No conference in the country pays assistant coaches better than the SEC, and defensive coordinators are paid the best at nearly all of the 14 schools.
Defensive coordinators made more than their offensive counterpart at 13 of the 14 SEC schools in 2015, according to a USA Today database. Nine defensive coordinators (plus Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, who served as his own DC) made at least $700,000 last season, while only two offensive coordinators made that amount.
There has been a ton of turnover for SEC defenses this offseason. Three SEC defensive coordinators from 2015 are now SEC head coaches for 2016, and a total of eight programs will have new leaders on defense next season.
So after all of the shuffling, who are the best defensive coordinators in the SEC? There are some new faces and some familiar faces in different places, so 2016 could be a fascinating campaign. The conference has built its reputation on dominant defense, so expectations will be high for everyone.
1. John Chavis, Texas A&M
Chavis did not engineer one of the nation’s elite defenses in 2015. He did help the Aggies become respectable, which was a huge improvement from 2014. Texas A&M improved from dead last to eighth in the SEC in total defense, and from 11th to seventh in scoring defense.
He also has an incomparable resume among current defensive coordinators in the SEC. Chavis consistently built elite defenses at LSU. He won a national title while at Tennessee. Now that Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart are head coaches, Chavis is the only defensive coordinator of the 14 currently in the SEC with that on his resume.
2. Bob Shoop, Tennessee
Shoop was considered one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation while at Penn State, helping a sanctions-saddled program remain competitive despite often terrible offensive production. SEC fans should remember his work at Vanderbilt from 2011-13 as well, and fear what he could accomplish at Tennessee with more talent.
3. Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama
Pruitt has only been a college defensive coordinator for three seasons, but the results have been pretty great. Florida State led the nation in scoring and finished third in total defense during his lone year in charge in 2013. Pruitt’s defense at UGA in 2015 finished in the top 10 in the nation in both scoring and total defense.
He’s had great talent to work with, sure, but that’s not going to change in 2016 at his new gig. The Crimson Tide should again be among the nation’s best on this side of the ball.
4. Dave Aranda, LSU
This is another aggressive ranking, especially considering Aranda has no SEC experience. That said, he was considered one of the top young assistant coaches in the nation in 2015. Aranda’s Wisconsin defense finished second in the country in total defense (Alabama was third) after top-10 finishes in both of his first two seasons in Madison, Wisc. Aranda even helped Utah State become a top-15 defense nationally in his one season in charge, despite the Aggies’ spread offense.
5. Geoff Collins, Florida
There’s a pretty good argument for Mason here, considering his work at Stanford and then helping Vanderbilt become an above-average SEC defense in 2015. But Collins gets the nod, after a great first season with the Gators and a fantastic 2014 with Mississippi State (before he left for the Florida job and the Bulldogs got torched in the bowl game). The Gators were among the best in the SEC both along the line and in the secondary last season.