game over to them. Al Borges has done wonders for Auburn with the "Gulf South Offense", a far cry from getting shutout by USC at home 3 years ago. Will Muschamp is a Nick Saban disciple and anybody who hangs around Saban for more than 5 minutes is a better coach because of it. Auburn's record speaks for itself over the last few years and all it would take for Tuberville to get to the top of this list(ok, maybe second) is to win a title here and there.

4. Phil Fulmer- Probably the most hated coach in the league but you cant argue with the results over Fulmer's tenure. He has a better winning % over the last 10 years than any other active coach and he is the only other current coach not named Spurrier to win a NC in the Sec. A 5-6 season can put a damper on one's legacy, but I dont think Fulmer is ready to fold his hand yet. Tennessee still has talent, there will still be 106,000 orange clad fans on gameday, and you dont forget how to coach in one year. Look for Tennessee to be singing "Rocky Top" a little more often this year.

5. Urban Meyer- It says something about the depth of coaching in a league when football's once removed golden boy can rank at #5 in a 12 team league. Meyer won 9 games in his first season in the Sec but you would think Florida and Tenn reversed records with some of the criticism Meyer and his offense took throughout last year and the offseason. Meyer may be the best motivator in the league and he can recruit with anybody in the nation, but I am hesitant to put him in the same class as the first 3 just yet. Coach, win a championship this season and I can promise you the view of Tuberville's backside is a lot easier on the eyes than the one Fulmer is carrying around.

6. Mike Schula- Schula has pros and cons going into his 4th year at Bama. The downside is he did go 4-9 in his first year, even probation riddled, that is hard to overlook. The upside is he won 10 games last year and had a top 10 ranking to end the season. Schula has Bama back on track to start competing yearly for the Sec title, but I'm not sure how long that track is. One thing is for sure, he is getting talent and he is finally filling up his allotment of scholarships. Look for Bama and Schula's stock to rise if he can win 9 games this year. 07 could be a dangerous year for the rest of the Sec if Bama continues to improve and stockpile talent.

7. Les Miles- I wouldnt dare rank him this low over beers in south Louisiana, but face it, Ron Zook could of won 6 games with the talent he had last year. LSU is loaded again, talent wise, so Miles should be safe again in '06. The real litmus test for this staff will be in 2 years when Saban's talent runs out and Miles gets his own. This is a hire I didnt understand in the first place given the fact Miles was mediocre at best at OSU and LSU is one of the premier jobs in the land. One would think coaches would be lining up to take the Bayou Bengals job. Anywho, LSU may be good this year, but I dont think Miles can put a team over the top to championship caliber.

8. Houston Nutt- We've heard it a million times if we've heard it once: "Nutt gets more with less than any coach in the SEC." While it may be true, with their proximity to Texas and Oklahoma, not to mention nobody to recruit against in-state, Nutt shouldnt be left every year with sub-par talent. This is a school that should compete for the Sec crown at least every 3 years or so. Talk in Arkansas is that if Nutt and his boys dont nut up this year, Nutt could be permantly removed from this list. I will be the first to recommend George O'Leary, no matter how much he lies.

9-12. Tie- Rich Brooks, Orgeron, Croom, Bobby Johnson: I know this is the easy way out, but really, do any of them have anything to rest their laurels on??? If i had to go out on a limb, I would have to give the nod to Rich Brooks. At least he comes up with innovative ways to get the ball to the dynamic Rafael Little. Orgeron is easily the best recruiter out of them all, but I think that is exactly what he is, a recruiter. Bobby Johnson has had some past success in 1-AA, but this is the SEC; please refer to the "what have you done for me lately" comment above. Sad thing, he hasnt done much lately, and he will not do anything this year. That leaves us with Croom. My mom once said, "if you can say anything nice.....", therefore, I plead the 5th.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

Most Overrated Sec Team

There has been continuous talk of Florida being extremely overrated going into the 2006 season, so I thought I would share my views of who could be this year's Tennessee(maybe not 5-6, but underachieving).

1. Auburn

Why?? They lost 11 starters on a team that lost 3 games last year, including the whole defensive line. To some, losing the D-line may not be that big, but everything starts and stops with the front 7. They lost 2 quality o-linemen, pretty much all of their receivers, and I'm still not sold on Brandon Cox being an Sec Championship caliber QB. He benefits from the balance AU has, but that balance could be thrown out of whack if there are no receivers to throw to. Couple these with the fact that Auburn hasnt been very good recently when the spotlight is on and I think there are the makings for a disappointing season.

Why Not?? #1 reason, they get LSU, Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas all at home. They have to go to South Carolina and Alabama, but let's face it, South Carolina's defense will be less than par and Alabama lost their whole defense and QB. I cant see either of these teams matching up well with AU, but that's why they play the games. Also, they get Courtney Taylor back from an injury and he can be a big time receiver given the oppurtunity. Auburn also placed 4 o-linemen on the 3 deep all sec team, although it is suspect given that 2 of the players didnt start last year. If these guys play up to potential, Auburn might not have to throw the ball next year so there will be no need for receivers. One replacement, King Dunlap, whom is a mountain of a man(6-8, 320), is said to be better than Marcus McNiel at this stage, but we havent seen it yet.

