Everybody knows that the only people who gossip more than reporters are assistant football coaches.
That said, it’s that time of year again when assistants’ names are being bandied about in connection with different job openings at the same rate that credit cards are being swiped at shopping malls.
Come to think of it, I haven’t seen mine in a while. Could be bad news when the next statement arrives.
Anyway, in keeping with the spirit, here are some things to watch for in the SEC, guys who may be on the move this year and guys who will be on the move at some point because of the quality of their work:
Georgia coach Mark Richt faces a critical hire at defensive coordinator. It appears that he’s not going to do anything until after the bowl game. The Bulldogs will make a big play for Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who won the Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant this season and is a Georgia graduate. But getting Smart away from Alabama may prove difficult. He's already making $360,000 and has a pretty sweet thing going right now at the Capstone.
Speaking of Alabama, assistant head coach and linebackers coach Sal Sunseri is one of the leading candidates to join Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Florida State as defensive coordinator.
It looks like Urban Meyer’s top choice to replace Charlie Strong as defensive coordinator is Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who’s already met with Meyer about the job. Nix has done an excellent job with the Rebels’ defense the past two seasons and could also be in the mix at Georgia.
Strong has said he doesn’t plan to take anybody with him to Louisville from the Florida staff at this point, but that could change. And if it does, look for cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford to be at the head of the list.
Tennessee has already lost two assistants. Eddie Gran went to Florida State and Frank Wilson to LSU. Linebackers coach Lance Thompson is also a guy to keep an eye on, especially if he can get a coordinator job. There’s a chance offensive coordinator Jim Chaney may end up back in the NFL.
Georgia assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach Rodney Garner interviewed for a position on Lane Kiffin’s staff a year ago at Tennessee. Garner is one of the best recruiters in the SEC, and if he’s not going to be a candidate for the defensive coordinator’s job after spending nine years on Richt’s staff, he may look to go elsewhere after the bowl game.
Vanderbilt defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jamie Bryant will be on a lot of short lists. He had other offers last year, but chose to stay at Vanderbilt. The Commodores’ secondary has been outstanding each of the past two seasons. They were ninth nationally in passing defense this season.
Another SEC assistant who’s going to start receiving increasing interest is South Carolina recruiting coordinator/special teams and safeties coach Shane Beamer. He’s had recent talks with Murray State about the Racers’ head coaching job. One of the top recruiters in the league, Beamer has experience coaching running backs, cornerbacks, safeties and special teams.
With Dan Mullen, Larry Porter, Dave Clawson and Strong all landing head coaching jobs the past two years, who will be the next SEC assistant to get a head gig? Ellis Johnson, South Carolina’s assistant head coach for the defense, may get a look. When you look at what he’s done with the Gamecocks’ defense, he deserves a shot. Watch out for Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, too. The improvement the Tigers made offensively this season speaks for itself. Does somebody give Tennessee’s Ed Orgeron another chance? Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino was in the running for the Western Kentucky head job earlier this season. Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown are also names to keep in mind. But the guy at the top of the list is Smart. He’s the SEC’s hottest commodity right now when it comes to assistant coaches and has that Nick Saban pedigree that will be very attractive to athletic directors.