While offenses continue to evolve and become more of a focal point for programs around the country, the old adage that defense wins championships still rings true.
Fast, physical, punishing defenses have been a staple of the SEC during the conference’s decade of dominance, and that’s not changing anytime soon — and certainly not in 2016.
So as you preview the league in the final few weeks before the season finally kicks off, you’ll likely be looking to see what defenses will be loaded with talent this fall. However, it’s not all about the personnel when it comes to being an elite defense.
Scheme and fit play a huge role in the overall success of slowing down today’s dynamic offenses, and the defensive coordinators who excel in the SEC are those who evolve their philosophies to counter any wrinkles modern complex offenses throw their way. So what five defensive coordinators are best at putting their players in position to succeed? Let’s take a look.
5. Geoff Collins, Florida
While the roster was filled with defensive talent when Collins joined Jim McElwain’s staff at Florida in 2015, the job Collins did last season — as well as in his prior stint as the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State — has made him a hot commodity in the defensive coaching ranks.
With a lot of elite players returning in 2016, there’s no reason to think the Gators won’t be relying on Collins’ unit this fall.
4. Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama
When you learn the ins and outs of being a defensive coordinator by working under Nick Saban, you’re bound to have success.
That path has worked just fine for Pruitt, who turned an opportunity as a position coach at Alabama into a defensive coordinator job at Florida State and UGA. Now, Pruitt is back in Tuscaloosa, and he’s looking to fill the shoes Kirby Smart left behind as Saban’s right-hand man.
3. Dave Aranda, LSU
Although LSU is turning to its third defensive coordinator in as many years this fall, it could be the beginning of a new era with Aranda taking over the Tigers defense.
Aranda is relatively young, but he’s very respected after showcasing his skills as a defensive play caller at Wisconsin. Now he’ll have more talent than ever before to work with, and there are many people drooling over what Aranda could get done at LSU.
2. Mel Tucker, UGA
After losing some key pieces from last year’s team, it remains to be seen if UGA has the depth it needs to be among the SEC’s best defenses. However, the Bulldogs will be in good hands with defensive coordinator Tucker working alongside Smart.
Tucker brings a plethora of experience, which includes multiple stints under Saban and multiple stops as a coordinator in the NFL. So while there may be some ups and downs for UGA, Tucker likely will figure it out.
1. John Chavis, Texas A&M
If there was ever any doubt how respected John Chavis was among his coaching peers in the SEC, look no further than Kevin Sumlin’s pursuit of him two years ago and Les Miles’ effort to keep him in Baton Rouge.
Chavis has excelled throughout his long career as a coordinator in the SEC, and he’s on the cusp of turning Texas A&M into one of the toughest defenses in the country. With defensive end Myles Garrett leading the way in 2016, Chavis will prove once again why he’s the most-coveted defensive coach in the SEC.