When I saw this top assistant coaches list by the guys at CoachesHotSeat (HT Blutarsky), I decided to create a list of the top assistants in the SEC. Hereâ€™s a breakdown of the coaches who matter most in the conference.
To create this list, Iâ€™m going to name two assistants off each team who excel in recruiting and/or Xâ€™s and Oâ€™s.
Lance Thompson was named Recruiter of the Year by Rivals. He was widely credited for his role in landing last yearâ€™s best in the nation recruiting class. It was tough deciding between Thompson and Kirby Smart. Smart is said to understand Nick Sabanâ€™s defensive scheme better than anyone else on staff. However, Thompsonâ€™s accolades in recruiting, and work shoring up the linebackers last season make him invaluable to Alabama.
Joe Pendry Maligned on talk radio, very few coaches on the Tide staff know how to analyze a defense as well as Pendry. He is said to be insightful when the film rollsâ€”something useful in creating the weekly game plans.
Mike Summers has led the offensive line for Bobby Petrino at Louisville and Atlanta. Petrinoâ€™s offensive attack depends on good line play, and Summers is responsible for that. Summerâ€™s line helped lead Petrinoâ€™s offense to heady total offense of 475.3 yards per game. You canâ€™t throw the ball or run it to that level without impressive offensive line work.
Garrick McGee joined Petrinoâ€™s staff from Northwestern, where he served as offensive coordinator. His offensive led the Big Ten in passing with 307.9 yards per game. McGee is a former Oklahoma quarterback. McGee will coach quarterbacks for the Razorbacks.
Eddie Gran has an impressive record on Tubervilleâ€™s staff. Heâ€™s coached Carnell, four first-team ALL-SEC members and had three of his runningbacks taken in the first round of the NFL draft. But Gran is also lauded by Rivals as one of the top recruiters.
Hugh Nall is another longtime Tuberville assistant. Nall didnâ€™t thrive when given the chance to be offensive coordinator, but has done what is widely considered a good job coaching the offensive line. In the past, he has also been recognized by Rivals as one of the top recruiters in the nation.
Steve Addazio coaches offensive line for the Florida Gators. Heâ€™s had 12 players taken in the NFL draft, and put a total of 21 players he has coached into the NFLâ€”an average of almost one player for every year he has coached (23). Last season the Gatorâ€™s offensive line allowed only 13 sacks. He is also listed as a top Recruiter by Rivals.
Charlie Strong is Floridaâ€™s defensive coordinator. Heâ€™s known for his recruiting prowess, put numerous players into the NFL, coached 12 All-Americans, a National Defensive Player of the Year and coached in 19 bowl games.
Stacy Searels is an Auburn grad with experience coaching at LSU and now Georgia. He has done what is considered a good job with the lines at both SEC schools. What may be most impressive was his work with last yearâ€™s UGA line, he took three freshmen starters and built a solid unit that helped the Bulldogs to a final AP rank of #2 in the nation. Searels four years with LSU saw him coaching a line that won a national title.
Rodney Garner is another Auburn grad serving on the Georgia staff. Garner is widely respected as a recruiter (having been named to past Rivals top recruiter lists. In fact, he has been dubbed the best recruiter in the SEC. Heâ€™s also served seven years with Richt, a time when UGA has won 72 games, two SEC crowns and looks poised to battle for a national title in 2008.
Steve Brown may have improved the Kentucky defense to the point where it can be seen as a strength of this yearâ€™s squad. He is an aggressive coach, and lowered Kentuckyâ€™s awful defense yardage allowed from over 400 to under 400 last season. He gets 17 of the starters back from last yearâ€™s defense, so UK is poised for an even better defense in 2008.
Randy Sanders washed out as Tennesseeâ€™s offensive coordinator, but he has an impressive list of success with the Vols and UK. He coached Andreâ€™ Woodson to an ALL-SEC ranking, and a record 40 TD passes. How well he works with quarterbacks this season will be a big factor in 2008 for the Wildcats, but he was on Volunteer coaching staffs since 1989. You donâ€™t last that long at one of the best programs in the conference if you arenâ€™t one of the best.
