Nick Saban and Jim McElwain meet at mid-field before the SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday, December 5, 2015.

Dooley: Ranking league coaches

Pat Dooley Sun sports columnist
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 10:13 AM

There is nothing quite like college football's silly season, that break between the end of spring football and the start of fall camps around the country.

It's during this time that teams go rocketing up and down preseason polls without doing anything.

And it's also a time when media members try to move the needle and get clicks by saying some outrageous things. This is usually done by coming out with lists or rankings and making sure there is something in them that gets your attention.

CBS Sports did it last week with its annual rankings of the college coaches that included Jim Harbaugh at No. 5 despite the fact the Michigan coach lost three of his last four games and has never won a title of any kind as a college coach.

But he's so good on Twitter!!

I guess they were basing it on frequent-flyer miles.

When Colin Cowherd saw this list, the radio host (I think he's on FS1 but it's hard to find) went off Thursday on the SEC, saying the coaching in this league is just awful and that other than Nick Saban it's a bunch of “gym teachers with whistles.”

I know, he just wanted to get dummies like me to quote him and in that way he succeeded.

His point and the point of anyone doing this kind of a list is based on what was a mediocre year for this league. It was Alabama and the others in 2016. I get it.

There was no second-best team, which meant that there was no second-best coach, which meant there was only one really good coach in the SEC and a lot of wannabes.

Part of the perception of the coaches in this league centers around two programs — LSU and Georgia.

LSU rid itself of an ultra-successful coach with a national title in his back pocket and replaced him with a defensive-line coach who streamlines Red Bull when its top choices said no. Georgia replaced a successful head coach with a guy who had never been a head coach.

Because Mark Richt is at Miami, the perception is that he made the ACC stronger and the SEC weaker. I'm not so sure about that.

There is also a coach who has already been fired within this league in Will Muschamp, a Missouri coach who got the job because it seemed like the easiest thing to do, coaches who can't finish and find their seats getting warm and one coach under the hot lights of the NCAA.

It's not much of a list.

There's one way to change it and that is to go out and win some of the big games early in this year's college slate and then the rivalry games in November. Forget the bowl games. Anybody who judges coaching ability based on bowl games doesn't understand the sport.

Anyway, here is how I would rate the SEC coaches as we get silly season cranked up:

1. Nick Saban: Duh. And it doesn't sound like he's going anywhere for awhile.

2. Jim McElwain: Two seasons, two division titles. He's won 19 games. Of his eight losses, four have been to coaches that CBS ranked first and fourth.

3. Kevin Sumlin: The Aggies may not be consistent but he's consistently winning no fewer than eight games while playing in a tough division.

4. Gus Malzahn: Coached for a national title thanks to two of the flukiest plays ever. This is the year we really find out if Auburn has a good coach.

5. Dan Mullen: If you bump into something with the top of your head, it's probably Mullen's ceiling. But winning the way he has in Starkville is still an accomplishment.

6. Mark Stoops: I'm bullish on the Wildcats taking the next step this season.

7. Ed Orgeron: He was supposed to bring a new look on offense when he took over at LSU and went out and scored one touchdown at home against Alabama and Florida combined. Huge X-factor in the league.

8. Bret Bielema: He took a mess at Arkansas and made it better. But how much better and can he make it special?

9. Butch Jones: Ditto for the champion of Life. Tennessee's Amway salesman is four games under .500 in league games.

10. Will Muschamp: I think Muschamp is going to have success in Columbia.

11. Kirby Smart: Small sample size at Georgia, so it's difficult to tell how good he is but he lost games last year that made no sense.

12. Derek Mason: The Vanderbilt coach may be way too low on this list, but 5-19 in SEC games is still 5-19.

13. Hugh Freeze: No matter what you say, he has helped put Ole Miss in a bad place.

14. Barry Odom: It's not his fault Missouri gave him the job. Again, a small sample size, but someone has to be 14th.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.




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