Charting the changes

Three SEC schools chose to pull the plug on veteran football coaches last winter in favor of younger men, and each move is looking pretty good in retrospect.

Tennessee replaced Phillip Fulmer (58) with Lane Kiffin (33). Auburn replaced Tommy Tuberville (54) with Gene Chizik (46). Mississippi State replaced Sylvester Croom (54) with Dan Mullen (36).

Under Kiffin Tennessee made a two-game improvement in its overall record - going from 5-7 to 7-5 - and a one-game improvement in its SEC record - going from 3-5 to 4-4.

Under Chizik Auburn also made a two-game overall improvement - from 5-7 to 7-5 - and a one-game improvement in league play - 2-6 to 3-5.

Under Mullen Mississippi State made a one-game improvement in each category - going from 4-8 to 5-7 and from 2-6 to 3-5.

Each coach posted a signature win. Kiffin blasted Georgia 45-19. Chizik beat Ole Miss 33-20 and Mullen shocked the Rebels 41-27.

The primary reason Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State were so bad in 2008 was anemic offenses. The Vols and Tigers tied for 10th among the 12 SEC teams in scoring last season at 17.3 points per game. The only team that finished below them was the Bulldogs, who averaged just 15.2 points per game.

Kiffin, Chizik and Mullen made monumental strides offensively in 2009. Check out these numbers:

Tennessee improved its scoring average by 13 points per game, from 17.3 to 30.6. The Vols improved their passing attack by 80 yards per game, from 145.8 to 225.6. They improved their total-offense figure by nearly 130 yards per game, from 268.8 to 395.4.

Auburn improved its scoring average by 15 points per game, from 17.3 to 32.9. The Tigers improved their rushing attack by more than 75 yards per game, from 137.5 to 213.8 and their total-offense figure by 130 yards, from 302.9 to 432.3.

Mississippi State improved its scoring average by 10 points per game, from 15.2 to 25.6. The Dogs improved their rushing attack by 125 yards per game, from 100.6 to a league-best 227.6. They improved their total-offense figure nearly 100 yards, from 274.9 to 371.9.

Whether Kiffin, Chizik and Mullen can build on their strong starts remains to be seen, of course. For now, though, each coach appears to have his program on the upswing.


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