A good player makes a good coach, right?
ESPN ranked 129 college coaches, but not on their coaching pedigree. This list estimated which coaches were the best players. The SEC was well-represented.
ESPN determined that UGA’s first-year coach, Kirby Smart, was the best player among current SEC coaches. The former Alabama defensive coordinator led the way at No. 10 on ESPN’s list, which considered a coach’s entire playing career in high school, college and pro (where applicable). Smart played safety for the Bulldogs from 1995-98 and racked up 13 career interceptions. He also made the All-SEC team in 1998.
Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin was next at No. 25. Sumlin began his career as a walk-on linebacker at Purdue and ultimately started for four seasons.
A trio of SEC coaches rounded out the top 30. South Carolina’s new head coach Will Muschamp ranked 27th, followed by Arkansas’ Bret Bielema at No. 28 and LSU’s Les Miles at No. 30. Bielema, a defensive lineman at Iowa, was the only coach to make it to the NFL. He also played in the Arena Football League.
Alabama’s Nick Saban, a versatile defensive back for Kent State, came in at No. 43.
Kentucky’s Mark Stoops came in at No. 51. Stoops played safety at Iowa from 1985-88, recording two career interceptions.
Six other SEC coaches made the list: Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason (103), Florida’s Jim McElwain (111), Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen (112), Auburn’s Gus Malzahn (113) and Tennessee’s Butch Jones (115).
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was ranked the lowest among SEC coaches at No. 122. Freeze did not play football at the collegiate level.
Check out the rest of ESPN’s list here.