John Calipari has been nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame. No one should be surprised by that. Love him or hate him, he’s more than a great recruiter. He can actually coach. You can’t get all those freshmen and sophomores to play unselfishly and commit to playing great defense (have you seen Kentucky lately?) if you can’t coach.
I have no problems with Cal getting into the Hall of Fame. He’s nominated and he’ll get in on the first ballot. He deserves it.
But he does NOT deserve getting there sooner than Billy Donovan. Cal is having a marvelous run at Kentucky and he should get plenty of credit for what he’s doing there, but he’s only won one national championship at a place where everything is geared to winning national championships. When you talk about college basketball bluebloods, you mention Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina all in the same breath.You don’t mention Florida as a college basketball blueblood because Florida is a football school that has had great success in basketball because Billy Donovan ranks with the two or three best coaches in the college game today and will have a place among the best ever by the time he retires. In the time he’s been at Florida, the Gators have won two national championships, made it to another national championship game and a final four, have made the Elite Eight seven times including four in a row from 2011-14 and won six SEC championships. In his now almost 19 full years on the Florida job, he’s become the second winningest coach in SEC history behind Adolph Rupp and is just two wins away from getting to 500 victories.
For that, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
1. Will Muschamp, Auburn: Muschamp’s goal is to become a head coach again only this time with better results. For that to happen his offensive philosophy needs to do a 180 and what better coach to learn what’s on the cutting edge of college football offense than Gus Malzahn? At Auburn, Muschamp won’t have to worry about all the things a head coach has to do. He’ll simply have to turn a sieve of a defense into one that can actually get off the field.
2. Geoff Collins, Florida: It was only a matter of time before Collins departed Mississippi State for one of the SEC’s historical power programs. At Florida he will have access to better athletes than he would have ever had at Mississippi State. He gives the Gators a strong recruiter in the all-important Atlanta area and his defenses have a reputation for getting after the quarterback. Mississippi State was #2 in the SEC in sacks in 2014 and was the nation’s number one red zone defense, allowing opponents to score on only 63.6% of their chances.
3. John Chavis, Texas A&M: Sponge Bob Square Pants would have been an upgrade over Mark Snyder, the Aggies’ defensive coordinator the last three years. Based on what he’s done in the past at both Tennessee and LSU, you would think Texas A&M will go from abysmal to at least respectable in year one and show dramatic improvement thereafter. But what if Texas A&M and Sumlin are to defensive coordinators what Florida and Muschamp were to offensive coordinators the last four years? Something to think about.
4. Randy Shannon, Florida: In the little more than two weeks Shannon was on the Florida staff before National Signing Day, the Gators flexed some unexpected muscle in South Florida and landed seven stud recruits along with multi-tasker Kylan Johnson from Dallas, who is such a good athlete that he’ll find a position to play whether it’s on the offensive or defensive side of the football. Shannon’s presence will continue to be felt on the recruiting trail, but you will also see vastly improved play by Gator linebackers next year. Expect Shannon to put a little Jake Gaither in them – hostile, agile and mobile.
5. Ed Orgeron, LSU: We may look back at this a year or two down the line and think this was the most significant assistant coach hire of 2015. Les Miles already has a recruiting machine going at LSU. By adding Coach O to a staff that includes running backs coach Frank Wilson, who is absolutely lights out, LSU’s already outstanding recruiting is going to soar. Now consider that Coach O is on the short list of D-line coaches and that LSU always defensive linemen who can flat out run down quarterbacks and running backs Expect a level of nastiness in the LSU defense that maybe we haven’t seen in awhile. As if they need it.
6. Brian Schottenheimer, Georgia: Although Schotty is a fine coach it’s hard to rate this hire any higher because the offense is going to be all about handing the ball off to Nick Chubb. If the offense isn’t about handing it off to Nick Chubb, then someone at Georgia needs his head examined. Schotty might bring some new ideas to the mix, but the reality is the offense is the same one Mark Richt has been running since he learned it from Bobby Bowden way back when he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida State. Where Schotty will earn his pay is in developing a quarterback. Just in case someone does figure out a way to stop Chubb, the Bulldogs better have a quarterback who can make plays. They had a caretaker last year. This year they want someone who can manage the game most of the time but win a game if called upon.
7. Jon Hoke, South Carolina: For all the flak he caught as Florida’s defensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier, people tend to forget the Gators finished #1 in the Southeastern Conference in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency and finished second in the conference in rushing defense despite what Travis Stephens did in the Tennessee game. In his five years coaching the secondary for the Chicago Bears, the Bears finished third in the NFL in interceptions and led the NFL in interception returns for touchdowns (19). Given the mess South Carolina’s defense was last year, Hoke has to be viewed as a serious upgrade.
8. Manny Diaz, Mississippi State: Forget that disastrous time in Texas. That was an aberration. Look at what he did at Mississippi State back in 2010 when he improved that defense from #71 in scoring defense to #22 and from 62nd in rushing defense to #17. As the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech last year, Diaz pretty much saved Skip Holtz’s job, turning that unit around in his only year in Ruston and helping the Bulldogs improve from the 4-8 mark they had in 2013 to 9-5 in 2014. Landing Diaz made the loss of Geoff Collins to Florida not nearly as painful.
