Interesting changes abound for SEC football programs
With the start of the 2018 football season just around the corner, the Southeastern Conference is facing a dramatic change in its landscape.
Six SEC teams will have new blood at the helm this year and changes in several coordiantor positions will provide some very interesting story lines to follow.
One of the most interesting changes to take place for us LSU Tiger fans is the replacement of Matt Canada with Steve Ensminger as offensive co-coordinator. Even to Mr. Obvious, head coach Ed Orgeron and Canada did not, shall we politely say, see eye to eye on how the Tiger offense should be run.
With that said, a lot of people are questioning Orgeron’s promotion of Ensminger. Once again, I will, as I always have, give the new direction that Orgeron wants to go some leeway and not pass immediate judgement.
Ensminger, for those of you who do not remember, took over as offensive co-ordinator once before, in 2016. And, also for those of you that do not remember, Ensminger did, in a lot of ways, have to turn around a struggling Tiger offense that had scored only nine touchdowns and was averaging 18 points and 339.5 total yards per game in the first four contests.
In eight games under Ensminger that year, LSU improved drastically in every offensive category as the Tigers averaged 32 points and 464.9 total yards per contest during that span.
Even with the jury still being out on Ensminger, he does have some credibility coming into the season. Therefore, I will say, let’s just see how it goes.
Another interesting change in the Western Division is the hiring of Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. The Florida State head coach for the last eight years decided to come on over to arguably the best conference in the country from top to bottom after a mediocre final season with the Seminoles.
Fisher, the one time offensive coordinator at LSU, inherits an Aggie team that was 7-6 overall last season and had produced only two seasons with double-digit victories since 1998. But, being able to recruit in one of the deepest talented states in the country and the 10-year, $75 million deal he made with the university should bring some sunshine to what could be a dismal 2018 season.
At Texas A&M, Fisher will build from the ground up instead of replacing the program’s roof and walls. This job will require heavy lifting. This job will demand fast results. There’s nothing in the Aggies’ recent past to suggest they’ll become an annual SEC contender soon. Once again the jury is out.
Another move that has several implications for the SEC landscape is the move of former Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen to Florida. Mullen’s current situation at Florida is even more interesting considering the roster he left behind at Mississippi State for new head coach Joe Moorhead; it might be the deepest, most talented the Bulldogs have ever had.
By contrast, Mullen has inherited something less, at least offensively, including some players he referred to as square pegs that might not fit easily into his preferred offensive style.
Mullen has ties to the Gator program, serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach from 2005-2008 under Urban Meyer. Mullen calls his new position at Florida a “dream job” and “a very easy decision” to move back to Gainesville.
Mullen will now take over a program that went 4-7 last year and ranked in triple digits nationally in scoring offense the last two seasons. Mullen’s biggest challenge will be to find the personnel to fit the type offense he is known for, which includes getting a quarterback that can run (see Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald.)
The one thing that both Fisher and Mullen have in common coming in is the need to turn around once vaunted programs.
Needless to say, Chad Morris (Arkansas), Matt Luke (Mississippi) and Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee) are in the same boat in terms of trying to turn programs around. However, those new coaches will have a tougher road just because of the mountain they will have to climb in terms of recruiting.
Indeed we will see how these changes affect the balance of power in the SEC. In the meantime, I believe it is Alabama’s world and everyone else is living in it.
Just my opinion.