Coordinator hires tend to be my personal favorite in college football.
Some are inspired (Jim Leavitt at Oregon). Some leave you scratching your head (Mike DeBord at Indiana).
The SEC, for all its past successes, is not immune to the latter and can certainly churn out plenty of the former. This is the SEC, after all. Go big or go home. Or go mediocre in the case of 2016.
Either way, it just means more.
The mediocrity, though, is why we saw coordinator turnover at eight different programs in the offseason, seven in the SEC West, alone. Part of this can be explained away by the change in coaching staffs last season. Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia all had new head coaches, each bringing in entirely new staffs.
This year, no SEC head coaches were relieved of their posts, but several were compelled to change up their previous formulas so as to not tempt the wrath of their ADs.
In total 9 new coordinators will be on the sideline or the booth in 2017 in hopes of either overhauling the previous coach's scheme or simply making sure its productivity doesn't dip too much.
In describing each new coordinator, we will, also, predict whether the new coach will be better, worse or about the same in comparison to his predecessor in 2017.
Brian Daboll (Alabama-Offense)
Since January, Alabama has had three offensive coordinators. Former New England Patriots' tight ends coach Brian Daboll is the latest.
With the strange ouster of Lane Kiffin between playoff games and his replacement, Steve Sarkisian, only lasting one game before leaving for the same gig with the Atlanta Falcons, Nick Saban knew he needed a familiar face. A guy who's worked for him before and who's worked for someone with whom he's very close in the business. Enter Daboll.
Daboll was a part in some fashion of every Patriots team that won a Super Bowl under Bill Belichick. He left to be an OC with the Cleveland Browns, the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs for a period of four years and during that time, the Patriots never won a title. He came back to coach the tight ends, the Patriots won two more championships. Not saying he's the reason, but Belichick seemed to appreciate his company.
It's hard to surpass what Lane Kiffin did for the Tide's offense over the last three seasons, shepherding three different starting quarterbacks to three conference titles, three playoff appearances, two national title game appearances and one national championship. Each quarterback having a completely different skill set than the last.
Daboll, who wasn't the most effective pro OC, must re-route an offense that pretty much ran the run-pass option scheme for the entirety of 2016. While each of his offenses in the NFL improved in the running game, the passing game regressed with the exception of one season. This is obviously the area where Saban would like quarterback Jalen Hurts to be improved.
Still, if the spring game was any indication, Daboll has plans for not only Jalen Hurts and all-everything wideout Calvin Ridley, but a host of different targets that might've otherwise been ignored on a macro level by Kiffin. Also, Daboll is not currently working for the tire fires that were each of the aforementioned NFL teams (except the Patriots, of course).
To better understand Saban's expectations of Daboll and his co-coordinator, Mike Locksley, you can read this. Suffice it to say, Alabama's offense will have the look of a more efficient passing team. Will that be effective in the long run? We'll just have to wait and see.
Paul Rhoads (Arkansas-Defense)
Arkansas' defense last year was not good.
In 2016, it ranked below 50 in every major statistical category, which for a Bret Bielema defense, is damn near blasphemous.
Granted, the passing game has never been stellar, but the trenches have always been Bielema's bread and butter and, now, he won't have linebacker Brooks Ellis as his safety valve to cover up for any deficiencies.
In 2016, the Hogs finished 58th in the nation in passing defense, allowing 221 yards per game, 94th (this is where it stings) in rushing defense, allowing 206 yards per game, 76th in total offense with 427 yards per game and 85th with 31 points per game.
Enter Paul Rhoads.
In 2016, after being let go by Iowa State, Rhoads found his way onto Bielema's staff as the secondary coach. Now, with Rhoads as his new DC, Bielema can say that he's one of the few head coaches in the country who has two former head coaches of his own as assistants.
And Rhoads is no slouch, either. Prior to his arrival at Pitt in 2000, the Panthers allowed 392 yards and 25 points per game. In his first season, Rhoads coached the same unit to 325 yards and 20 points per game. Except for two outlier seasons in 2003 and 2004, Rhoads' defenses held opposing offenses to an average of 315 yards and 20 points per game. And this was during the era of the Big East that had Bobby Petrino at Louisville and Rich Rod at West Virginia.
(It was Rhoads' 2007 Pitt defense that held Rodriguez's nearly-BCS-bound Mountaineers to 9 points in one of the most infamous games of the last 20 years.)
After doing well enough as Tommy Tuberville's DC in his last season with Auburn, Rhoads moved on to Iowa State where he led a respectable program up until his last three seasons.
Still, he's back coaching the side of the ball that got him that job to begin with and it looks like Bielema is more than confident in his abilities to stymie the rush and shore up the secondary.
For these reasons, this should be an excellent hire for the Razorbacks.
Chip Lindsey (Auburn-Offense)
There might not have been a more petulant offseason move than Rhett Lashlee leaving Auburn as its OC to join UConn for that very same position. UCONN!
