Three weeks into the season, position groups are proving to be either strengths or weaknesses for several SEC teams. While the ultimate blame and/or praise flows upstream to the head coach, these guys deserve recognition or a classic Nick Saban a— chewing for their performances last Saturday.
1. Brent Key, Alabama offensive line coach
The Crimson Tide’s 48-43 win over Ole Miss was the first Alabama game in 39 years where the team had two 100 rushers in a game and one was a quarterback. Jalen Hurts ran for 146 yards and Damien Harris ran for 144 behind their dominant offensive line. The team finished with 334 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Key coaches the team’s guards and centers, Mario Cristobal handles tackles and tight ends. But after see this demolition of left tackle Cam Robinson, Key gets the accolades this week.
2. Geoff Collins, Florida defensive coordinator
In a 32-0 win over North Texas, the Gators allowed a school-record 53 yards of total offense, besting their previous mark of 59 set in 2006. The Mean Green had just 66 yards through the air and an embarrassing -13 yards rushing after QB Mason Fine was sacked seven times. Collins’ defense has allowed just 14 points through the first three games, which matches the program’s mark from 1966 when they beat Northwestern, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt to open the season.
3. Rory Segrest, Arkansas defensive line coach
The Razorbacks’ line absolutely manhandled Texas State in a 42-3 win Saturday. Twelve different defensive lineman registered at least one tackle led by Jeremiah Ledbetter, who had four tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Bobcats ran for just 22 yards on 26 carries as Arkansas moved to 22nd in the nation in rushing defense (98.7 yards per game). Kudos to Segrest for building a deep, effective unit.
4. Travaris Robinson, South Carolina defensive coordinator/defensive backs
East Carolina, which averaged 42.5 points in its first two games, piled up 519 yards of total offense Saturday, but South Carolina held the Pirates to just 15 points in a 20-15 win. The Gamecocks forced four turnovers, three of which happened inside of their own 10-yard line. Robinson’s defense let ECU QB Philip Nelson move the ball and earn 34 first downs, but none of the mattered as the Gamecocks didn’t let the yards result in many points.
1. Chris Kiffin, Ole Miss defensive line coach
Someone has to take the fall for the Rebels blowing a big lead and losing to Alabama. And aside from a strip-sack fumble (that should have been target), the defensive line was dominated by an Alabama team that rushed for 334 yards and controlled the clock for 35 minutes. Therefore, Kiffin is the scapegoat. The poor performance dropped Ole Miss to 115th in the nation in rushing defense allowing 242.7 yards per game.
2. Butch Jones, Tennessee head coach
The Volunteers have yet to lose a game, but fans have yet to leave the stadium comfortable with a Tennessee performance. In a 28-19 win over three-touchdown underdog Ohio, Tennessee fumbled the ball five times (recovered them all) and committed nine penalties for 94 yards. Jones still hasn’t found a way to get the most of a talented roster. And if fumbling and discipline issues start to accompany a lackluster offense, hopes of an SEC East title will quickly vanish.
3. Shane Beamer, Georgia special teams coordinator
To be fair to Beamer, it’s hard to blame him for the struggles in the kicking game because Kirby Smart refuses to give scholarships to kickers. However, you play the cards you’re dealt and freshman William Ham missed two field goals that could have prevented the Bulldogs from stressful 28-27 win over Missouri. In other struggles, kickoff specialist Rodrigo Blankenship failed to get a kick to reach the end zone and Kirby Choates committed one of the ugliest targeting penalties you’ll ever see on punt return coverage.
4. Barry Odom, Missouri head coach
Like Jones at Tennessee, Odom as the head coach needs to bear the brunt of the criticism for the Tigers loss to Georgia. With a 27-21 lead in the fourth quarter, Odom and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel went to the ground game with 14 straight run plays, but still snapped the ball with plenty of time left on the play clock. It’s understandable if a coach wants to stay with an uptempo approach that got his team the lead, but late in this game the Tigers would have been better suited to milk the clock and possibly avoid a late game-winning drive to come into the equation for Georgia.
SEC Coach of the Year favorite: Nick Saban, Alabama
Some would argue Saban’s only SEC hurdle was Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze. Consider it done. With a rally to beat the Rebels and cementing the Tide’s spot as the top team in the country, Saban has only tightened his grip on this yearly honor