Three years as a coordinator equals seniority in the SEC.
Ten of the 28 coordinators are new to the job and 13 others have one season of experience.
Entering their third year, offensive coordinators Dan Enos at Arkansas and Doug Nussmeier at Florida and Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis are the league veterans, with an asterisk. Head coach Derek Mason runs the Vanderbilt defense and Mississippi State’s offensive co-coordinators are beginning their fourth year.
Only half kidding, do the men who take these jobs bother to buy homes? Sure, some earn more than $1 million per, but long-term employment is rare.
Often, coordinators are sacrificed when the head coach catches flak for a disappointing season. Sometimes, dismissal is framed as an opportunity at another school. Often, the new hire inspires outlandish and immediate expectations.
Generally, first-year coordinators are measured against the work of their predecessors so the bar is different at each school. From easiest assignment to most difficult, the new overseers:
No. 10, Wesley McGriff, DC, Ole Miss. McGriff’s defense is a good bet to show progress. Last year, the Rebels were 111th of 128 in total defense and opponents who made 48 trips inside the Ole Miss 20 recorded 35 touchdowns and 10 field goals.
No. 9, Todd Grantham, DC, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were 110th in total defense and No. 120 in pass defense. Interestingly, MSU’S fourth defensive coordinator in four years values a pass rush as much as sound pass coverage.
No. 8, Matt House, DC, Kentucky. Promoted after one year on the staff, House has nine of the Wildcats’ leading tacklers back, including an All-SEC safety. Besides, expectations for football in Lexington are a distant second to basketball.
No. 7, Larry Scott, OC, Tennessee. Promotion of the tight ends coach fits with Butch Jones’ statement that he wants to enhance the offense but doesn’t anticipate major changes. Tennessee should come close to duplicating 2016 numbers with production from Josh Dobbs’ replacement at quarterback.
No. 6, Phil Longo, OC, Ole Miss. Like his co-worker, Longo faces a low bar — Ole Miss was 104th in red zone TD efficiency last year. Shedding his redshirt last November, quarterback Shea Patterson gained valuable starting experience and the Rebels have deep-threat receivers.
No. 5, Paul Rhoads, DC, Arkansas. Rhoads’ spot might reflect too much exposure to Arkansans who falsely believe moving to the 3-4 will cure all. That said, the run defense has to improve over a unit that gave up an average of 5.91 yards per rush, a number worse than 125 teams.
No. 4, Randy Shannon, DC, Florida. The interim coordinator for the Gators’ bowl game, the former Arkansas assistant’s tweak of a defense that limited Iowa to a field goal earned high praise. Shannon’s job is to provide continuity, but five defensive players were picked in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
No. 3, Brian Daboll, OC, Alabama. Hired from the NFL, Daboll is charged with making better use of the Crimson Tide’s receivers and tight end, particularly on deep routes. The deep ball was not a Jalen Hurts strength last year, but he and Tua Tagovailoa completed several long passes in the spring game.
No. 2, Chip Lindsey, OC, Auburn. Partly because Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham has been impressive and partly because there is grumbling about head coach Gus Malzahn, Lindsey is on the spot. Lindsey is tasked with making the offense more diverse than the Sean White-led unit that attempted less than 290 passes last year.
No. 1, Matt Canada, OC, LSU. Fans believe Canada is going to improve the play of quarterback Danny Etling with alignments and play-calling. Pre-snap movement, shovel passes, and throwback passes to offensive linemen are part of Canada’s system. Still, the quarterback is Etling.
The top three on this list happen to be offensive coordinators for the teams expected to compete for the SEC West title and at least one will disappoint.
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org