SEC: Larry Porter
Who’s out: Associate head coach/linebackers coach James Willis
Who’s in: Alabama coach Nick Saban promoted Jeremy Pruitt from director of player development to fill the vacancy left by Willis, who went to Texas Tech to be Tommy Tuberville’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt had been Alabama’s director of player development for the last three seasons and coached at Hoover High School just outside Birmingham prior to that.
Who’s out: Offensive coordinator/receivers coach Paul Petrino, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Mike Summers and defensive ends coach Kirk Botkin.
Who’s in: Garrick McGee was promoted to offensive coordinator after Paul Petrino left to take the Illinois offensive coordinator’s job. Kris Cinkovich will coach receivers after spending the last six seasons coaching receivers at UNLV. Steve Caldwell, who was out of coaching last season, will coach ends. Caldwell was on Phillip Fulmer’s staff at Tennessee for 14 seasons. Chris Klenakis will coach offensive line after coming over from Nevada.
Who’s out: Assistant head coach/running backs coach Larry Porter, receivers coach D.J. McCarthy and tight ends/recruiting coordinator Don Yanowsky.
Who’s in: Frank Wilson, who was at Tennessee last season, will coach the running backs and serve as recruiting coordinator. Billy Gonzales will coach receivers and serve as the passing game coordinator. Gonzales spent the last five seasons at Florida. Steve Ensminger, a former quarterback at LSU, will coach tight ends. He spent last season coaching high school football, but was at Auburn the six seasons prior to that and has also coached at Georgia, Clemson and Texas A&M.
Who’s out: Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush and defensive line coach David Turner.
Who’s in: Manny Diaz will be the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and also coach linebackers. He was the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State the previous four seasons. Chris Wilson will serve as co-defensive coordinator and coach the defensive line. He spent the last five seasons coaching the defensive line at Oklahoma.
Who’s out: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kent Austin.
Who’s in: Dave Rader will coach quarterbacks and take over as co-offensive coordinator for Austin, who left to take the head-coaching job at Cornell. Rader was out of coaching the last three seasons, but was the offensive coordinator at Alabama under Mike Shula from 2003 to 2006. He was also the head coach at Tulsa from 1988 to 1999. Rader will share the coordinator duties with Mike Markuson, who was promoted by Houston Nutt and will also continue to coach the offensive line.
- Florida fans aren't exactly gobbling up Allstate Sugar Bowl tickets. The Gators still have about 5,000 of their allotment remaining, and the game's only two weeks away.
- Defensive back Ryan White of Tallahassee, Fla., says he will sign with Auburn in February. He's the Tigers' 23rd commitment.
- South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is more focused for this year's bowl game, writes Joe Person of The State newspaper.
- The numbers add up for Auburn receiver Darvin Adams, writes Charles Goldberg of The Birmingham News.
- Billy Gonzales and Frank Wilson are cleared to coach for LSU, and Larry Porter will not be coaching in the bowl game.
- Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin dismisses junior defensive back Brent Vinson from the team.
- Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes a look at how Georgia's 10 graduating seniors rate as recruits.
- Ole Miss signs safety Damien Jackson from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, reports David Brandt of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
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.
The probe also involves an unnamed player on LSU's team that didn't play this season.
LSU already has one opening on its staff with assistant head coach/running backs coach Larry Porter taking the Memphis head coaching job. Depending on what happens with this investigation, McCarthy's future at LSU could also be in question.
The Tigers lost their best recruiter in Porter, and McCarthy is also considered one of the top recruiters in the SEC.
The timing’s not too bad, though. Both teams can use a breather with the SEC championship game just around the corner.
The marquee game this week features LSU traveling to Ole Miss. The winner can lay claim to being the SEC’s third best team and will also move to the head of the list for a Capital One Bowl invite.
Here’s a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 12:
1. An updated roster at Alabama: It’s not a matter of whether the starters will finish the game against Chattanooga, but whether they finish the first half. Especially those players who have been fighting off nagging injuries, look for them to play just enough to stay game ready. There’s no need to push it in a game like this. Plus, it’s a perfect opportunity to get some younger players into the game that you’re going to need down the road. The fourth quarter might resemble the final quarter of the A-Day Game in terms of all the unfamiliar jersey numbers on the field.
2. An updated roster at Florida: Remember all the buzz about possibly seeing John Brantley against LSU when Tim Tebow was coming off his concussion? Well, Florida fans ought to get a heavy dose of Brantley against Florida International this weekend. Tebow has already taken a ton of hits this season, and there’s no way the Gators are going to take any chances with him. He’ll probably be done by halftime. It’s also a chance to get some of those younger receivers into the game and maybe rest some of the veteran defensive players who’ve been slowed by injuries.
