College football had some pretty unbelievable coaching surprises in 2015, especially in the SEC. Although there was lots of movement around the country, the new coaches in the SEC all came from inside the conference.
Some hires were smarter than others, according to USA Today’s Dan Wolken and his grading scale.
Mark Richt’s move from UGA to Miami received an A. It’s not an A-plus like the Justin Fuente hire at Virginia Tech, which couldn’t have been any more fitting considering the first-class game plan Fuente and Bud Foster have the potential to create together in the ACC. However, it’s still one of the best.
Missouri’s hire of Barry Odom received a B, and it’s about as safe as the school can get after a season that included a player strike to support anti-racism protests on campus, the starting quarterback getting suspended twice and Coach Gary Pinkel stepping down to focus on his health. He played at the university and served as the team’s defensive coordinator last season. In Pinkel’s absence, he’s the most perfect fit. Odom will be able to put the Tigers back on track with the help of Mizzou’s new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
Richt is going home to his alma mater; a place he knows very well. Miami won’t be down in the dumps for long because his coaching presence is exactly what Hurricanes fans and players have been longing for. Richt is good at what he does, and when it comes to recruiting, he knows how to bring in the top dogs.
He did it at UGA, and it won’t take him long to remind people why he shouldn’t have been fired in the first place. Richt is what Miami needs to turn the program around, and he’s all about “The U.”
It’s only fitting that UGA hired Kirby Smart after giving Richt the boot. The Bulldogs only managed to put up three points against Alabama’s defense this season, and Smart was the man running it. He’s also worked under one of the best in college football as Nick Saban’s assistant coach, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be successful.
The hire happened quickly after Richt was fired, so Wolken gave it a B-minus. Smart is a talented defensive coordinator, and he’ll be returning to his alma mater. It will be interesting to see if he can bring home the titles UGA’s football program has been yearning for.
South Carolina hiring Will Muschamp received a C from Wolken. After winning only three games this season and losing Steve Spurrier mid-season, the Gamecocks were desperate for a new head coach. Athletic director Ray Tanner had a head-start, but two potential coaches — Houston’s Tom Herman and Smart — fell through.
That’s how South Carolina ended up with Muschamp. It’s not the best hire, but Muschamp’s reputation in the SEC could be a lot worse after his performance at Florida. The second time could be the charm.