McGee: Goals for second-year coaches

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
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There was a lot of coaching movement in the SEC last year, but the league entered the 2011 season with just two new head coaches in Florida's Will Muschamp and Vanderbilt's James Franklin.

Both won six games during the regular season, while Muschamp's Gators won their bowl game. Franklin's 6-7 debut was considered far more successful than Muschamp's 7-6 year because of both programs' history and the talent difference.

What's in store for both coaches in 2012? Well, ESPN colleague Ryan McGee took a look at 10 second-year coaches and both Franklin and Muschamp made his list. McGee graded their debuts, looked at needs for 2012 and gave a little analysis. Take a look:

FRANKLIN
Record: 6-7
Grade: B
2012 needs: Offensive traction, kicking game

Franklin attacked his first two national signing days with such vigor he became a Vandy YouTube sensation. He also went after his SEC rivals, including Tennessee, and his players on the sidelines.

Keep in mind, this is Vanderbilt. The Commodores aren't used to that kind of intensity, just as they aren't used to going to bowl games, which the Commodores did for just the second time since 1982 and the fifth time ever.

The biggest immediate needs are offensive consistency and kicking it between the uprights. Solving the first problem comes down to two fixes: A) Getting quarterback Jordan Rodgers (Aaron's little brother) to be more patient and complete more passes, and B) Finding help for senior tailback Zac Stacy, who ran for 1,193 yards one year ago but was visibly gassed late in games.
MUSCHAMP
Record: 7-6
Grade: D
2012 needs: Offensive leadership, turnovers

Here's the thing about screaming and yelling and slobbering all over everyone on your sideline, especially the refs. It's kind of like Crash Davis' explanation of fungus on one's shower shoes. If you win, people think such rants are just part of your colorful personality. If you fail to beat an FBS team with a winning record and spend all season flirting with your school's first losing season since 1979, however, it comes off as a little thin.

There's no doubt that injuries on offense hurt, but it's not as if the Gators' roster was suddenly barren of athletes. Muschamp, heralded as a defensive guru, watched his D give up 133 rushing yards per game, ranked 40th nationally.

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has departed for Kansas. That might not be a bad thing. Neither is the number of seniors who have departed -- only 11. But a roster packed with youth needs to buy into what the coach is selling. If they don't soon, The Swamp will get ugly in a hurry.
My thoughts:
  • What Franklin did in 2011 was very impressive, but it wasn't good enough for him. He wasn't happy with the close losses or the bowl loss. He wasn't happy with the losing record. He has made that perfectly clear this spring and is looking for Vandy to take the next step right now. There are some veteran leaders that aren't around anymore, but Franklin recently said that he's found a few players on both sides of the ball who stepped up more as leaders this spring. The expectations are going to be higher and teams won't overlook the Commodores this fall.
  • Making sure Stacy has a solid, consistent running partner will be key for Vandy's offense. I think you'll see Warren Norman take that role. Remember, he was once Vandy's top running back until he was injured. The coaches feel he'll be 100 percent this fall and if he plays like he did as a freshman, he'll add another talented offensive weapon for the Commodores.
  • Franklin has a lot of support from Vandy's program and community. A dip in Year 2 won't totally hurt him, but if he wants to keep the momentum going, making another bowl is the goal. He's recruited well, but prospects want to continue to see progress. A sub-par season might turn recruits off.
  • Muschamp got sort of a mulligan in-house when Urban Meyer told bigwigs at Florida that he left the Gators' new coach a "broken" program. But that won't help him in Year 2. Spring went much better for the coaching staff and players, as more guys bought in. That might be more important than players improving on technique at this point in Gainesville. The Gators had major discipline issues when Muschamp first arrived and it took some time for those issues to be squashed.
  • Florida has to find out who is going to be the guy at quarterback, but what might be more important is how the offensive line performs and how downhill the running game can be. Florida's line was below average for most of last season, making it tough for anything to happen on offense. Though it was just 15 practices, Florida's line looked better, Muschamp said, because guys were more mature and tougher.
  • Muschamp says he's happier with this team and sees a ton of improvement. However, no 2011 mulligan will help another losing record in conference play.

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