Outside Vanderbilt, that is...
resignation vacation of Urban Meyer will obviously send ripples of all sorts down the line throughout the entire college football scene. One such ripple I've been pondering for a little bit is the effect of recruiting within the SEC East. Certainly there are dozens of schools coming up with strategies to try to lure away Florida's current recruits once the dead period ends, and Florida is certainly scrambling to find a way to keep those players when they just lost their defensive coordinator and they know that the offensive coordinator won't be the successor.
But Florida is not the only school with some uncertainty in the coaching staff. Beyond Urban's medical issues, there are hot seats and potential near-term retirements in the division that could really shake up the scene. It's not often you see as much as 2/3 of a division where you simply can't guarantee that the current head coaches will be in place this time next year, but that's exactly where the SEC East is at this point in time.
In fact, when you look at the divisional landscape, it suddenly seems like Tennessee's coaching staff is the best bet for continuity. Here's the rundown (minus Vandy, who insists on this whole 'academics' thing in the south).
We'll need a little bit of time to see exactly what's going on in Florida, but one thing is certain: there is very little reason to be confident in the current staff's staying power in Florida. The return of Meyer, at the very least, appears to be an attempt to retain the current recruiting class for Florida - whether for Meyer's future or his successor. But even if Meyer returns for this coming year, he is still dealing with stress-related health problems that simply will not go away while he is living the meatgrinder life of a head coach. With no replacement defensive coordinator and an offensive coordinator who is far from beloved by Florida's own fans, the coaching situation is the most tenuous one ever seen for a head coach who is clearly not on a hot seat.
It will be very interesting to see how this is spun toward the 2010 recruiting class and the early phases of the 2011 class as Florida is clearly in a damage recovery mode.
STATUS: EXTREMELY UNSTABLE
The Bulldogs have one of the most established head coaches in the country in Mark Richt. However, the SEC now gives no credence to seniority, as evidenced by the coaching changes in two of Georgia's biggest rivals last year (Fulmer at Tennessee and Tuberville at Auburn). Richt's seat is quite warm, and another underwhelming year could be enough for a major overhaul of the program. Richt obviously has to get something going on defense,
and will most likely replace Martinez during the offseason having already dismissed almost the entire defensive staff. (hey, it's the holidays. I forget things. -hooper) But if that doesn't pay dividends, then Richt will have no fallback plan. The 2010 season will mean everything for the coaching staff in Georgia. Unfortunately, this year's recruits will be nearly helpless to do anything about that, as it is unlikely that Georgia freshmen will contribute a whole lot this coming year. And if Georgia loses to a Florida team with a new head coach this year, watch out.
STATUS: HIGH RISK
Similar to Richt, but with a national championship to his name, Steve Spurrier is another revered name in the SEC who has made his lifetime mark. But Spurrier has often shown a proclivity to take some time off and golf while at South Carolina, and at some point in time, he will have to prove to the Gamecock faithful that he can take them above 4th in the East on a regular basis. Ever close, they never quite live up to the hope, despite healthy recruiting inroads and a well-funded machine. But quite simply, the Gamecocks need to know if the Spurrier regime is going to translate into a next-level program. Their in-state rival, Clemson, is enjoying the heightened interest that comes with a new head coach, as is in-division rival Tennessee.
STATUS: LIKELY CHANGE WITHIN THREE YEARS
Like South Carolina, the Kentucky Wildcats would love to shed the 'doormat' moniker in the SEC and become one of the top names. Rich Brooks has done a great job in stabilizing the program and giving it direction, but is currently leaning more toward leaving than staying. Like Florida, they will have a new leader at the helm, and Joker's success will depend more on his own skills than what Brooks leaves behind. You'd like to think that Kentucky won't shake up too badly through the transition, but it's still going to be an uphill battle to catch up to schools with better recruiting inroads and a greater commitment to football. They're a basketball school, and everybody knows it.
STATUS: EVEN WHEN BROOKS RETIRES - SAME AS IT EVER WAS
Bobby Johnson is definitely the most secure head coach in the East. Vanderbilt can't keep up with the rest of the SEC, and everybody knows it, but Johnson does a terrific job making things work as well as they possibly can. Coaching is not the concern at Vanderbilt; recruiting and academic standards are.
STATUS: STABLE, BUT UNABLE TO KEEP UP
Lane Kiffin is a brand new head coach for the team, and his first year has given Vols fans enough reason to believe that he'll be successful. His father is coordinating a defense that didn't lose a step after the departure of John Chavis, and Ed Orgeron is spearheading the most intense nationally-focused recruiting machine in the country. Every coach has impeccable credentials for both coaching and recruiting, and the replacements are going quite well so far. Right now, the Tennessee coaching staff appears to be going absolutely nowhere, and there is no reason to believe that they won't be successful in the near- and long-term futures.
STATUS: BEST BET IN THE EAST OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS