SEC Roundtable: What are the Biggest Coaching Changes Facing LSU Football and Other SEC Programs?
Every year in the SEC, coaching changes are inevitable, particularly as the bottom of the conference strives to catch up with what Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida consistently do each season.
With programs like Mississippi State and Ole Miss bringing in exuberant head coaches like Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin, the SEC West in particular has the chance to be quite the treat in 2020 and beyond. Here are some of the biggest coaching changes around the conference.
Alabama: The big news regarding Alabama’s coaching changes was that there were nearly none this offseason. The lone hiring was of Freddie Roach to take over the defensive line and be more active in recruiting. Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide did make big-offseason move with the addition of David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea from Indiana. Ballou is the new Director of Sports Performance, while Rhea is the Director of Performance Sciences. Alabama, which has had a lot of critical injuries over the last few years, especially at linebacker, was looking to get into performance analytics anyway with its new sports sciences center, when popular strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran left to be the special-teams coach at Georgia. Saban said that during the interview process "there was no question that from a sports science standpoint and from a conditioning standpoint they were light-years in advance of what a lot of people have done in their programs for a long, long time, which we’ve done the same thing for a long, long time, too." The players are just getting starting with them and are already raving about the two. Last week a number of Alabama football players, and Nick Saban, participated in a powerful video concerning racial injustice. Starting left tackle Alex Leatherwood wrote the script, which concluded with: "Let's listen, let's unite, because all lives can't matter until black lives matter." — Christopher Walsh, BamaCentral
LSU: There are a couple of big changes with LSU’s coaching staff in 2020, the biggest of which is Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator and Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator. Pelini replaces Dave Aranda, who’s off to Baylor and with his arrival, the Tigers are implementing the 4-3, something Ed Orgeron has wanted to do since getting the job in 2017. The defensive line is among the deepest on the roster and will be important for consistent success this season. Linehan replaces Joe Brady, who of course was one of the orchestrators of that historic offense. Luckily for LSU, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger is still around and now has a full year of the spread under his belt. Linehan will be important for player development as he’s coached some of the great receivers in the game including Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant. — Glen West, LSU Country
Ole Miss: Everyone knows Lane Kiffin is back in the SEC, but a name you need to know is Jeff Lebby. His father-in-law is Art Briles. Lebby, after serving the past two seasons at UCF, is the Rebels' new offensive coordinator. At just 36-years-old, he brings to Ole Miss a high-flying offense, yet one that almost wants to run the ball more than it wants to pass. In only one year as the UCF offensive coordinator, Lebby's offense ranked No. 5 nationally in total offense despite starting a true freshman quarterback. The defensive side is where it gets weird – Ole Miss actually has two defensive coordinators: Chris Partridge and D.J. Durkin. In five years at Michigan, before which he was coaching at high schools, Partridge rose from Director of Player Personnel to the point in which he was hired away by Ole Miss to be a co-coordinator. He specializes in defensive backs. Durkin, the other member of the co-defensive-coordinator pairing, is the name that you probably knew but forgot. His last coaching job was at Maryland in 2018. Durkin's firing made national storylines, as a former player – Jordan McNair – tragically passed away of heat stroke during a summer practice. Check out The Week That got the State Flag Changed – Nate Gabler, The Grove Report
Mississippi State: Head coach Mike Leach is getting set for his first season overseeing the Bulldogs, replacing Joe Moorhead, and brought with him an offensive style unlike anything the Bullodgs have ever seen. Throughout its history, MSU has almost always had run-first offenses. Now comes Leach and his air raid, a scheme that will throw the football somewhere around 75 percent of the time. Keep in mind the Bulldogs haven’t even had a 500-yard receiver since 2016. Leach, meanwhile, had seven of them last year alone at Washington State. For more on just how much Leach’s way is going to flip the offensive script in Starkville, check out maybe the most telling stats for how MSU football is about to turn upside down.
Also, Mississippi State star running back Kylin Hill delivered the biggest carry he’ll ever have as he helped push Mississippi to change its controversial state flag. – Joel Coleman, Cowbell Corner
South Carolina: Head coach Will Muschamp was finalizing his coaching staff up until about a week before the Gamecocks started spring practice and just three coaches from last season remain. He added former UGA play caller Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator, Joe Cox as tight ends coach, Kyle Krantz as special teams coordinator. Tracy Rocker as defensive line coach, Rod Wilson as linebacker coach, and Bobby Bentley as running backs coach. Connor Shaw, the winningest QB in Gamecock history was also hired as director of player development, replacing former Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks were able to get a few practices in before the shutdown allowing the coaches to familiarize themselves with the players and get settled into their new city. They all have ties to Muschamp in some form or fashion which made the transition smoother in spite of the circumstances. - Chaunte'l Powell, Gamecock Digest. @chauntelpowell