Kalen DeBoer is not one of the SEC football coaches under the most pressure

The SEC is a pressure cooker. Kalen DeBoer is not of the head coaches under the most pressure in 2024.
Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA

For SEC football coaches, pressure comes with the territory. It is part of the price paid to compete in college football's best and most challenging conference.

Years ago, Nick Saban joked that if he lost three games again in an Alabama season, he might be fired. Saban was talking to Steve Spurrier who later said he wasn't sure the GOAT was joking. That is the pressure cooker Kalen DeBoer jumped into in January.

Three 2024 losses would not cost Kalen DeBoer his job. Neither would four or even five. It is so rare for first-season head coaches to be fired, DeBoer, along with Jeff Lebby and Mike Elko will get two or three (maybe four) seasons to prove themselves.

Instead of a standard hot-seat ranking of SEC football head coaches, On3's Jesse Simonton published a list of Pressure Check Rankings for SEC coaches. Simonton ranked the coaches from most pressure (No. 1) to least pressure (No. 16). Kalen DeBoer was defined as being in a high pressure situation and ranked No. 3.

How Simonton described the Alabama situation is accurate "anything short of a CFP berth will be seen as a failure by those in Tuscaloosa." But the same was true for Nick Saban, as it has been for the majority of Alabama Football head coaches going back to the start of the post-Bryant era. Alabama's every-season goal is to win a National Championship. Insane as that goal is, it is also exactly what it should be for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Simonton's complete rankings are included below, showing his opinion the only SEC coaches under more 2024 pressure than DeBoer are Sam Pittman and Billy Napier. My perspective is different. I believe a credible argument can be made that nine or more SEC coaches are under more 2024 pressure than Kalen DeBoer.

Without ranking them, the first two of the nine are clearly Pittman and Napier. Clark Lea is another because the coming season will be his fourth in Nashville and prospects are bleak for the Commodores in the 16-team SEC. Shane Beamer also may not survive the 2024 season. The Gamecocks won five games last season. He probably needs seven wins to hang on and seven are hard to find on the South Carolina schedule.

There is another group under more pressure than DeBoer. None should get the axe after the 2024 season. But all of them face situations in which the 2024 season will likely redefine the trajectory of their programs. Steve Sarkisian and Brent Venables must prove they can thrive in the SEC. Not making the Playoffs would be a major blow to Sark and the Longhorns. Venables must prove the Sooners are an upper-tier SEC program.

Four others must produce results for an upward trajectory. They are Lane Kiffin, Brian Kelly, Eli Drinkwitz, and Josh Heupel. Of the four, Drinkwitz and Heupel are the least vulnerable from failing to make the Playoffs. For Kelly and Kiffin, a looming question shrouds the season; 'if not now, when'. There may be no answer to 'when' if the Rebels and Bengal Tigers fall short of the Playoffs.

The situation is different with Auburn. Hugh Freeze has no burden of Playoff expectations. But in year two, he must show the Tigers are progressing. Less than eight wins would not bode well for Hugh's future in Auburn. At seven wins for Auburn, it will be asked how long the Aubies will have faith in a guy recently ranked as the SEC's 10th-best coach.

  • Simonton's Pressure Check List: 1) Sam Pittman, 2) Billy Napier, 3) Kalen DeBoer, 4) Clark Lea, 5) Shane Beamer, 6) Brian Kelly, 7) Steve Sarkisian, 8) Lane Kiffin, 9) Kirby Smart, 10) Eli Drinkwitz, 11) Hugh Freeze, 12) Mark Stoops, 13) Josh Heupel, 14) Brent Venables, 15) Jeff Lebby, 16) Mike Elko

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