9. Mel Tucker, Alabama: How good is Mel Tucker? Nick Saban moved Kirby Smart to inside linebackers to accommodate him. Tucker was formerly the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. Alabama’s secondary got exposed quite a few times last season because corners kept losing receivers in coverage and safeties blew assignments. Figure those days are over. This guy will bring back discipline to the Bama secondary and will improve the level of aggression.
10. Doug Nussmeier: In his two years as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, the Crimson Tide averaged better than nine yards per pass attempt and threw for 61 touchdowns while averaging more than 5.6 yards per rushing attempt and scoring 65 touchdowns on the ground. It’s that kind of balance that Jim McElwain will be looking for with Nussmeier running the Florida offense. The last time the Gators averaged more than 5.0 per carry was 2009 and the only time since 2009 they averaged more than 7.0 per pass attempt was under Charlie Weis in 2011 (7.5 per attempt). Nussmeier has a history of getting quarterbacks to operate at an efficient level. He’s got his work cut out for him with incumbent Treon Harris (113.2 efficiency rating) and redshirt freshman Will Grier.
11. Dan Enos, Arkansas: He’s a Midwest guy with a Midwest mindset, which is why Enos and Bret Bielema will get along famously at Arkansas. Although Enos gets poor reviews for his work as a head coach (26-36 in five years after taking over a program that produced five straight winning seasons and four straight bowl games) his teams moved the football and were balanced. His 2014 Chippewas had a 3,000-yard passer, an 1,100-yard rusher and a 980-yard receiver. Enos is a run first guy who spreads the field and gets the ball in the hands of playmakers. He inherits an offense that returns eight starters 17 of the top 22 on the depth chart. His main goal will be not to screw things up.
12. Tosh Lupoi, Alabama: Lupoi is considered a star in the making. He’s only 33 years old, is an outstanding recruiter and he has a history of getting productivity from his players, particularly from defensive ends and outside linebackers who rush the passer. If you saw how pitiful Alabama’s pass rush was against Ohio State, then you know why Nick Saban told Lance Thompson don’t let the screen door hit you on the way to Auburn. This is a position that needs a serious upgrade of both coaching and enthusiasm. Lupoi brings both. He’s someone’s defensive coordinator in the very near future.
1. Rob Sale, Georgia: This is a curious hire. Sale comes to Georgia from McNeese State of the D1AA Southland Conference where they had a decent (5.0 per carry, 221 yards per game) but not spectacular running game and the O-line gave up 22 sacks. You would think that offensive line coaches from all over the country would have been lining up for a shot at coaching the guys who will block for Nick Chubb next season.
2. Kevin Steele, LSU: This is the same Kevin Steele whose defense gave up nearly 30 points and 400 yards per game, then capped that off by giving up 589 yards and 70 points to West Virginia in the 2011 Orange Bowl when he was the defensive coordinator at Clemson. No one doubts that he’s a fine position coach. No one doubts that he’s a terrific recruiter. There are serious doubts about him as a coordinator, however. But, LSU might have so much defensive talent that it really doesn’t matter who is the coordinator.
3. Mike DeBord, Tennessee: Mike DeBord hasn’t coached football in two years and the last time he coordinated an offense was 2007. He was 12-34 as a head coach at Central Michigan, where he let Jones coordinate the offense in 2002-03 for teams that went 7-17. So, this is a payback hire. In reality, this is Butch Jones’ offense and Butch is going to do with it whatever Butch wants. What DeBord actually does might go down as one of life’s great mysteries but at least he has gainful employment. The addition of DeBord gives the Vols six coaches (if you count the strength and conditioning coach) who are bald. That might be tops in the SEC.
4. Lance Thompson, Auburn: Okay, he can recruit, but the real question is can he coach? Nick Saban can get recruiters all day long. If he was happy with the way Thompson coached his linebackers (see Alabama vs. Ohio State and you’ll have your answer for that) then he would still be in Tuscaloosa. Instead, he’s at Auburn. Maybe he just needed a fresh start. Or maybe he’s heavy on the recruiting end, light on the coaching end. Throw in Thompson’s off the field reputation in matters dating back to Tennessee and even before and this is a very curious hire.
5. Kerry Dixon, Florida: He was a running back when he played college football and he’s coached quarterbacks and running backs at the collegiate level with only one year of Division I experience and that was at FIU. This is a position that has been underachieving for the past four years so it seemed imperative that Jim McElwain bring in an experienced wide receivers coach who could get this group to (a) run routes correctly and (b) catch the damn football. The only logical explanation with this hire is that Dixon gives the Gators another strong recruiter in South Florida and McElwain will help tutor the wide receivers since he has a nice history at that position.
Which three assistant coaches do you think were the top hires in the Southeastern Conference during this offseason?
War was a west coast bar band until Eric Burdon discovered them playing in Southern California. The band defined funk in the 1970s with songs like “Spill the Wine” (with Burdon), “Low Rider” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” but they also had a mellow side. Today’s music is one of their mellow sounds – “All Day Music” from their 1971 album of the same name.