In spite of the dominance the SEC has displayed in the college football universe over the past several seasons, there is still plenty of transition taking place in the head coaching ranks. Guys just have not been able to make it happen at certain programs.
What fans seem to forget is that there are about five or six really good teams that could be elite in the conference, while the rest of them would fit in more appropriately in the Big Ten.
With the exception of possibly Auburn, the schools featuring new head coaches have not in any way contributed to the SEC's elite status. Looking at you, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Last summer, between those four teams, the discussion was focused on Bobby Petrino's indiscretions, Kentucky's inability to win an SEC game, Gene Chizik's failure at Auburn and Derek Dooley's ghastly orange pants.
Arkansas and Tennessee especially have no excuses, with their dedicated fan bases and rabid supporters, but their performances other than a single Sugar Bowl appearance by the Razorbacks has been underwhelming during the SEC's period of dominance.
The new head coaches entering the fracas in the conference, Butch Jones at Tennessee, Mark Stoops at Kentucky, Gus Malzahn at Auburn and Bret Bielema at Arkansas, all have their work cut out for them.
So how has their first offseason gone?
Fans of these four teams have much about which to get excited, as all four had solid offseasons with plenty of excellent recruiting, as well as the integration of new mindsets and systems at every school.
While Bielema had to deal with the departure of four players following spring practice including quarterback Brandon Mitchell, the man was able to have some success right off the bat on the recruiting trail, including the dramatic signing of running back Alex Collins.
But he's not the only one making a mark on the recruiting trail.
Stoops and his exploits have him being compared to John Calipari. The man has hauled in commitments from defensive back Darius West, quarterback Drew Barker, wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass and running back Mikel Horton. That's an impressive haul for Kentucky football.
On top of that, Stoops has more Rivals top 250 recruits than his brother Bob does at Oklahoma, and has made huge inroads into the neighboring state of Ohio. He's also injected life into the program, as evidenced by the 50,000-plus fans that showed up for the Wildcats' spring game. Stoops' recruiting has garnered Kentucky some nods as the top recruiting class in the nation:
Over at Auburn, success is going to be difficult to obtain in Malzahn's first year as head coach. The Tigers are low on talent in the cupboard compared to other SEC schools, and they face a brutal conference schedule.
But the arrival of Malzahn and the move to his spread style of offense will make waves immediately, as the players who were familiar with this style during his stint at AU as offensive coordinator will be able to step right in with an easy transition.
Malzahn also dealt with some significant off-field issues pertaining to Auburn's 2010 championship team, and did so with grace and apparent ease, while keeping his players focused on football. The Tigers, while not contenders for the SEC title in 2013, are certainly a strong bid to make some noise, and maybe pull off an upset or two, especially if Malzahn can hammer out the quarterback issues.
in Knoxville, Butch Jones is recruiting at a frenetic pace, and has Tennessee sitting at No. 3 in Rivals' 2014 recruiting rankings, just behind Stoops and Kentucky. Jones might have the most work ahead of him to get his team contending after Stoops, but he's well on his way.
Besides the recruiting class, the switch back to a 4-3 defense, as well as Jones' up-tempo style on offense will provide a much-needed boost, more in the next few seasons than 2013, but should show some positive results this season as well.
Overall, other than some limited attrition due to transfers, the four head coaches have made all the right moves in this offseason, even though those moves might not result in SEC championship-caliber play right away in 2013.
Given the short amount of leash coaches in the SEC have in regard to losing games, these four need to see positive results on the field as early as possible.
If they don't, all the recruiting exploits, positive media attention and system changes will mean nothing.
In a conference that demands excellence, the newbies are doing it right. To compete with Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M, they must keep it up into next offseason both on and off the field.
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