Josh Henson coaches tight ends and serves as the recruiting coordinator for LSU. It would be hard to argue that Les Miles has done a good job keeping Louisiana talent at home. Henson has played a role in that.
Dough Mallory has done an impressive job with the LSU secondary during his tenure. LSU has ranked 3rd in pass efficiency defense for three years. Not bad. Amazing when you consider the pass happy SEC. The LSU secondary was dominating last year, picking off 23 passes, first in the conference and fourth in the nation.
Kent Austincoached in Canada from 2003-2007. Yes. They play football in Canada. Austin was CFL coach of the year, and led his team to the Grey Cup Championship. So, he knows how to coach and score points. He also played quarterback in the conference and CFL. It is hoped heâ€™ll bring excitement to play calling, and help Jevan Snead to fulfill expectations as the Ole Miss signal caller.
Mike Markuson has coached offensive lines for Houston Nutt for 15 years. There is a reason for that. Nuttâ€™s teams have traditionally fielded exceptionally physical offensive lines. His players on the line have won awards (Rimington Trophy) and been named All-Americans. He helped coordinate the running game at Arkansas beginning in 2003. And we all know how good those Arkansas teams were at running the football.
Rockey Felker was once head coach of Mississippi State, and now serves as running backs coach at his alma mater. Felker also coordinates recruiting for the Bulldogsâ€”he is bringing Sly Croom into the modern era of recruiting with early offers.
Melvin Smith arrived at MSU in 2006. Heâ€™s helped improve the Bulldog secondary substantially. The MSU pass defense ranked fourth in the SEC last yearâ€”a key for MSU success is the ability to contain opposition offenses. Croomâ€™s style is to play good defense and control the ball. Being better than average at stopping the pass is one way the Bulldogs won last season. Just ask Alabama and Auburn.
Ellis Johnson is such a hot commodity he has been defensive coordinator at Alabama, Clemson and Mississippi State. In 2008, he has been defensive coordinator at MSU, Arkansas (for about a month) and South Carolina. Iâ€™m not sure why he took the Arkansas job and then bolted for South Carolina. But it is a testament to Johnsonâ€™s defensive work that coaches of Petrinoâ€™s and Spurrierâ€™s offensive stature want him coordinating the defensive side of the ball.
David Reaves helped South Carolina to a Top Ten recruiting class, and is regarded as one of the best young recruiters in the nation. He was selected as one of the best recruiters in the nation by Rivals. South Carolina must compete against SEC powerhouses, and ACC power Clemson in recruiting. Reaves has done a good job. He is listed as quarterback coach, but that must be a frustrating job under consummate quarterback coach Steve Spurrier.
Greg Adkins coaches the offensive line for an old offensive line coach. That is a tough job. But Adkins did such a good job in 2007 that his line only surrendered four sacks. Four. Four sacks while throwing the ball 534 times. That is an average of one sack every 133.5 attempts. Does anything more need to be said?
Larry Slade has coached defensive backs at Tennessee for what seems like forever. And his secondaries have posted impressive results every season. The secndardy is expected to be a strength of the 2008 team too. Slade puts his defensive backs into the NFL.
Jamie Bryant has produced solid secondary units while at Vanderbilt. Last yearâ€™s Vanderbilt team ranked in the Top 20 pass defense and total defenseâ€”something very impressive for the always undermanned Vanderbilt teams. He also coordinates special teams for the Commodores.
Robbie Caldwell coaches the offensive line for Vandy. Last yearâ€™s squad gave up 17 sacks, and included ALL-SEC tackle Chris Williams. Williams was taken with the No. 14 overall pick in the NFL draft. Caldwell has coached six NFL draftees and five All-Americans.