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Huge Hires for the SEC Old Guard

By Patrick Snow

It has already been quite the postseason in the SEC coaching ranks, and it’s only going to get more interesting. With the recent additions of Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino along with Houston Nutt and Les Miles staying in the conference, wins are going to be harder and harder to come by in the nation’s toughest gridiron league. Each coach is trying to “secure their borders” when it comes to recruiting as well as trying to create a system that will attract the best players and win games.

Along those lines, Tommy Tuberville added new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin who will bring the popular ‘spread’ offense to Auburn. Steve Spurrier made a solid hire in former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, but the Gamecocks haven’t struggled on defense. With an 11-13 SEC record in 3 seasons in Columbia, Spurrier has to be feeling the pressure to put more points on the board.

Perhaps the most crucial offseason hire(s) will be in Knoxville where Phil Fulmer, the dean of SEC bosses, will lose 4 offensive coaches. The Vols will see offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe depart for Duke after the Outback Bowl, and he is expected to take assistants Kurt Roper and Matt Luke with him. Additionally, Tennessee will lose receivers coach and top recruiter Trooper Taylor to Oklahoma State. The replacements that Fulmer hires will probably determine if the Vols can stay in the upper echelon of the SEC East where they have been for over a decade.

Fulmer’s squad has been up-and-down the last few seasons, and the Orange fans are clamoring for their first SEC title since 1998. When the Vols finished 5-6 in 2005 with an anemic offense, Cutcliffe returned to Knoxville and restored the struggling unit to prosperity. Now with his departure to the ACC, Tennessee must find a solid coach whose system will attract big-time recruits once again. It will be very interesting to see if Fulmer brings in “new ideas” (like Tuberville) to his offense, or if he sticks with coaches who have been in Knoxville previously. The fate of the Vols and Fulmer himself will rest with his impending hires.


* Do you know who the coach was the last time the Dallas Cowboys won a Playoff game? Barry Switzer. He led the ‘Boys to a Wildcard win over the Vikings on December 28, 1996 before they bowed out to the Panthers the following week. The 2007 #1 seeded Cowboys should break the more-than-a-decade long streak this January.

* Don’t look now, but the State of Tennessee may be the best in the country—in college basketball. Top15 squads Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee are a combined 32-1 heading into Saturday’s games, with the only blemish being the Vols’ neutral site loss to highly-ranked Texas. With either Belmont or East Tennessee favored to win the Atlantic Sun and Austin Peay a good shot to win the OVC, the month of March could be very exciting in the Volunteer state.

* And speaking of great starts in college basketball, kudos to Head Coach Andy Kennedy and the Ole Miss Rebels on their 12-0 record. Kennedy has pushed all the right buttons since arriving in Oxford last season. As Cincinnati sits at the bottom of the Big East at 4-7, their fans must wonder why they ever fired the hard-working bench boss.

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