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What Three Coaching Changes Means for the SEC

Gus Malzahn

Malzahn returns to Auburn and will bring his up-tempo offense with him.

The winds of change in college football often move at break-neck speed and that was the case in the Southeastern Conference this part week. With the regular season mud still drying, three teams in the SEC made swift changes at their respective head coaching positions. Auburn fired Gene Chizek just two years removed from a national championship and put in his place the man who called the offense for the title-winning team Gus Malzahn.

Arkansas was just as quick in their process to replace John L. Smith which we all knew was coming anyway, but the coach they brought in to ressuerct the Razorbacks was easily the most surprising. Former Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema has travelled south to Fayetteville and in so doing left a lot of people pretty surprised in Madison. Bielema was former Head Coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez’ hand-picked guy to replace him when he retired from coaching.

Not to be totally outdone was Tennessee who took more time in their particular search and landed Cincinnati’s Butch Jones who has been a pretty consistent winner wherever he has been. Of the three teams with new head coaches, no one has more work to do than Jones who takes a program still in shambles since the last days of Phillip Fulmer, the one-year pit-stop by Lane Kiffin and the train wreck of Derek Dooley.

What to expect at Auburn

If you hear what sounds like the early onset of indigestion then that’s probably Nick Saban’s stomach turning in Tuscaloosa. Saban knows how difficult it is to stop a true hurry-up/no-huddle offense and that’s exactly what he is going to see with Malzahn returning to Auburn. Malzahn’s offenses typically get 10-15 more snaps per game and that means defenses have to play that much more on D.

Whether or not Malzahn’s proto-typical quarterback is on the Auburn roster is unclear but also unlikely. I look for him to scour the junior college circuit as they did in finding Cam Newton. Defensively, Auburn will need a huge upgrade in talent and scheme as they gave up a boat-load of points in the 2012 season.

What to expect at Arkansas

Bret Bielema

Bielema was raised on a pig farm so it shouldn't be hard for him to adapt to the Razorbacks.

Bret Bielema will also need to do some re-vamping as his power-running attack will need some new personnel at Arkansas. I don’t think you’ll see a whole lot of difference from what Bielema did at Wisconsin offensively although with a wider recruiting base in the South, he could find quarterbacks more of the Russell Wilson-caliber more often. Big, athletic offensive linemen will be the norm as well.

I would expect the defense under Bielema to become more athletic. Always pretty good at Wisconsin, Badgers’ defenses were never known to be too outstanding but with the athletes he’ll be able to recruit that will change. I don’t expect huge things off the bat from Bielema because it looks like most of his staff will not be joining him so that could slow the process down a bit.

What to expect at Tennessee

Remember that indigestion from Saban about Auburn’s n0-huddle? Ya well, his ailment just got worse because Butch Jones will install a similar system in Knoxville and he’ll expect results right away. Both at Central Michigan and at Cincinnati (where he coached under Brian Kelly in both cases) Jones was able to take pretty good talent and win with it. He’ll do that at UT as well.

The one thing Jones must do first is instill confidence back in the program. Neyland Stadium is typically the second-largest crowd behind Michigan on a football Saturday but those crowds started to shrink in recent years. The Volunteers have a large and loyal following that needs something to believe in again and I see no reason why Jones can’t deliver that based on his past experiences.

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