It's time to look at the new men on the block -- the guys heading into their first years as head coaches in the country's most cutthroat league.
The SEC welcomes Will Muschamp at Florida and James Franklin at Vanderbilt. Expectations are certainly high in Gainesville, where Muschamp replaces Urban Meyer, who developed into an icon in his six seasons by winning two national championships and appearing in three SEC championships. Franklin steps into a program with a history of consistently finishing near the bottom of the SEC barrel and is riding back-to-back 2-10 seasons.
Here is a look at both coaches and what impact each could have on the SEC this fall:
Will Muschamp, Florida: Muschamp enters his first season at Florida with 16 years of coaching experience, with eight coming in the SEC. The former Georgia safety served as defensive coordinator at LSU (2002-04; he was LSU’s linebackers coach in 2001) and Auburn (2006-07), where he was a finalist for the 2007 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant. He was also the assistant head coach for defense for the Miami Dolphins in 2005.
Muschamp replaces Meyer, who left the cupboard far from bare and the expectations high. Muschamp, who left Texas as the coach-in-waiting, is a hard-nosed, all-business coach who has tempered those crippling Gator egos from last season. He also assembled a NFL-heavy staff, headlined by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who scrapped the spread favored by Meyer for a pro-style offense.
The talent is there for Muschamp to lead Florida back to the SEC championship, but with a new system and staff, expect growing pains. Muschamp will be very hands-on with the defense, which should be a major strength for the Gators, but offensively, Weis will do most of the directing, with the goal of resurrecting an offense that ranked 82nd nationally in total offense (350.85 yards per game).
In four of his eight seasons as a defensive coordinator, Muschamp's teams allowed less than 100 rushing yards per game and twice led the nation in rushing defense while allowing less than 75 yards per game.
LSU's 2003 defense led the country in rushing defense (67 ) the best of any SEC team in the 2000s.
In 2009, Texas led the nation allowing 73.1 yards rushing
Over the past three seasons, Texas' defense ranked first nationally with 119 sacks for 949 yards lost.
James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Franklin is the 27th head coach at Vanderbilt and also brings 16 years of coaching experience. Most notably, he was the wide receivers/recruiting coordinator at Maryland from 200-04, the wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers in 2005 and spent two years as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Kansas State before taking the same job at Maryland from 2008-10.
Though he was named Ralph Friedgen's successor at Maryland in 2009, he decided to take one of the toughest jobs in college football, where he'll be asked to win at a school known more for academics than football in the nation's best conference . Franklin inherits 21 returning starters and has brought a new and exciting energy to Vanderbilt. You can see it in the confidence his players are showing and in the solid recruiting class he's putting together. There seems to be a new culture at Vandy and Franklin is out to make sure this team becomes competitive in the SEC.
It's hard to say what the Commodores will do in Franklin's first season, but expect him to be immersed in Vanderbilt's offense, which ranked 110th in total offense (298.3). If this team can improve its play like it has its confidence, the Commodores could pull a surprise or two this fall. Starting the season off right will go a long way. Beginning the year with numbers in the loss column could hurt that swagger Vandy is strutting.
Last season, Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien earned ACC Rookie of the Year and first-team Freshman All-America honors, ranking third nationally among freshmen with a pass efficiency rating of 135.2 and throwing 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Marylands' 2010 offense ranked third nationally committing only 12 turnovers.
In 2007, Franklin mentored Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, who set numerous school records and threw for 3,353 yards. Freeman was selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft (17th overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.