Ranking the SEC's football coaches

Veteran SEC journalist Jimmy Hyams of WNML Radio in Knoxville, Tenn., conducted a poll of 23 media members covering the SEC spring meetings last week in Destin, Fla.

One of the things he asked was to rank the SEC's top 6 football coaches right now.

Here's the way that vote turned out:

  • 1. Nick Saban, Alabama

  • 2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

  • 3. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas

  • 4. Les Miles, LSU

  • 5. Gene Chizik, Auburn

  • 6. Mark Richt, Georgia

Given that Saban is the only coach in history to win two national championships at two different SEC schools, he was a pretty easy choice for the top spot.

After that, it's a complete toss-up and about as subjective as it gets.

The way I tried to look at it was who would be on my list if I were an athletic director currently looking for a head coach and how healthy that coach's program was right now. In other words, was his program headed in the right direction. Experience was a factor, but so was age. I also considered what that coach had done over the course of his career with a premium placed on how well he'd recruited and developed players and any obstacles he might have overcome.

Keep in mind that this is a ranking that could change every year, but here's what my ballot looked like:

  • 1. Nick Saban, Alabama

  • 2. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas

  • 3. Les Miles, LSU

  • 4. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

  • 5. Gene Chizik, Auburn

  • 6. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Nobody's a bigger fan of what Spurrier has done in this league than me, but I had him a spot or two lower because he's 66 and I'm not sure how many more years he's going to coach. If he can get the Gamecocks back to Atlanta this season, and certainly if he wins an SEC championship at South Carolina, he would shoot right back up to No. 2 on this list.

Leaving Georgia's Mark Richt out of the top 6 was difficult, but Georgia hasn't been Georgia the last couple of years.

It's hard not to be impressed by what Mullen has done at Mississippi State in his two seasons there. He's upgraded the talent, raised expectations and has Stark-Vegas geeked about football again. They're selling tickets there at a record pace.

And before anybody gives me too much grief about having Miles in the top 3, I'll take a coach any day who wins 11 or more games in this league four of his six seasons on the job. Miles is also one of the most underrated recruiting head coaches in college football.