SEC: Chris Ash

The only head-coaching change in the SEC following this past season was at Vanderbilt, where Derek Mason took over for James Franklin.

That's down from four head-coaching changes the previous year. In fact, Mason will be the 38th different head coach to coach in a game for one of the current SEC schools since the start of the 2004 season.

Even in the volatile world of the SEC, that's a ton. But change is a part of this league's fabric. With 11 of the 14 head coaches making $3 million or more per year, there is no such thing as a five-year plan anymore. Some would argue there's not even a four-year plan.

[+] EnlargeRoper
Jeff Barlis/ESPNFlorida hopes new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will help improve its anemic offense in 2014.
Since the end of last season, we've also seen several changes in the assistant-coaching ranks in the SEC. The five coaching staffs that will return intact next season are Auburn, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee.

One assistant, Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, left for a head-coaching gig at Florida Atlantic. His former colleague with the Hogs, Chris Ash, left his post as co-defensive coordinator for the same job at Ohio State.

Georgia's entire defensive staff has a new look, triggered largely by Todd Grantham's move to Louisville as defensive coordinator. Former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt replaces Grantham along with three other new defensive assistants.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has his fourth different offensive coordinator since coming to Tuscaloosa in 2007. Lane Kiffin, who's no stranger to the SEC after his turbulent 14 months as Tennessee's head coach in 2009, will call the Tide's plays in 2014.

One of the most critical hires was at Florida, where offensive coordinator Kurt Roper comes over from Duke with the mission of resurrecting the Gators' offense.

Here's a rundown of the coaching changes (head coaches and position coaches only; number of new coaches in parentheses):


Who's in?

Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Bo Davis, defensive line

Who's out?

Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Chris Rumph, defensive line coach
Greg Brown, secondary

Other moves

  • Kevin Steele moves onto the field as inside linebackers coach and will serve as special assistant to the head coach. He was the Tide's player personnel director last season.
  • Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will coach the secondary after coaching linebackers last season.

Who’s in?

Robb Smith, defensive coordinator/secondary
Clay Jennings, secondary
Rory Segrest, defensive line/specialists

Who's out?

Chris Ash, defensive coordinator
Charlie Partridge, defensive line
Taver Johnson, secondary

Other moves

  • Randy Shannon was promoted to senior associate head coach.

Who’s in?

Kurt Roper, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Mike Summers, offensive line
Coleman Hutzler, special teams coordinator

Who’s out?

Brent Pease, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Tim Davis, offensive line
Jeff Choate, special teams/outside linebackers


Who’s in?

Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator/secondary
Tracy Rocker, defensive line/weak-side linebackers
Mike Ekeler, inside linebackers/special teams
Kevin Sherrer, strong-side linebackers/nickel backs

Who’s out?

Todd Grantham, defensive coordinator
Chris Wilson, defensive line
Kirk Olivadotti, inside linebackers
Scott Lakatos, secondary


Who’s in?

Craig Naivar, special teams/safeties

Who’s out?

Bradley Dale Peveto, special teams/safeties

LSU (2)

Who’s in?

Jeff Grimes, offensive line/running game coordinator
Bradley Dale Peveto, special teams coordinator

Who’s out?

Greg Studrawa, offensive line
Thomas McGaughey, special teams coordinator


Who’s in?

Brian Johnson, quarterbacks

Who’s out?

Les Koenning, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks


Who's in?

Terry Joseph, secondary

Who's out?

Marcel Yates, co-defensive coordinator/secondary

Other moves

  • Jake Spavital will call plays in 2014 as offensive coordinator. He was the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season.
  • Clarence McKinney moves back to running backs after calling the plays last season as offensive coordinator.

Who’s in?

Derek Mason, head coach
Karl Dorrell, offensive line/quarterbacks
David Kotulski, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Marc Lubick, receivers
Keven Lightner, offensive line
Gerry Gdowski, tight ends
Brett Maxie, secondary
Kenwick Thompson, outside linebackers
Frank Maile, defensive line

Who’s out?

James Franklin, head coach
John Donovan, offensive coordinator/running backs
Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator/safeties
Ricky Rahne, quarterbacks
Herb Hand, offensive line
Josh Gattis, receivers
Brent Pry, co-defensive coordinator/linebackers
Sean Spencer, defensive line
George Barlow, secondary

Arkansas hires Robb Smith as DC

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
Nearly a month after losing defensive coordinator Chris Ash to Ohio State, Arkansas found his replacement over the weekend in former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers coach Robb Smith. Smith will coach Arkansas' secondary.

Before his stint with the Bucs, Smith served as Rutgers' defensive coordinator in 2012, helping to run a unit that ranked 10th nationally in total defense (311.6 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (14.2). Rutgers also ranked sixth nationally in rush defense (95.2) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns allowed (six).Equipped with a top-notch defense, the Scarlet Knights claimed their first conference title since 1961.

“I’ve been able to watch Robb Smith grow in the profession, and I know he’ll bring in an attacking defensive philosophy that is built specifically to stop offenses in the SEC,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said in a statement through the school. “Robb has been promoted time and time again at every place he’s been. With his background, he captivates a room no matter where he is and players gravitate towards him. He’s demonstrated an understanding of what it takes to build a team into a championship program.”

The arrival of Smith should be a welcomed one in Fayetteville. Last season, the Razorbacks surrendered nearly 500 yards per game in SEC play and a league-high 6.9 yards per play. Arkansas allowed 30.8 points per game and gave up an SEC-high 37.9 points per game in conference play. Also in league play, the Razorbacks gave up 253.9 passing yards per game and allowed 19 passing touchdowns and 9.3 yards per pass attempt with just four interceptions.

For the last three years, the Razorbacks have ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in total defense and scoring defense. As Bielema looks to turn things around in Fayetteville, he knows he his defense has to improve. The Razorbacks' defense hasn't been consistently competitive for a while, and we all know you can't survive in the SEC without a defense.

This certainly won't be an overnight fix for Smith, who will begin his time at Arkansas without four senior starters, including defensive end Chris Smith, who led the team with 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. But his past success could help rejuvenate Arkansas' defense. Improvement has to come soon in Fayetteville, and a lot of that will fall on Smith's shoulders.

SEC lunchtime links

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
The NFL draft early entry deadline is today, and that leads our news roundup of what's happening around the SEC.

SEC lunchtime links

August, 28, 2013
We're just a day away until the first game of the college football season and a few days until the season begins en masse. Here's a look at some of the stories from around the SEC to keep you informed:

Next in line to be head coaches

June, 10, 2013
ESPN's Travis Haney has a list of coordinators in college football who are next in line to be head coaches.

Any guesses who's No. 1 on that list?

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is tied for the top spot along with Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

Smart has already had a few opportunities, but he's wisely been picky. He was a finalist for the Auburn head coaching job back in December and was also linked to the Arkansas opening. At some point, the right opportunity is going to come along.

Georgia would be the no-brainer for Smart when Mark Richt decides to step aside. Smart played at Georgia and still has strong ties to his alma mater.

For the time being, though, he's more than content in being a major part of Alabama's football machine and has his eyes set on winning a third straight national championship. Smart received a new three-year deal back in April making him the highest paid defensive coordinator in college football. He will earn $1.15 million in 2013 and $1.35 million in 2014 and 2015.

Other SEC coordinators on Haney's list were Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown.

A few others on Haney's list were recent assistants in the SEC -- Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Who are some other current SEC assistants that warrant mention as potential head coaches down the road?

Among the names that come to mind: South Carolina co-offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has released the Hogs' post-spring depth chart, and third-year sophomore Brandon Allen exits as the starter at quarterback.

One of the other things that jumps out about the Hogs' depth chart is that they have a chance to be pretty good up front defensively next season. Senior end Chris Smith and junior end Trey Flowers return after combining for 26 tackles for loss a year ago, including 15.5 sacks. In the middle of that defensive line, seniors Byran Jones and Robert Thomas return. Also in the two-deep up front, keep an eye on a pair of promising redshirt freshmen at end -- Deatrich Wise Jr. and JaMichael Winston. The same goes for redshirt freshman Darius Philon at tackle.

The biggest question mark on defense is at linebacker. As defensive coordinator Chris Ash pointed out, the three starters coming out of the spring -- strongside linebacker Braylon Mitchell, middle linebacker Daunte Carr and weakside linebacker Jarrett Lake -- haven't played a whole lot previously. So this is a new start for them. Sophomore linebacker A.J. Turner was hampered this spring by a broken wrist.

On offense, the top three receivers listed are all seniors -- Demetrius Wilson, Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon.

UW's Ash to join Bielema at Arkansas

December, 12, 2012
Bret Bielema is taking one of Wisconsin's top assistants with him to Arkansas.

Badgers defensive coordinator Chris Ash will join Bielema in the same role with the Razorbacks, Arkansas announced Tuesday night. Ash will remain with Wisconsin through the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO on Jan. 1 against Stanford.

"I am excited to welcome Chris to our staff," Bielema said in a prepared statement. "In the last three years working together, I gained a great respect for the way Chris teaches the game and develops student-athletes. I've followed his career for a long time, and his knowledge of the way we run our program and specifically the defense will be valuable for us moving forward in our transition. Chris helped us improve drastically in our pass defense at Wisconsin where his defenses consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally in all the major categories."

Ash did a terrific job in two seasons as the Badgers' defensive coordinator after taking over for Dave Doeren. Wisconsin's defense ranks in the top 25 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass-efficiency defense this season.

His departure isn't a huge surprise, as Wisconsin doesn't have a permanent head coach and Ash appeared likely to be in high demand. There was some talk he'd join Doeren at NC State, but he's off to Hog Country.