SEC Report:

Seems like interims way to go

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, November 16, 2017
In this Sept. 23, 2017, file photo, Tennessee defensive line coach Brady Hoke yells from the sideline during an NCAA college football game against in Knoxville, Tenn. The firing of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones means that Hoke returns to the head coaching ranks, at least for a couple more weeks. (Clavin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, File)
In this Sept. 23, 2017, file photo, Tennessee defensive line coach Brady Hoke yells from the sideline during an NCAA college football game against in Knoxville, Tenn. The firing of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones means that Hoke returns to the head coaching ranks, at least for a couple more weeks. (Clavin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, File)

SEC teams have had plenty of interim football coaches since the conference expanded in 1992, but never has there been a season like this one for short-term change at the top.

There were 14 SEC interim coaches from 1992 through 2016 at nine different schools -- including twice for Joe Kines -- but never more than two in the same season.

The SEC has outdone itself this season with three interim coaches in Matt Luke at Ole Miss, Randy Shannon at Florida and Brady Hoke at Tennessee to bring the total to 17 since 1992.

Even by the SEC's pressure-cooker standards, three interim coaches in the same season seems a bit excessive.

Then again, "It Just Means More" is the SEC's official slogan.

"You have those expectations," said LSU Coach Ed Orgeron, who replaced Les Miles on an interim basis for the final eight games last season and was retained as as the Tigers' coach. "You know that coming into it. You're supposed to win.

"You're given all the tools in the SEC to win. It's a tough conference.

"That's why every day is so important and every game is so important. Every minute is so valuable."

Orgeron is among eight of the SEC's 17 interim coaches since 1992 to have Arkansas ties. He was a graduate assistant strength coach for the Razorbacks in 1986 and 1987.

Kines was the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville's interim coach during the final 10 games of the 1992 season after Jack Crowe was fired and served as Alabama's interim coach for the 2006 Independence Bowl between Mike Shula's firing and Nick Saban's hiring.

Joe Lee Dunn, Ole Miss' interim coach in 1994, replaced Kines as Arkansas' defensive coordinator in 1995 before moving on to Mississippi State.

Charlie Strong, a Batesville native who played at the University of Central Arkansas, was Florida's interim coach for the 2004 Peach Bowl after Ron Zook was fired.

Reggie Herring was promoted from defensive coordinator to interim coach for the Razorbacks for the Cotton Bowl to cap the 2007 season after Houston Nutt resigned under pressure.

John L. Smith served as Arkansas' interim coach for the entire 2012 season after Bobby Petrino's firing and Jim Chaney -- the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014 -- took over as Tennessee's interim coach for the final game in 2012 after Derek Dooley was fired.

Shannon was Arkansas' linebackers coach in 2013 and 2014 before going to Florida to be the linebackers coach. He was promoted to defensive coordinator this season, then became interim coach after Jim McElwain's firing.

Orgeron, who went 6-2 last season and is 7-3 this season, is the only SEC interim coach since 1992 who was retained as the team's head coach. He said being a native of Louisiana and having the backing of LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva and school President King Alexander was important for him.

"I had their support from the get-go, and i was told I was going to get a chance," Orgeron said of replacing Myles beyond last season. "The players rallied around us and we won some games. Things happened at the end.

"I may not have been the No. 1 candidate, but it all fell into the right place, and I'm so fortunate to be the head coach at LSU."

Orgeron will be facing Hoke on Saturday when LSU plays at Tennessee.

So what is his advice for an interim coach?

"Go hard, man. It's your team," Orgeron said. It's your team for you don't know how long, so Coach them hard the way you want to and get them to play together.

"Be yourself and do things your way and have fun doing it. Get them to play with energy and fire and do what you want to do as a head coach and enjoy every minute of it."

Arkansas and Florida are the only SEC teams to have three interim coaches since 1992.

Tim DeRuyter served as Texas A&M's interim coach for the 2011 Texas Bowl after Mike Sherman's firing, but that was the Aggies' final game as a Big 12 Conference member before joining the SEC with Kevin Sumlin taking over as coach.

SEC INTERIM COACHES SINCE 1992

1992 -- Joe Kines, Arkansas

1994 -- Joe Lee Dunn, Ole Miss

1998 -- Bill Oliver, Auburn

1999 -- Hal Hunter, LSU

2004 -- Charlie Strong, Florida

2006 -- Joe Kines, Alabama

2007 -- Reggie Herring, Arkansas

2010 -- Bobby Caldwell, Vanderbilt

2012 -- John L. Smith, Arkansas; Jim Chaney, Tennessee

2014 -- D.J. Durkin, Florida

2015 -- Shawn Elliott, South Carolina; Bryan McClendon, Georgia

2016 -- Ed Orgeron, LSU

2017 -- Matt Luke, Ole Miss; Randy Shannon, Florida; Brady Hoke, Tennessee

PETRINO BACK TO SEC?

Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino, who led Arkansas to a 34-17 record in four seasons from 2008 through 2011 before being fired for off-the-field issues, is being mentioned as a candidate for the Tennessee job.

Petrino never has coached anywhere longer than four consecutive seasons, and this is his fourth season in his second stint at Louisville, so he may figure it's time to move again.

Naturally, Petrino isn't saying that.

"I don't really worry about it," Petrino told reporters this week about speculation he may take another job. "I've just got to focus on what I can do.

"I don't get up in the morning, turn on talk radio. I just come here, and we get in that room and we try to get a first down. Try to find out what's going on on third and 1.

"That's how we spend the day. I can't worry about it. I think it's something that, you just come in and focus on the task at hand."

Louisville fired Tom Jurich as athletic director earlier this year, which dropped Petrino's buyout from $8 million to $4 million.

"I love our football team," Petrino said. "I love the university. I love the city of Louisville.

"We've made plans to stay here and spend the rest of our career here."

Malzahn campaigns

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn, who in 2010 as the Tigers' offensive coordinator won the Broyles Award presented to the nation's top assistant coach, said his defensive coordinator Kevin Steele should be among the five finalists for this year's Broyles Award.

The award, created by former Arkansas linebacker David Bazzel and named in honor of Frank Broyles, the Razorbacks' legendary coach and athletic director.

"He needs to be in the finalists," Malzahn said of Steele. "There's no doubt about that."

The Tigers' defense was especially stout against Georgia last week, holding the Bulldogs to 230 yards in totally offense, including 46 rushing.

"It's a group effort," Steele said. "The players play. Coaches don't play.

"Any award that comes, it's the players. So my deal is whatever award that the group gets, they deserve it."

Auburn is ninth nationally in total defense (229.5 yards per game) and 11th in scoring defense (16.9 points per game) against a schedule that so far has included four teams in the College Football Playoff poll in No. 2 Clemson, No. 7 Georgia, No. 16 Mississippi State and No. 20 LSU.

The Tigers play No. 1 Alabama next week after facing Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

FRIENDLY WAGER

Charles Barkley, the former Auburn and NBA star who know works as a television analyst for TNT, is well know for being a high-stakes gambler.

Barkley estimated in 2015 that he had lost about $30 million gambling in Las Vegas.

So when you hear Barkley say he's got a bet with Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts about the Iron Bowl, you're waiting for the NCAA -- or maybe the FBI? --to launch an investigation.

But it turns out this a friendly wager that presumably won't land Alabama and Hurts in trouble with the NCAA.

Barkley said on Birmingham radio station WJOX-FM during a sports round table discussion Tuesday that he and Hurts have something riding on the Alabama-Auburn game.

"Jalen Hurts challenged me to a bet, and I ain't forgot it, Jalen," Barkley said Tuesday. "I'm either going to wear an Alabama jersey on TV or he's going to have to wear [an Auburn jersey] on campus. ... I've got the jersey coming.

"My Tigers need to win because I don't want to wear that crap on TNT."

Barkley praised Hurts, who became Alabama's starting quarterback as a true freshman last season.

"The dude's lost one game in two years and people are saying he needs to do more," Barkley said. "See, that's why you don't need social media because if anybody's saying that on social media, they're just a moron."

LET GUS TALK

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn isn't known for saying controversial things, but after doing an interview with CBS immediately after the Tigers' beat Georgia 40-17, he was overheard telling someone on the field, "We whipped the dog crap out of them, didn't we?"

Georgia Coach Kirby Smart was asked during his weekly news conference Monday about what Malzahn said.

"I'll be honest with you, I think when you perform the way they did on the field, you earn the right to say really whatever you want," Smart said. "I don't get into what Gus says, and he probably doesn't get into what I say."

If Auburn beats Alabama, Smart and the Bulldogs will get another shot at the Tigers in the SEC Championship Game.

STOOPS DEAN OF THE EAST

With the firing of Butch Jones as Tennessee's coach, Kentucky's Mark Stoops is now the longest-turned coach in the SEC.

Stoops and Jones both came into the SEC in 2013 along with Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Auburn's Gus Malzahn.

Stoops was surprised at his Monday news conference when told he's now the SEC East's dean of coaches.

"Is that right?" Stoops said. "That's scary. I don't get shocked in here too often."

Stoops is 28-33 at Kentucky, but 14-9 since 2016, including 7-3 this season.

When the Wildcats beat Vanderbilt 44-21 last week, a year automatically was added to Stoops' contract, extending it through the 2022 season.