3. Going bowling: Tennessee can become bowl eligible by winning this weekend, and Arkansas can improve its standing in the SEC’s bowl pecking order by winning. The Hogs face Mississippi State in Little Rock, while the Vols take on Vanderbilt in Knoxville. Mississippi State, meanwhile, is eliminated from bowl contention unless the Bulldogs can win over the Hogs at War Memorial Stadium. Mississippi State would then have to win on the final weekend of the regular season over Ole Miss to become bowl eligible. Currently, nine teams in the SEC are already bowl eligible. Vanderbilt is the only team that’s been eliminated.
4. Magnificent McCluster: Already one of the most exciting players in the country, 5-foot-8, 170-pound Dexter McCluster has been one of the hottest players in the country the past few weeks. He has 591 rushing yards in his last three SEC games to go along with six touchdowns. He’s coming off a school-record 282-yard performance against Tennessee where he scored four times, including a 71-yard run that will be a fixture in Ole Miss highlight packages for a long time to come. Even though he carried it 25 times last week, McCluster ought to be plenty fresh for LSU and the rest of the season. He had double-digit carries only once in his first six games.
5. Porter’s days dwindling at LSU? He’s been one of the key pieces to LSU’s coaching staff under Les Miles, but Larry Porter is now one of the leading candidates for the head coaching job at Memphis. A former running back at Memphis, Porter is widely viewed as one of the top recruiters in college football. His handprints were all over the class the Tigers brought in last year that was ranked No. 1 nationally by ESPN’s Scouts Inc. Porter coaches the running backs at LSU and also has the title of assistant head coach. It may be just a matter of time before he’s heading up his own program at his alma mater.
6. Big test for Jones: Tennessee was missing its starting free safety last week, and you see what McCluster did to the Vols. LSU free safety Chad Jones is now the guy responsible for making sure that McCluster doesn’t poster-ize the Tigers, too. Jones won’t be the only one trying to slow down the red-hot McCluster. He’ll have some help from his LSU defensive mates, who’ve been stingy against the run all season. LSU has allowed just three rushing touchdowns, which is tied for the SEC low with Florida, but McCluster poses the kind of big-play threat that can make any defense look silly.
7. Dixon vs. Mallett: It’s the classic run vs. pass matchup. Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon is second in the SEC in rushing and averages 120.2 yards per game. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett leads the SEC in passing with an average of 288.2 yards per game. Dixon may end up being the Bulldogs’ best defense against Mallett, who’s already set or matched 10 different school records this season. If Dixon can pound away at the Arkansas defense and help Mississippi State play keep-away, Mallett won’t get as many chances. Dixon has been a workhorse for the Bulldogs, carrying the ball 204 times. The only person to carry it more in the SEC this season is Auburn’s Ben Tate, who has 205 carries.
8. Berry bids adieu: He’s not officially saying this will be his Neyland Stadium farewell, but you know it will be. Tennessee junior safety Eric Berry is projected to be one of the top handful of picks in April’s NFL draft, meaning the chances of him hanging around for his senior season are remote at best. Berry has been a wonderful player for the Vols. He’s been an even better representative of the university and has gone out of his way to do everything with class. He insists that he’s not thinking of this as his final home game and instead just wants to soak everything up and enjoy the moment. Either way, he’ll go down as one of the finest to ever wear the orange.
9. Georgia leaning on the run: With star receiver A.J. Green out with a shoulder injury, the running game becomes more important than ever for the Bulldogs this weekend against Kentucky. The good news is that they’ve been running it better these last few games and have seemed to find the right combination up front. Georgia coach Mark Richt said one of the keys was moving sophomore Cordy Glenn back inside to guard from tackle, and freshman running back Washaun Ealey has also added some pop to the Bulldogs’ running game. They’ve averaged 191.7 yards on the ground in their last four games.
10. Cobb-Locke duo carrying Wildcats: Kentucky is holding its breath that Mr. Versatility, Randall Cobb, will recover from his shoulder injury well enough to be able to play Saturday against Georgia. He’s been the heartbeat of this team all season along with junior tailback Derrick Locke. They rank No. 3 and No. 4 in the SEC in all-purpose yards. Cobb is averaging 148.1 yards per game and Locke 146.1 yards per game. When healthy, they pose an ominous challenge for any defense, and both players are also extremely involved in special teams. Between them, they’ve scored 18 touchdowns this season.
