Tipping Point: Coaching Hot Stove Now Turns to Coordinators

New UGA coach Kirby Smart on the road recruiting just hours after the contract is signed.

It’s official, the final two “major” college football coaching vacancies have now been filled. Kirby Smart was named as the new head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs and Will Muschamp will lead the USC Gamecocks. The two men are tied closely together as they were teammates at UGA back in the mid-1990’s and then coached together at Valdosta State and LSU in the early 2000’s.

Smart to Georgia has been anticipated for some time, but many thought Muschamp would join him as the new Defensive Coordinator of the Bulldogs. Now that Muschamp is set to man the helm in Columbia, to whom does each man turn to run his offense and defense? These hires could be the “Tipping Point” in how things go out of the gate for these two friends and might actually determine which one has the better career.

By Sunday evening, Muschamp had taken care of these hirings, naming Kurt Roper as his OC and bringing Travaris Robinson with him from Auburn to man the defense. You might recognize Roper as he was Muschamp’s offensive coordinator at Florida.

My Take: If I’m a Gamecock, I’m not real excited. Why would I want to see the same people I saw the last time Muschamp was a head coach? The DC hire is fine as I would expect Muschamp to be running that defense anyway. But if the knock on the new coach was how bad his offense was at Florida with all those athletes, what are things going to look like on offense with the players USC has right now. Bottom line: suspect at best.

The choice for Smart’s DC is very intriguing, as the man who currently holds that position, Jeremy Pruitt, would seem like the obvious choice. The two coached together at Alabama and Pruitt has done a remarkable job improving the Dawgs’ defense the past two years. But there has been some real tension within the UGA football department this year and Pruitt is the one who is getting the blame.

Rumor is Pruitt is rude to office staffers and doesn’t care whose feathers he ruffles as long as stuff gets done. He ran up against UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity earlier in the fall over Georgia’s lack of an indoor practice facility. We will truly know if McGarity has given his new head coach total autonomy if Smart is allowed to keep Pruitt in place.

My take: Pruitt has been instrumental in Georgia’s defensive turn-around and is VERY popular with recruits. He can coach and recruit? Done deal! With Smart and Pruitt, the Dawgs would have two of the most complete packages on that side of the ball. Bottom line: This is the man for the job!

Most people would tell you the most important decision Smart will make will be who he picks for his Offensive Coordinator. Does he continue with a pro-style offense? This is what he knows first hand as it has been Bama’s offense since he arrived. It would also most likely secure the commitment of Jacob Eason, arguably the #1 quarterback recruit in the nation for 2016.

Or does Kirby go with the spread, the only scheme that has put a dent in the mightly Alabama defense over the past few years? You could argue if the goal in hiring Smart is to beat Alabama and win championships, then the spread is the way you need to go. After all, can anyone really “out-Alabama” the Tide? Aren’t you better going with the Bama kryptonite than trying to just invent a better Superman?

If Smart goes with a pro-style, look for current Crimson Tide OC Lane Tiffin or WR coach Billy Napier to get a call. Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Tyson Helton is the fan favorite in Athens, as his teams throw the ball 50 times a game and loyal Bulldog supporters are scrambling to make sure Eason makes it to town. Lately, Arkansas OC Dan Enos is a name circulating in the wind. We’ve even heard Stanford OC Mike Bloomgren as a popular choice.

If it’s a spread, things get a little more vague as Smart has not been on an FBS staff that ran this type of offense. TCU offensive co-coordinator Doug Meecham could be logical. Clemson co-coordinator Tony Elliott is getting a lot of the credit for the prolific Tiger offense and might make the short drive south to Athens.

My Take: As previously stated on this site, I love the Stanford offense as it does a great job of mixing pro-style, smash-mouth football with occasional spread formations providing favorable match-ups in space for WR’s and RB’s. If you can get Bloomgren, do it! You also can’t argue with what Kiffin has done at Bama. If you can keep an offensive style that takes advantage of the running backs UGA has already in the fold (Michel, Chubb) yet gives recruit-to-be (hopefully) Jacob Eason the ability to throw it around the field, this is a slam dunk. Don’t go complete spread, but find someone who can pick up the tempo, putting more points on the board while maintaining the ability to run the ball with next-year’s Heisman front-runner – Nick Chubb. Bottom line: Go get Bloomgren!

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