After getting several messages, emails, and texts, we’ll focus on 2016 instead of looking back at 2015. Keeping with that theme, Mark Stoops’ fourth schedule is much more difficult than his first three. Or is it? After taking a closer look, a large percentage of upcoming opponents have gone through head coach and or coordinator changes.
Let’s take a look:
Highly successful offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey departed Hattiesburg for Arizona State. Incoming OC John Wozniak was hired from within the current staff. Wozniak, former receiver coach and special teams coordinator, will most likely keep current system in place and modify to his preference. The 2015 Southern Miss offense averaged 519 yards and 40.6 points per game.
No impactful change
New Mexico State
The Will Muschamp era is on the clock. While underperforming at Florida (28-21, 17-15 in SEC) led to his eventual firing, Muschamp joined Gus Malzahn serving as Auburn’s defensive coordinator. While on The Plains, the Tigers gave up 421 yards per game. That mark was good or bad enough for 13th in the SEC. Overall, this hire was a reach at best.
Muschamp retained interim head coach Shawn Elliott. Incoming offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was with Muschamp for one year at Florida. Two former Georgia assistants are being targeted, Bryan McClendon and Tracy Rocker. Both are excellent recruiters which will be necessary. Steve Spurrier didn’t exactly leave the personnel cabinet stocked.
Longtime Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is now the head coach at Georgia. In a turn of fate, former UGA DC and Saban protÃ©gÃ© Jeremy Pruitt returns to T-town. This move won’t impact Alabama’s SEC status.
Longtime Bulldog assistant and lead recruiter Tony Hughes is now the Jackson State head coach. Not a coordinator, but key for Dan Mullen on National Signing Day.
Out goes head coach Gary Pinkel, in comes Tiger defensive coordinator Barry Odom. While the Odom hire was vastly popular with the current team, MU’s offense was anemic and lacks explosive playmakers going into the near future.
Mark Richt is now at the U. Kirby Smart is the new lead Dawg. Over the years, Smart has been heavily courted. His patience and persistence to wait for his dream job paid off. The Saban disciple can recruit in the talent laden state of Georgia.
Butch Jones was given a nice Christmas present in form of a pay increase. Jones is now making $4.1 million per year. He did lose Mark Elder to EKU. The 38-year-old former Vol TE and Special Teams coordinator was named as the 14th head coach in EKU history.
After going 1-34, Head Coach Kirby Cannon was fired. The Governors are still searching for their new leader.
With new head coaches at Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, and Austin Peay, the 2016 schedule could be more manageable than originally expected. The most UK specific impact is the Southern Miss offensive coordinator situation. 2016’s opening game is significant to the final win/loss column as well as Mark Stoops’s ability to win back a questioning fan base. Southern Miss will most definitely travel to Commonwealth Stadium fully expecting to win the football game.