The SEC's top 5 most important assistant coaches for 2014
There are so many compelling head coaches in the SEC that we could spend forever talking about them and not get bored. From Les Miles to Nick Saban to Steve Spurrier to many others, the league doesn’t lack for interesting coaches. That also makes it easy to forget that some of the SEC’s most important coaches this season aren’t the ones who get the attention, but rather the assistants doing more hands-on work. Let’s look at five of the most crucial assistant coaches in the SEC entering 2014.
No. 5: Jeremy Pruitt, DC, Georgia
The Bulldogs snagged Pruitt after he helped Florida State win a national title in 2013, immediately giving him the task of revamping a Georgia defense that ranked 54th in the nation last season at 5.41 yards per play. More specifically, Pruitt – whose expertise is coaching defensive backs – will hone in on the pass D, which ranked 94th nationally at 7.7 yards per attempt. Georgia has talent on offense, beginning with beastly running back Todd Gurley, and if it can see even moderate improvement on defense in Pruitt’s first season, it can contend for an SEC East title.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
No. 4: Jake Spavital, OC, Texas A&M
If you want to argue Aggies defensive coordinator Mark Snyder should be here instead – given Texas A&M might have won a national title in the Johnny Manziel era if it had any semblance of a D – we’ll listen. But we’re going with Spavital because he has a task nobody else has: rebuilding the Aggies offense without Manziel (not to mention also losing receiver Mike Evans). Some believe Kevin Sumlin’s litmus test comes now, to see if he can sustain the Aggies without Manziel, and Spavital sits at the core of that challenge.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
No. 3: Ellis Johnson, DC, Auburn
Auburn suffers two losses entering a new season: Heisman finalist RB Tre Mason and some of its good fortune. We can safely assume the Tigers won’t have as much luck as they did last season, which means they need a gain somewhere. That will likely come on the defensive side, where Auburn was -- somehow – 95th in the nation in yards per play (5.96) while still reaching the national title game. Standout DE Dee Ford is gone, and now is a good time for Johnson to take a fresh look at his unit and make some tweaks.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
No. 2: Kurt Roper, OC, Florida
It’s been said plenty of times now, but there’s no avoiding it: Kurt Roper will play a large role in determining if Will Muschamp keeps his job after 2014. Roper was hired from Duke to revitalize a Florida offense that ranked 110th – or one spot ahead of Idaho – in yards per play last season at 4.79. The Gators need to get a LOT better on that end this season, which begins with figuring out if Jeff Driskel is the starting QB or if it’s time to go with a younger option, even incoming freshman Will Grier. The offense’s development in Gainesville will be among the top SEC storylines to follow this year.
Paul AbellPaul Abell-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1: Cam Cameron, OC, LSU
Cameron gets the No. 1 spot because he faces a different (and better) kind of stakes. He’s not coaching to save Les Miles’ job; instead, he’s coaching to potentially make LSU a national title contender. Cameron has to replace his QB (Zach Mettenberger), RB (Jeremy Hill) and his top two receivers (Odell Beckham JR., Jarvis Landry), and that will begin with deciding between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris at QB and giving freshman RB Leonard Fournette a bunch of carries. It’s a safe bet to say LSU’s defense will once again be championship caliber; if the offense gets even close to that, Cameron will have done impressive work and LSU will be in the mix for the Final Four.
Getty ImagesStacy Revere
Tell us what you think
Disagree with these five or think another coach would be a better candidate for this discussion? Great -- give us your thoughts in the comments section below.