Alabama Football: ’22 SEC season will show who can ‘Coach’em Up’

Kentucky Vs Florida October 2021
Kentucky Vs Florida October 2021 /

Any discussion of college football coaches begins with Alabama football, head coach, Nick Saban. Being the ‘dean’ of SEC coaches has traditionally been no small honor. In Nick Saban’s case, it is a mere afterthought.

Among the other 13 SEC head coaches for 2022, is there one that will ever rival Nick Saban’s career achievements? The answer is, for one time, saying ‘never’ is appropriate.

It is unfair to call the other SEC head coaches ‘wannabes.’ They have accomplished at least enough to gain some of the most coveted positions in college football. They are close to being wannabes nonetheless. Combined the 13 have won two National Championships to Nick Saban’s seven.

There are other ways than championships to measure college football coaches. One way is how much they accomplish in developing and utilizing the talents of their players. Winning matters in any measurement, but being one of the best at ‘coaching’em up’ deserves distinction. Given the range of strengths and weaknesses in programs, any ‘coach up’ assessment must be graded on a scale. For example, leading Vanderbilt to a winning season would be enough to land Clark Lea near the top of ‘coaching’em up’ lists.

Recruiting is a determining factor in coaching success. Some argue it is the most important factor. Being a great recruiter makes it easier to be a great coach – but Ed Orgeron is an example that much more is needed to be a great coach.

Another major factor is the coaching ability of the entire football staff. Long ago, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant freely admitted the coaching effort and contribution of defensive assistant, Ken Donahue made Bryant look like a genius.

Take away the impacts made by Lane Kiffin, Brian Daboll and Steve Sarkisian, and Alabama football since 2014 might not have continued its current Dynasty.

When rating the other 13 SEC head coaches, a fair comparison cannot be made about Shane Beamer, Clark LeaEli Drinkwitz and Sam Pittman. The head coaching careers are too short. The same is pretty much true for Bill Napier, whose four head coaching seasons have been in a lesser conference.

Alabama Football coach Nick Saban leads the way

Taking away Nick Saban as the unquestioned No. 1 and not including the quintet above, leaves eight SEC coaches to rate for their ‘coach-up’ performances. The eight are ranked below, followed by a short summary explanation.

No. 1 – Mark Stoops – Kentucky

No. 2 – Brian Kelly – LSU

No. 3 – Lane Kiffin – Ole Miss

No. 4 – tie – Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M and Kirby Smart, Georgia

No. 6 -Mike Leach – Mississippi State

No. 7 – Josh Heupel – Tennessee

No. 8 – Bryan Harsin – Auburn

Simply stated, season after season, Mark Stoops does more with less in Lexington. So has Brian Kelly, at multiple programs. Though, Kelly has to prove himself in the SEC. Lane Kiffin turns programs around quickly. Since he was in Tuscaloosa, at Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss, Kiffin’s teams became much better.

Despite being National Championship coaches, neither Jimbo Fisher, since his glory season at FSU, and Kirby Smart have shown themselves to be more than great recruiters. Neither can be defined as great at developing talent.

Mike Leach’s wizardry has carried him a long way. If, as is suspected, his offense cannot excel against elite SEC defenses, then he is little more than a novelty.

It is tempting to exclude Josh Heupel for the same reason Napier was excluded. But, Heupel did make the Vols better quickly.

Bryan Harsin was such a dud in his first Auburn season, his solid work at Boise State is being reassessed.

Next. Crimson Tide '22 roster loaded with game-changers. dark

Perhaps the explosion of transfer players alters the need for player development somewhat. Nick Saban would certainly disagree.