Conclusion: If Auburn's o-line is as good as the "experts" think, they should be fine. Personally, I dont think you simply replace the caliber of linemen Auburn lost last year. They will beat the teams they are supposed to, but if the ball bounces one way or the other, they could be looking at 4 losses by season's end. Will it happen?? Probably not.

2. Florida

Why?? All you have to do is take a look at the schedule: Alabama, at Auburn, UGA, at FSU, at Tenn, South Carolina, and LSU. That is 7 teams that have a possibility(outside) to finish in the top 15. That can make anybody's season have question marks. On top of the schedule, the Gators o-line has 4 new starters and the one returning starter has moved positions. That said, they still cant be worse than the UF line that was in the bottom third of the league last year. The Gators also have to replace the departed Avery Atkins, who was slated to start at CB, but was recently dismissed from the team. In an attack defense like UF runs, you have to be able to cover man to man, so this could hurt more than some expect.

Why not?? Florida probably has the best defense in the sec on paper. Reggie Nelson could replace the departed Atkins at CB and the Gators wouldnt miss a beat at CB, but would have to replace the play-making safety. We all saw what a team can do with a dominant defense last year in Alabama. Despite Alabama's anemic offense, the Tide won 10 games last year. That is a testament to how much a dominant defense can affect the W/L column. Do I think UF's defense will be as good as Bama's last year?? Nope. Do I think UF's offense will be as bad as Alabama's?? Heck no. As bad as we thought it was last year, the Gators still finished in the top 4 in most offensive categories. Also, the Gators return all skill players on offense save Chad Jackson, which can be offset by the fact that Bubba Caldwell is back to 100% after breaking his leg in the Tenn game last year and Cornelius Ingram has moved from QB to receiver and is said to catch everything in the zip code. Dallas Baker finally lived up to high expectations set for him in the second half of last season. The Gators have as good skill players as anyone in the conference, the only question is how much time Leak has to get them the ball. If he has time, Leak can pick anyone apart. If you go by Meyer's past success in year 2 of the spread, the Gators could have one of, if not the best offense in the sec. Lot of ifs.

Conclusion: I dont think there is any way that UF can run that guantlet of a schedule without at least 2 slip-ups. You would be quick to look at the FSU and AU games given the fact that UF played terrible on the road last year. That said, if they fall into a trap at Neyland early in the year, they could be in for a 4 loss season. Will it happen??? Not if the defense is as good as advertised. Also, Meyer adapted to Leak's strengths at the end of last year and it showed big in the FSU game and the bowl game against Iowa. I think they lose 2, but i think there would have to be some terrible luck or a rash of injuries to push it to 4.

3. Arkansas-

Why??? Let me preface this by giving the reasoning behind this pick. Many pundits have Arkansas to be the surprise team in the Sec this year and some have them as the surprise team in the nation. Pretty high praise for a team that has no proven QB, an OC who has yet to coach a down in college(much less the SEC), and a defense that couldnt stop their own shadow last year. They also need to find a complimentary receiver to Marcus Monk, and Peyton Hillis isnt what im referring to. Arkansas has to play USC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. They could be staring at 6 losses right there.

Why not??? Two words: Darren McFadden. IMO, hands down the best running back in the Sec and maybe in the nation, with all due respect to Adrian Peterson. Felix Jones is also a threat every time he touches the ball and they have a prototype receiver in Marcus Monk. Arkansas' schedule all but guarantees them 6 wins with Utah State, Vandy, SE Missouri State, Ole Miss, Miss State and Louisiana Monroe. Upset 2 of the big boys and they could be looking at and 8-4 regular season, which i think most Hog fans would be happy with.

Conclusion: The only teams I can see Ark upsetting are Bama and South Carolina. Im not sure about either's ability to match up with the running game of Ark plus the fact that they get Bama at home. I think South Carolina's offense may outscore them, but I think McFadden has a field day in Columbia assuming they don't get down bad early. I think the Hogs go 7-5 in the regular season, upsetting somebody. It will be an improvement, but I get a feeling the Hog fans are ready to start competing for the West again.

 

Sec Football Media Days

Sec Football Media Days begin this week and I will be updating with any news that comes from there and also any pot-shots Steve Spurrier may take at his old nemesis, Phil Fulmer. I would like South Carolina to seek the optimism, but not the dominance, that Spurrier had each year going into a season with Florida. It isnt so much that I want Carolina to dominate, but during those Florida years, Spurrier single-handidly produced as many one liners as every other SEC coach combined. The burning of the Auburn coloring books will live forever but I'm not sure it rivals the, "You cant spell citrus without UT", obviously referring to Tennessee's run of Citrus Bowls while Florida was consistently winning the SEC. While it doesnt do much for his love from the other sec coaches, it sure makes the dog days of August more bearable. Some seem to think that he lost some of that pompous attitude with his NFL experience but I believe it has to do more with the confidence he has in his team's ability to back up his bold statements than the loss of said attitude. I find it hard to believe that a 2 year run(or walk) in the NFL can change 60 years worth of arrogance.

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