And this year, several SEC assistants could end up being in play.
Already, Tennessee running backs coach and special teams coordinator Eddie Gran has talked to Memphis about its head coaching opening. Gran interviewed this past weekend following the Vols' game against Ole Miss.
LSU assistant head coach and running backs coach Larry Porter is also a possibility at Memphis, while Auburn assistant head coach and receivers coach Trooper Taylor is somebody else who's been mentioned in connection with the Memphis job.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is another guy who's going to get some interest, and maybe this is the year that Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong finally gets his long overdue shot.
Another name to keep in mind is Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown, who interviewed for the Mississippi State head job last year.
It’s that time of week again we all look forward to. Who’s hot and who’s not in the SEC?:
Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton: He’s gone from getting death threats a year ago to leading the SEC with 21 touchdown passes this season. Crompton has been a different player for the Vols. He’s playing with confidence and precision, and the players around him are playing a lot better, too. He threw five touchdown passes last week in the 56-28 win over Memphis and set a school record for most passing yards in a half with 305 of his 331 yards in the first half. Not even Peyton Manning threw for that many yards in one half when he was at Tennessee. Crompton has thrown 12 touchdown passes and just two interceptions in his last four games and is playing the kind of football everybody in Knoxville envisioned when he came out of Waynesville, N.C., five years ago as one of the most highly rated prep quarterbacks in the country.
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: Another SEC quarterback who’s red-hot right now, Mallett was 23-of-27 for 329 yards last week in the 33-16 win over South Carolina. He’s gone 121 pass attempts without an interception.
Vanderbilt’s offense: Mackenzi Adams is now running the show at quarterback with Larry Smith out injured, but it didn’t make much difference against Florida. The Commodores haven’t scored more than 10 points in an SEC game all season.
Alabama coach Nick Saban: He’s not only hot about all the grumbling going on about the officiating. He sounds downright steamed and says it’s about time somebody stood up for the officials in this league.
South Carolina’s running game: The Gamecocks are last in the league in rushing offense, averaging 121.6 yards per game. They’ve been held to 65 yards or less in three of their last four games and don’t scare anybody running the football.
SEC assistants: Get ready to hear a few names of SEC assistants popping up as possibilities as head coaching jobs come open. LSU’s Larry Porter may be in play at Memphis and Kentucky’s Steve Brown at Western Kentucky. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn will also be a commodity, and maybe this is the year that Florida’s Charlie Strong finally gets his shot.
Title game drama: Just like last year, there won’t be much drama down the stretch about who’s going to play for the SEC championship. Alabama and Florida have already locked up their trips to Atlanta. Can they lock up more?
Auburn receiver Darvin Adams: He leads the SEC with nine touchdown catches, including four in his last two games. Adams has 10 catches for 183 yards the last two weeks and is making a strong push for first-team All-SEC honors at receiver.
Instant replay: Remember when everybody was all giddy about instant replay being added in college football and how it was supposed to eliminate all the controversy? Ask Dan Mullen and Les Miles how they feel about that.
Ice, Ice Baby
SEC love: If you haven’t noticed, they’re not real fond of the SEC in other parts of the country. The growing sentiment is that there are two legitimate powerhouses in the league and that everybody else is overrated. And if you look at this week’s BCS standings, there are more Big East teams in the Top 25 than SEC teams. Now you can spin that any way you want depending on which side of the fence you sit. But the bottom line is that the SEC’s in prime position to play for its fourth straight BCS national championship and its fifth in the last seven years. You think the outcry (or jealousy) is at fever pitch now? Watch what happens if a one-loss SEC champion manages to navigate its way into the BCS National Championship Game over an unbeaten TCU, Cincinnati or Boise State.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
JC Shurburtt of Scouts Inc. has picked the country's 25 best recruiters among assistant coaches, and the SEC leads the way with nine.
LSU and Tennessee each had two guys on the list. Ed Orgeron and Eddie Gran made the cut for the Vols, while Larry Porter and D.J. McCarthy both did for the Tigers.
Rounding out the SEC representatives on the list were South Carolina's Shane Beamer, Georgia's Rodney Garner, Alabama's Kirby Smart, Florida's Charlie Strong and Auburn's Trooper Taylor.