He's not joining Jim Calhoun's basketball staff in 2004. Rhett Lashlee wants to be the offensive coordinator for Randy "Well, I guess" Edsall on his second go 'round with the Connecticut Huskies football program.
That'll show him!
You see, none of us ever really got a sense that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn fully allowed his protégé to run his RPO-dominated offense. Lashlee was Malzahn's quarterback in high school and followed him to every stop, finally being given the title of OC and QB coach in 2012 at Arkansas State when Malzahn took over.
When Lashlee was hired to the same position at Auburn, it seemed to be more of a figurehead deal than an actual role. Malzahn, for all intents and purposes, was calling the offensive plays on the field up until last year after the Tigers continued to struggle at the quarterback position. It was a smart move by Malzahn to allow Lashlee to call the plays, but apparently it wasn't enough.
Now, Malzahn has searched his contacts and pulled out the name Chip Lindsey. Lindsey was an offensive analyst on the "Kick Six" team in 2013 and after stints as a coordinator at Southern Miss and Arizona State, hopes to continue what Malzahn and Lashlee have been doing with the Tigers' offense over the last four seasons.
Lindsey doesn't have a lot of experience at the OC position, but what experience he does have is impressive given the circumstances. In 2014, he took a middling Southern Miss offense to new heights from a paltry 315 yards and 17 points per game in 2013 to an astounding 509 yards and 40 points per game in 2015.
In his one season at Arizona State he had to replace a prolific offense led by Mike Norvell and while the numbers show actual regression, he had numerous injuries to deal with and still kept the Sun Devils' points per game average at around the number it was before he arrived.
Lindsey's walking into a great position at Auburn. He has top JuCo transfer Jarrett Stidham as his presumable starting quarterback, one of the top returning SEC rushers in Kamryn Pettway and a host of experienced receivers.
This year's Auburn offense should be a lot of fun. Especially if Malzahn allows Lindsey to call the plays. Without the confusion, the Tiger's offense will be one of the best in the conference, maybe the country.
Randy Shannon (Florida-Defense)
For a coach that has a two-year record at Florida of 19-8 and two division titles, we certainly don't take Jim McElwain seriously. Some of that is founded as his Gator offense has been a continual source of frustration for those in Gainesville.
What hasn't been an issue is the defense.
When Will Muschamp took over for Urban Meyer, he continued a streak of recruiting great defensive players. Great linemen, great linebackers, great corners, great safeties.
What is swept under the rug time and again is the amount of elite college talent Muschamp brought on Florida's campus and subsequently developed: Dante Fowler, Jr., Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox, Jr., Antonio Morrison, Marcell Harris, Marcus Maye, Vernon Hargreaves III, Teez Tabor, Alex Anzalone, Keanu Neal, Jarrad Davis and Quincy Wilson.
Former Florida DC and new Temple head coach Geoff Collins very much reaped the benefits of those men. Now, new DC Randy Shannon must bring his gifts to a depleted roster that includes only one of the above players and he has just been declared out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Defensive scheme hasn't been a problem in Gainesville since before Meyer and with Shannon's credentials as Miami's DC during its heyday, conventional wisdom says the Gators continue to lay into opposing offenses.
Still, when your 2016 defense was ranked #2 in the nation in passing yards allowed (148 ypg), #38 in rushing yards allowed (144 ypg), #5 in total yards allowed (291 ypg) and #6 in points per game (16) and seven guys from that unit were drafted by NFL teams and your returning leading tackler is out for the upcoming season, the job of the coordinator becomes that much more difficult.
Shannon does have some pieces to work with at every level, though, in CeCe Jefferson, David Reese, Nick Washington and Chauncey Gardner, which should ease him back into a position he hasn't held since 2006.
At their best, Shannon's Miami Hurricane defenses held teams to 67 rushing yards per game, 119 passing yards per game, 255 total yards and 9 points per game.
Randy Shannon can bring it and this hire is a possible upgrade for McElwain in the future. Just probably not the immediate future, given the talent depletion.
Matt Canada (LSU-Offense)
I'm going to spare yours and my editors' sanity by simply attaching this piece I wrote on LSU's new OC, Matt Canada.
It pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the guy. Basically, LSU's offense can't get any worse. Canada will thrive.
Prediction: Better...WAY better
Phil Longo/Wesley McGriff (Ole Miss-Offense/Defense)
It goes without saying that a lot has happened to the Ole Miss football team since I first envisioned this piece. In that respect, I'm happy I waited to write it.
With Matt Luke taking over as interim head coach for Hugh Freeze, the former co-offensive coordinator for the Rebels will be handing the reins over to Phil Longo, who was going to be his co-coordinator when Freeze was still in charge.
On top of this, newly-minted defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff has also been promoted to Associate Head Coach. McGriff, a well-respected and traveled position coach, will take over a defense that was one of the worst in the conference and the country.
In 2016, the Rebels were #48 in the nation in passing yards per game (215), #120 in rushing yards per game (246), #111 in total yards per game (461) and #100 in points per game (34).
For all the effusive praise I sent Dave Wommack's way, I guess I should've waited longer than the FSU game to heap.
McGriff's only coordinator experience was in Freeze's first year at Ole Miss when he was co-coordinator with Wommack. The only line, here, is to say that the Ole Miss defense cannot get any worse. McGriff, on top of his newest role on the team, should be able to get guys like Marquis Haynes, Benito Jones, Breeland Speaks and A.J. Moore to continue playing at a high level. Just with better results.
Longo, on the other hand, is not inheriting some page-one rewrite. The Ole Miss offense was good last year. They were 13th in the nation in passing (314), 26th in the nation in total offense (463) and 32nd in points per game (42). The rushing game, as per usual, was the only area that was in serious need of overhauling.
Phil Longo's presence on the team should be a huge upgrade in all of these areas. He comes from FCS power Sam Houston State, where in 2016 his offense passed for over 4,500 yards, rushed for more than 2,000 and averaged just shy of 50 points per game.
You put sophomore QB Shea Patterson into the hands of this man and tell me you won't see some fireworks.
Things may be a little grim right now, but absent any news from the NCAA, this Ole Miss team should be a lot of fun to watch, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Prediction: Offense-Better, Defense-Better
Todd Grantham (Mississippi State-Defense)
The shine has ceased to wear off the apple.
Todd Grantham, in spite of his mediocre-to-good track record as a defensive coordinator continues to attract offers from Power 5 schools. Dan Mullen and Mississippi State is the latest and, honestly, it could be a match made in heaven.
Mullen wants the type of angry defense that he had when Geoff Collins was his DC and Grantham certainly knows how to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage.
At Georgia he coached the likes of Jarvis Jones, Brandon Boykin, Leonard Floyd and Alec Ogletree. In his three seasons at Louisville, he coached Gerod Holliman, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Sheldon Rankins and Keith Kelsey.
He knows how to utilize his talent.
You get a sense, though, it could've been better. His best season as a college DC came in 2011, when his Bulldog defense held opposing offenses to 176 passing yards per game, 101 rushing yards per game, 277 total yards per game and 20 points per game.
In the five seasons since, his defenses have averaged 341 total yards and 23 points per game. Not bad by any stretch, but given that he's being paid $1.1 million a year by the Bulldogs, some might be very interested to see the results on the field.
Interestingly enough, Grantham is succeeding a guy at Mississippi State who essentially took his own spot as DC of Louisville, which is strange considering how terrible Mississippi State's defense was in 2016.
Peter Sirmon's bunch finished #120 in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (281), #70 in rushing yards allowed per game (177), #110 in total yards allowed per game (459) and #93 in points allowed per game (31).
And this guy is being given $950,000 a year at Louisville to do the same thing.
Grantham's 3-4 scheme will probably be a better fit for talent like Jeffery Simmons, Cory Thomas and Leo Lewis. With his experience as a SEC coordinator, the Bulldogs will almost certainly improve in 2017.
Larry Scott (Tennessee-Offense)
How frustrating it must be for the Tennessee Volunteer faithful to see their program middling about when it could be so much more.
Their best offseason hire was at their vacant defensive line coach position when they brought in Brady Hoke.
So, it's curious that when you finally rid yourself of Mike DeBord, who honestly didn't do all that bad of a job while in Knoxville, you decide to promote from within by giving the OC job to tight ends coach Larry Scott.
Scott's only time as an offensive coordinator was in 2004, when has was the co-coordinator at Sebring High School in Florida. That is it.
Since, he's been a position coach at every conceivable offensive position save for quarterback and he was Miami's interim coach in 2015 after Al Golden was fired.
For what it's worth he went 4-2.
I'm saying none of this to be disparaging or hurtful, but you have to wonder why head coach Butch Jones couldn't have attracted at least a younger, up-and-coming offensive mind to a city like Knoxville with a campus that has some pretty great game day traditions. It's flummoxing.
In 2016, DeBord's offense wasn't terrible. It wasn't great. They finished 62nd in the nation in passing yards per game (238), 37th in rushing yards per game (205), 40th in total yards per game (443) and 24th in points per game (36). None of those are bad numbers for a team that should've easily won the east.
Now, Scott has very few returning options to work with. His offensive line should be the strength of the unit, but there's still uncertainty as to who the starting quarterback will be. They lost their top two running backs from last year, although John Kelly should be a seamless transition. Jauan Jennings returns at receiver, but you lost a lot of depth there, too.
I could be totally wrong, here. Scott is only 40 years old and he could just be catching fire in the profession. My gut, though, is to say with the loss of Josh Dobbs, Josh Malone, Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd, there's going to be drop off.