Friday, December 7, 2012

Grading the coaching hires

Now that all four openings in the SEC have been filled, it's time to gauge the new members of the fraternity.

From best to worst:

Arkansas - Bret Bielema. Jeff Long ran by far the best search of the four, landing the only guy with BCS experience. Bielema is a proven, successful head coach. He will win games, but may struggle early, as the Hogs aren't tooled to run his power style of football. Solid hire. A-

Tennessee - Butch Jones. Despite the rollercoaster circus Dave Hart conducted, the Vols may have actually gotten a great coach. Granted, Jones has made his name following Brian Kelly, but he has won everywhere he's been. And, he beat Vanderbilt. That's a plus, right? B+

Auburn - Gus Malzahn. The man many people thought was the only real coach on Gene Chizik's staff is now the head coach. But he has only one year of experience as a head coach. In the Sunbelt. With a talented team built by Hugh Freeze. It's a risky hire that may pan out or might shove the Tigers into the abyss of mediocrity for a decade. B-

Kentucky - Mark Stoops. There is no telling here. Kentucky wants to be competitive in the conference and would be happy just making a bowl every year. Stoops' name doesn't get them there--his recruiting and coaching acumen will have to. He's never done that at this level and all the Wildcats can do is hope. C+

Final note: Had any of the above taken the path to the dark side and hired Bobby Petrino, the grade would have been a big fat F. He left every employer he had angry and embarrassed. He will probably do it again, but you watch--some toad somewhere will give this scorpion a ride across the creek, and they'll feel his sting. It's what he does.

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