If I were extending that list further, some of the other SEC assistants that would have been in the running include Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell, Kentucky's Joker Phillips, Tennessee's Frank Wilson, Alabama's Burton Burns, Mississippi State's Tony Hughes, Ole Miss' Chris Vaughn, Auburn's Curtis Luper, Arkansas' Tim Horton and Georgia's Mike Bobo.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Picking the best recruiting closers in the SEC is like picking the best of Michael Jordan’s highlights.
How do you pick just five?
Here goes my best college try:
1. Nick Saban, Alabama head coach: Nobody has recruiting down to a science the way Saban does. He leaves no stone unturned and knows every detail about every single prospect the Crimson Tide are recruiting. Look at his last two recruiting classes at Alabama. His handprints are all over them. When Saban gets into the living room with a recruit and his family, rarely does he come in second.
2. Rodney Garner, Georgia assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach: Garner’s been a force when it comes to recruiting in the SEC at three different schools -- Auburn, Tennessee and now Georgia. Just look at the running backs he’s signed. He recruited Stephen Davis to Auburn, Jamal Lewis to Tennessee and Knowshon Moreno to Georgia.
3. Urban Meyer, Florida head coach: While it’s true that Meyer has the most fertile recruiting base in all of college football, he has the Florida recruiting machine rolling to the point where the Gators are picking who they want in that state. But he’s also been able to go outside the state and get great players. See Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden, Carlos Dunlap and Aaron Hernandez.
4. Ed Orgeron, Tennessee assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach: He’s Mr. Relentless and never gives up on a prospect. Players love his passion and the way he relates to them during the whole process, which can obviously be crazy at times. He’s been a wiz at bringing in great defensive linemen wherever he’s been, and has also been known to turn kids at the last minute. The Vols got three nationally rated prospects after signing day this past February.
5. Larry Porter, LSU assistant head coach and running backs coach: Every good recruiting staff has a go-to guy. Porter is the Tigers’ go-to guy and a big reason they’ve continued to pull in highly ranked classes every year. He’s gotten kids out of Texas, out of Louisiana and all points in between. The players he’s recruited all say the same thing about Porter: He builds a sense of trust with them that’s hard to say no to.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
LSU isn't wasting any time when it comes to addressing one of its biggest needs for the next recruiting class.
Receiver Justin Hunter of Virginia Beach, Va., committed to LSU on Sunday evening, the second highly rated receiver prospect to jump aboard with the Tigers for the 2010 class. Mike Davis of Dallas committed in late February.
Both Hunter and Davis are ESPNU 150 Watch List players, and both were recruited by LSU receivers coach D.J. McCarthy, who along with assistant head coach/running backs coach Larry Porter gives the Tigers' one of the better recruiting tandems on any staff in the SEC.
LSU will have a big need at receiver after Brandon LaFell leaves following next season. The Tigers do have Rueben Randle coming in this summer, and he's expected to make an immediate impact in 2009. But Hunter and Davis also figure to be key pieces to the Tigers' future receiving rotation.
The 6-4, 175-pound Hunter, also a track standout, should especially help in the deep passing game with his 40-inch vertical leap and knack for making big plays down the field.
The Tigers now have nine commitments for the 2010 class.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Now that we've taken a look at Nos. 11-25 on our list of top 25 recruiters in the SEC, it's time to unveil the top 10.
All these guys are ace recruiters and have pulled in some big-time talent, and in just about all of their cases, they've done it at multiple schools.
For example, the No. 1 guy on our list, Georgia's Rodney Garner, has been the point guy on many of the heralded prospects who've signed with the Bulldogs this decade. But he also signed the likes of Jamal Lewis, Cosey Coleman and Deon Grant at Tennessee, three players that formed the nucleus of the Vols' 1998 national championship team.
The guy right behind Garner, Ed Orgeron, has done it at several different schools -- both as a head coach and assistant coach. He's now heading up Tennessee's recruiting under Lane Kiffin.
Here's a look at our list of the 10 best recruiters in the SEC:
- 10. Burton Burns, Alabama associate head coach and running backs coach
- 9. Josh Henson, LSU recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach
- 8. Joker Phillips, Kentucky head coach in waiting, offensive coordinator and receivers coach
- 7. Trooper Taylor, Auburn assistant head coach and receivers coach
- 6. Charlie Strong, Florida associate head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach
- 5. Lance Thompson, Tennessee linebackers coach
- 4. Steve Addazio, Florida offensive coordinator and offensive line coach
- 3. Larry Porter, LSU assistant head coach and running backs coach
- 2. Ed Orgeron, Tennessee assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach
- 1. Rodney Garner, Georgia assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach