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Not easy for defensive coordinators to turn into SEC head coaches with productive offenses

Mark Stoops (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

It’s not easy for former college defensive coordinators turned SEC head football coaches to come up with an offensive scheme that works. It’s just not.

As most of you know Kentucky’s head coach Mark Stoops was a former defensive coordinator — and a very good one — for Florida State and then head coach Jimbo Fisher. And he is still a great defensive coach today. His teams have ranked on average 15th or better in points given up per game over the last two years. His defenses are always physical, well schooled and play as a unit. He uses a lot of creativity in his defensive alignments and adjusts his defensive scheme to match the opposing team’s offense.

But his offense is a different story. It is usually physical at the line of scrimmage but lacks tremendously in the areas of creativity and adjustments to the opposing team’s defense. In fact, his offenses over the last three years (including the current season) have averaged 95th in the country out of 130 teams in points scored per game. That means 73% of the offenses in FBS Football have, on average, scored more points per game than UK.

That doesn’t seem like a good formula for winning football, lagging behind 73% of the rest of college football. But here is the interesting thing, Mark Stoops is not alone.

It seems that the other teams in the SEC East similar to UK that have former defensive coordinators as head coaches don’t do  much, if any, better offensively.

Will Muschamp, two-time former Auburn defensive coordinator turned head coach at South Carolina that national media members seem to love, has had an offense that averaged 87th in points scored per game over the last three years. Derek Mason, another former defensive coordinator from Stanford turned head coach at Vanderbilt has been even worse.

He, like Stoops, has had offenses that averaged 95th in points scored per game over that same three year period. Last but not least, and worst of all, has been Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee. The former Alabama, Georgia and Florida State defensive coordinator’s teams offenses over his two year tenure with the Volunteers have averaged 112th out of 130 schools in points scored per game.

Some of you may be asking, “Yeah, but what about Barry Odom at Missouri and Kirby Smart at Georgia?”You would be correct in that both of those head coaches also used to be defensive coordinators. Odom was the DC at Memphis and then Missouri and Kirby Smart was the former DC at Alabama. Both coaches have had offenses that performed reasonably well. Odom, running an air raid type offense has averaged 38th in points scored per game while Kirby Smart’s offenses have averaged 27th in that same category.

Although those are much better numbers than the four coaches mentioned previously some of that could be attributed to the style of offense that Missouri runs while Georgia just gets tremendously better offensive talent than any of the other schools mentioned.

Overall, even including Georgia and Missouri, the offensive statistics just aren’t that impressive. One would think that for SEC schools that have historically had recruiting classes in the mid-30s or better (except Vanderbilt) that the offensive numbers would reflect that, but they don’t.

It just seems like, based on these numbers, that former defensive coordinators are good at really one thing, coaching defense. They struggle as a group to create much of any firepower at all on offense; and it shows in the statistics and it shows in the eye test. Anyone that has ever watched very much of South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Kentucky or Tennessee play offense can attest to the fact that those teams are painful to watch.

So, as much as it hurts to watch the Kentucky offense perform, just know that UK fans are not alone. South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tennessee fans are suffering right along with you.

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  1. Stoops/Gran have totally taken away the excitement and confidence many of the BBN have had during the week and especially on game day. It is no wonder that this team doesn’t show a lot of heart and passion on the field. They will enable Vandy to stay close during the game and give them opportunities to win at the end. The season ended last week, and we can only hope that they can find a way to keep from embarrassing us and themselves any further and close out with some positivity and respect.

  2. Kirby Smart seems to be doing ok at Georgia. It just might be that Stoops is not elite level head coaching material. Florida State must think that’s the case or they would have already put feelers out for him.

  3. That is why you hire an OC that you trust to develop and build an offense the OC is comfortable and experienced with. Since teams basically have major changes from year to year, you must have an OC that make changes from year to year to adapt to his players and their abilities.
    I think one of the most egregious problems Stoops and Gran have had at UK is their refusal to utilize some very good Tight Ends for more than blocking assignments.
    I like what Stoops has done for UK, but I have never enjoyed his lack of Offense; even last year at 10-3, they were mostly boring on offense and were actually successful, mostly because of their defense, in spite of their lack of offense.

  4. Just put it this way Stoops is a defense coach more than anything else my opinion. Gran just need to open his playbook more than he should have been .he’s the one that has cost us some games

    1. Not sure Gran knows what an open playbook is. He seems clueless with being able to establish a short passing game, He has no idea what a screen pass is.

  5. Mike I agree with you on that. Today he open that playbook for some unknow reasonagainst a low opponent Vandy

  6. Sorry Mike should have been unknown reason.

    1. Yes, he did open up more on the ground and they looked very good. I live N of Nashville and root for Vandy when not playing us. I was so upset with 14-3 beginning that I was tempted to root for Vandy..very glad that I didn’t.

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