by Pat Dooley
The SEC is the best football conference in America for a lot of reasons, but one of them is the passion of its fans. With passion comes heat and almost every coach in the league is feeling some sort of warmth.
At the end of SEC Media Days, I always rank the league’s coaches based on their presentations in Hoover. Today, I’m giving you them in the order of the heat they are feeling.
1. Derek Dooley — There is no question he needs to perform this year. A lot of people think Tennessee is going to be OK this year and Dooley will be fine. But the heat is on.
2. Joker Phillips — He was hand-picked by Rich Brooks to slide into the head coaching job but hasn’t done a whole lot. Kentucky is 11-14 under Phillips with only four SEC wins.
3. John L. Smith — He can do one of two things as a one-year coach at Arkansas. Win and get little credit or lose and get all the blame.
4. Will Muschamp — While I believe he has a longer leash than Ron Zook did, there is no question Florida fans want to see some improvement in Year Two.
5. Les Miles — He just played for the national title but that performance has left a lot of LSU fans scratching their heads.
6. Mark Richt — The heat is always on Richt it seems.
7. Gary Pinkel — The Missouri coach steps into a new league with a lot to prove,
8. Dan Mullen — Mississippi State won only two conference games last year. That’s not trending up.
9. Gene Chizik — His national title two years ago gives him a pass, but another year of mediocrity would not sit well.
10. Hugh Freeze — He’s in his first year and expectations aren’t very high.
11. Kevin Sumlin — Again, he’s a first-year coach who will be given some time.
12. Steve Spurrier — He has a chance to become South Carolina’s winningest coach this season.
13. James Franklin — I think Vandy is going to be pretty good this year but if they are not, well, how many people will notice?
14. Nick Saban — There’s always pressure on the Alabama coach but with two national titles in three years, I think he’s OK.