Posted by Jerry Hinnen
With all 28 positions now filled, here's one team-by-team assessment of where the SEC stands at the two most important assistant coaching positions. First, the West:
Thumbs up/down? Firmly up. Some of that is the hire of Nussmaier, who -- once freed from trying to turn Jake Locker into the efficient college QB he was never going to be -- coaxed Keith Price into becoming one of 2011's breakout stars and the Huskies to a 24th-place finish in yards-per-play. (It doesn't hurt that Nussmaier cut his coordinating teeth in the same Fresno State program McElwain did.) But even bigger was that the Tide retained the services of Smart for another year, despite his having overseen a 2011 'Bama defense that merely ranked among the best the game has ever seen.
2011: Garrick McGee offensive, Willy Robinson defensive.
Departures: McGee took the UAB head coaching position; Robinson resigned after four up-and-down years in Fayetteville.
2012: Paul Petrino returns to his brother's staff as OC after two seasons at Illinois; Paul Haynes arrives as DC after seven years at Ohio State.
Thumbs up/down? Up. It's hard to imagine a snugger fit for the offense than the same person who ran it for two successful seasons in 2008 and 2009. Haynes is unproven as a defensive play-caller -- Jim Heacock handled those duties for the Buckeyes -- but there's no arguing with the overall defensive success OSU experienced during Haynes' stay in Columbus. Anything approaching a Buckeye-esque D in 2012 will be a big improvement on the Robinson era.
2011: Gus Malzahn offensive, Ted Roof defensive.
Departures: Malzahn is now the head coach at Arkansas State; Roof avoided a potential dismissal by first taking the UCF DC's job, then rejoining old Duke colleague Bill O'Brien at Penn State.
2012: Temple OC and longtime Michigan/Florida QB coach Scot Loeffler will run the offense, Atlanta Falcons DC Brian VanGorder the defense.
Thumbs up/down? Up. VanGorder is a smash hire with a successful track record both in the NFL and the SEC, the sort of coach who should return the Tigers' defense to respectability in a hurry. Loeffler is a young, highly respected up-and-comer who's been due for an OC gig like Auburn's, but his pro-style leanings and early talk about "helping our defense and special teams" signals a wrenching shift in philosophy from Malzahn's no-huddle spread. Is he sharp enough to overcome what could be some serious transitional hiccups?
2011: Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa offensive, John Chavis defensive.
Thumbs up/down? Up. Despite the horrorshow put on by the Tigers in the BCS national title game, after a 13-0 regular season (and 17th-place finish in scoring offense) Les Miles is entirely justified in looking to tweak the LSU play-calling rather than overhaul it. And Chavis, of course, continues to quietly roll along as one of the college game's most productive assistants.
2011: David Lee offensive, Tyrone Nix defensive.
Departures: Both Lee and Nix, swept out along with Houston Nutt.
2012: Hugh Freeze brought Arkansas State DC Dave Wommack with him while hiring former Rebel OC Dan Werner out of college-coaching retirement.
Thumbs up/down? Tentatively down, which is not to say there aren't positives. Freeze will have a heavy hand in running the Rebel offense, so Werner's time away from the game won't hurt much, and the veteran is highly familiar with both the Mississippi recruiting trails and the Rebel program. Wommack, meanwhile, enjoyed an excellent 2011 season overseeing a resurgent Red Wolves defense. But both coaches' resumes are more solid than spectacular; for a head coach (and a program) with plenty of question marks of his (and its) own to answer, a legitimate needle-moving hire would have been helpful.
2011: Les Koenning offensive, Chris Wilson defensive.
Thumbs up/down? Tentatively up. Wilson's first season in charge of the Bulldog D (after a promotion from coaching the defensive line) was promising, with a rapidly-improving unit holding four of their final six FBS opponents under 4 yards per-play. But the Bulldog offense was a disappointment, finishing ninth in both total yards and yards per-play in conference games; though Dan Mullen's close oversight of the offense means Koenning can't be blamed for those struggles, you could argue a switch might have given the Bulldog O a spark this offseason ... even if we won't.
2011: Mike Sherman as his own OC, Tim DeRuyter defensive.
Departures: The fired Sherman, obviously. DeRuyter landed on his feet as the Fresno State head coach.
2012: Kevin Sumlin brought Houston co-OC Kliff Kingsbury with him as play-caller and hired Mark Snyder away from USF as DC.
Thumbs-up/down? Up. Though the Sumlin/Kingsbury tag team may miss Jason Phillips (the Cougars' other co-OC, now at SMU), it's hard to argue with Sumlin over any plan for his offense, given what he (with Kingsbury's help) accomplished at Houston. Snyder, meanwhile, bolstered an often-sloppy USF defense into the FBS top 15 in yards-per-play each of his two years in Tampa and brings head coaching experience from his time at Marshall. Barring hiring someone like VanGorder for the defense, it's hard to see how Sumlin could have done much better for the kind of program he wants to build -- in either slot -- than he did.
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