Stoops has a clause in this contract stating that if Kentucky gets to seven victories, his contract is rolled over and he earns a $250,000 bonus.

If Kentucky ever wins 10 games under Stoops -- a figure the Wildcats have reached just once since 1951 when they went 10-1 in 1977 under Fran Curci -- the automatic extension is two years.

Stoops' salary this season is $3.75 million, but it will gradually increase up to $5 million by 2022.

TWO-MINUTE DRILL

• Texas A&M junior receiver Christian Kirk got his sixth career punt return for a touchdown when he had a 90-yarder against New Mexico last week. He's tied for second in SEC career punt return touchdowns with Kentucky's Derek Abney, who returned six form 2000-03. Alabama's Javier Arenas has an SEC-best with seven from 2006-09.

• Missouri has joined Tennessee in 1988 and South Carolina in 1992 as the only SEC teams to lose five consecutive games, then win four in a row.

• Tennessee has lost its most recent game against the SEC's other 13 teams.

• Sophomore Benny Snell has become SEC's career leader in rushing touchdowns with 28 after he had three against Vanderbilt last week. The record had been shared by Sonny Collins and Moe Williams with 26 each.

• Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Starkel passed for 416 yards in the first half of the Aggies' 55-14 victory over New Mexico.

SEC TOP TO BOTTOM

Rank(prev);record;comment

1(1);Alabama;10-0;Comeback victory at Mississippi State

2(3);Auburn;8-2;Beating Georgia sets up epic Iron Bowl

3(2);Georgia;9-1;Drops to No. 7 in CFB Playoff poll

4(5);Mississippi State;7-3;Looking to knock off Hogs

5(4);LSU;7-3;Guice runs all over Arkansas again

6(6);South Carolina;7-3;Taking on Wofford before Clemson

7(7);Texas A&M;6-3;Starkel back as starting QB

8(8);Kentucky;7-3;Stoops gets 1-year contract extension

9(9);Missouri;5-5;Four consecutive victories

10(11);Arkansas;4-6;Hoping to slow down Nick Fitzgerald

11(12);Ole Miss;5-5;Gets Aggies at home

12(14);Florida;3-6;Tough job for Shannon

13(13);Vanderbilt;4-5;Looking to slow down Mizzou offense

14(10);Tennessee;4-6;Coaching search officially on

PLAYER TO WATCH

Missouri junior quarterback Drew Lock will look to throw at least three touchdown passes in a seventh consecutive game when the Tigers play at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Lock threw four touchdown passes last week in the Tigers' 50-17 victory over Tennessee that extended their winning streak to four games and evened their record at 5-5.

Lock leads the nation with 35 touchdown passes and is one of two quarterbacks, along with Ohio State's J.T. Barnett, to have at least three touchdown passes in six consecutive games.

On the season Lock has completed 189 of 301 passes (59.4 percent) for 3,012 yards. He's thrown 10 interceptions.

Lock's career totals are 7,743 passing yards and 62 touchdowns.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Kentucky at Georgia

WHEN 2:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS)

WHERE Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.

RECORDS Georgia is 9-1, 6-1 SEC. Kentucky is 7-3, 3-3.

RANKINGS Georgia is No. 7 in the College Football Playoff; Kentucky isn't ranked.

LINE Georgia is favored by 21 points

Thanks to Auburn's 40-17 victory over Georgia, you can be sure there's no shot of Kentucky catching the Bulldogs having a letdown.

Despite the lopsided margin of last week's loss that dropped Georgia from No. 1 to No. 7 in the CFB Playoff poll, the Bulldogs Georgia can still play their way back into the College Football Playoff by beating Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.

But the Bulldogs likely have to make sure they don't slip up against Kentucky to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Georgia has a seven-game winning streak in the series and leads 56-12-2 over the Wildcats.

Kentucky's last victory over Georgia was 34-27 in 2009 at Athens.

If the Wildcats pull the upset, it will be their first time winning eight games in the regular season since 1984.

BY THE NUMBERS

24 -- Consecutive victories over SEC teams for Alabama after the Crimson Tide won 31-24 at Mississippi State.

1,399 -- Yards gained by Missouri in its past two games against Tennessee. The Tigers had 659 in a 50-17 victory over the Vols last Saturday and 740 last season in a 63-37 loss at Knoxville.

3.30 -- Average sacks per game by Texas A&M's defense

OVERHEARD

"My heartbeat's still going about 120 miles per hour."

-- Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams after the Crimson Tide came back to win 31-24 at Mississippi State.

"We played our best game of the year."

-- Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn after the Tigers' 40-17 victory over Georgia.

Sports on 11/16/2017

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