After a few seasons of relative stability, the SEC's 2012-2013 offseason promises to be quite the wild ride on the coaching carousel. Four different head coaches came into noon Saturday kickoffs with various levels of heat on their proverbial seats, and none of them saw things cool off. A rundown:
Joker Phillips, Kentucky: Here's your thousand words on the state of the Wildcats program, from Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Kyle Tucker:
That's the crowd at halftime at Commonwealth Stadium, with Kentucky down 27-0 to Vanderbilt. The Wildcats would ultimately lose 40-0 to the Commodores in what was probably their last realistic chance at an SEC victory. (They finish the season at Tennessee.) Barring an upset loss to Samford (or a win vs. the Vols), the 'Cats will finish Phillips' third season at 2-10 overall, 0-8 in the SEC.
Even if the Kentucky administration is willing to give Phillips the benefit of the doubt on his record, crowds of under 20,000 make his return in 2013 that much less likely.
Derek Dooley, Tennessee. Hiring Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri as the Vols' defensive coordinator to install the Tide's 3-4 defense seemed like a great idea in the offseason -- who doesn't want a defense like Alabama's? But it's one thing to run the same scheme, it's another to find the athletes to run it the way Alabama does, or teach it to the athletes you already have.
Result: 721 yards given up to Troy in a 55-48 come-from-behind win that stands as the clear rock-bottom for a defense that was already 101st in the FBS in total defense. Fortunately for Dooley, he has an offense capable of putting up 718 yards -- and 14 potential job-saving points after Troy had taken a 48-41 lead with less than four minutes to play.
But even with the W in the books, no one who watched the Vols defense torched time and time again by Trojans quarterbacks Corey Robinson and Dion Anthony will have come away thinking Dooley is any closer -- or close at all -- to turning things around in Knoxville.
Large swaths of empty seats in the student section aren't exactly unprecedented, but still: the announced attendance of 74,676 -- the lowest for Auburn's homecoming game since 1992 and the lowest of Chizik's four-season tenure -- isn't quite going to be a feather in Chizik's cap.
As for the on-field product, it looked as ugly as it has all season early on, as only a missed New Mexico State field goal and failed Aggie fourth-down conversion kept thing scoreless after the first quarter -- one in which the Tigers were outgained 131 to 29. But behind big games from tailbacks Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb (and competent play from true freshman first-time quarterback starter Jonathan Wallace), the Tigers rolled from there to a 42-7 win.
After the misery of the season's first nine weeks, Auburn fans will take it ... but paying for it seems like a different kettle of fish.
John L. Smith, Arkansas. Considering the places the Razorbacks have already been this season, beating a 7-1 Tulsa team in any fashion qualifies as something of a success for Smith. But if Smith wanted even token consideration as the team's 2013 coach, 19-15 slogs in which the Hogs offense scores all of six second-half points and then holds on for dear life (at home in Fayetteville, no less) simply aren't what he needs.
It's probably a moot point -- every indication from athletic director Jeff Long is that Smith has been on his way out since the loss to ULM -- but this is the rare case in which a coach really does need a heaping helping of style points.