Rank Em

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s the pollen-covered cars spring, which means March Madness and head coach rankings!

For the uninitiated, these lists are totally subjective. This is meant to be a fun exercise, and it’s my ranking.

While career achievements are considered, college football has become a sport that’s constantly changing, so recent performance (wins, recruiting, working the transfer portal, hiring assistants, producing NFL Draft picks, etc.) will be taken into account.

Entering the 2024 season, the SEC features two new teams (so two more coaches to rank), and two new head coaches at Texas A&M and Mississippi State.

No. 1 Kirby Smart, Georgia: Smart is the undisputed top-ranked coach in America right now. He’s won at least 11 games in six of the last seven years, has a pair of national titles and just inked another No. 1 recruiting class.

Georgia has sent more talent to the NFL than any program in the country in the last few seasons, and the Bulldogs are the early favorites for the national championship in 2024. Clear number one here.

No. 2 Brian Kelly, LSU: Kelly has done everything but win a national championship at the FBS level. He’s won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons, producing a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jayden Daniels in Year 2 at LSU.

No. 3 Kalen DeBoer, Alabama: While DeBoer’s resume as FBS head coach is fairly light, the man rarely loses, whether it’s at Sioux Falls or Washington (104-12).

He won 21 straight games with the Huskies, beat Texas twice and made the national championship in Year 2, which is why he became the coveted target to replace Nick Saban at Alabama.

No. 4 Steve Sarkisian, Texas: Sarkisian won 10 games for the first time in his career in 2023, resurrecting the Longhorns’ program back to national prominence by winning the Big 12 and making the CFP.

He’s arguably the best play-caller in college football and is certainly one of the top offensive minds.

No. 5 Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss: Kiffin just led the Rebels to their first 11-win season in school history, and like Sarkisian, has overcome a rocky start to his head coaching career (be it the one-and-done season at Tennessee or the stint at USC).

Before Kiffin arrived in Oxford, Ole Miss had just three 10-win seasons in 48 years. He could top that in 2024 with the Rebels pushing their chips for a potential SEC title run.

No. 6 Josh Heupel, Tennessee: A year after leading the Vols to their best season in nearly 25 years, Heupel managed to win nine games in 2023 despite erratic quarterback play.

That shouldn’t be an issue in the future, though, as the Nico Iamaleava era starts this fall and 2025 5-star commit George MacIntyre is waiting in the wings.

No. 7 Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri: Drinkwitz is coming off the best coaching job of his career, leading the Tigers to a surprising 11-2 season and a win over Ohio State to finish in the Top 10.

Before the season, he shrewdly delegated play-calling duties to new OC hire Kirby Moore, which allowed Drinkwitz to focus on his entire team and move worked brilliantly.

No. 8 Mark Stoops, Kentucky: Stoops has been the Wildcats’ best football coach since Bear Bryant, elevating the program with multiple 10-win seasons for the first time in more than four decades.

Stoops’ ranking requires perspective though, Kentucky football was basically nothing before he arrived and the ‘Cats have made eight straight bowl games. He’s raised the expectations, which is why 7-6 is seen as a poor season.

Here are my top SEC coaches entering the 2024 season.