The Bottom Half

By: Robert Craft news services

That’s right everyone, it’s time for my bottom half ranking the head coaches for the 2024 SEC season.

A few of these coaches are new coaches and others are on the Hot Seat waiting to be fired.

No. 9 Mike Elko, Texas A&M: Elko is 16-9 in two seasons as Duke’s head coach, leading the Blue Devils to one of their best seasons in school history in 2022.

He got the Texas A&M job because of his coaching (and player development) acumen, plus a personality that should play well with the Aggies’ fickle booster base.

No. 10 Hugh Freeze, Auburn: Freeze remains the most difficult coach to rank in the SEC. How do you weigh his accomplishments previously at Ole Miss (two wins over Nick Saban) versus his recent results at Liberty and Auburn? The history is not promising.

No. 11 Brent Venables, Oklahoma: Venables bounced back from a tough first season as a head coach, guiding the Sooners to a 10-win season in advance of the program’s move to the SEC.

A bad loss to UCF squandered a chance to play for the Big 12 Championship, but Venables did beat Texas in Red River and fixed a bad Oklahoma defense.

No. 12 Shane Beamer, South Carolina: After two straight seasons of exceeding expectations under Beamer, the Gamecocks regressed to the mean in 2023 — going 5-7 with a slew of frustrating losses.

South Carolina dealt with all sorts of injuries last year (particularly at OL and with wideout Juice Wells), but the team ultimately wasted a solid season from quarterback Spencer Rattler.

Beamer has had a bunch of staff turnover, this offseason, too.

No. 13 Sam Pittman, Arkansas: Pittman is a beloved character in college football, but the shine has worn off the Pit Boss’ star since he led the Razorbacks to a surprising 9-4 season in 2021.

Like Napier, Pittman must win now or else he probably won’t be on this list next spring.

No. 14 Jeff Lebby, Mississippi State: Lebby finds himself last in the 2024 SEC head coach rankings solely because he hasn’t been a head coach previously.

The guy he replaced Zach Arnett was ranked at the bottom of this list last spring, too, but here’s guessing Lebby will have a much longer stay in Starkville.

No. 15 Billy Napier, Florida: No head coach in the SEC faces more pressure than Billy Napier in 2024, and the stakes were raised earlier this month when Steve Spurrier openly said, “There’s a feeling around the Gators of ‘What the heck are we doing?’”.

Napier is just 11-14 in two seasons with the Gators. He secured a signature win over Utah in his debut as UF’s head coach, but pretty much everything since the 2022 opener has gone wrong.

Florida’s defense has been a disaster for two seasons.

No. 16  Clark Lea, Vanderbilt: The expectation was that Lea would receive a long leash to rebuild his alma mater in his image, but the results have been so dire (2-22 in SEC games in three seasons), that suddenly the former Vandy fullback is facing pressure to deliver more wins.

Not looking great for Vandy.

I believe 3 coaches on this list are on the Hot-Seat: Shane Beamer, Sam Pittman and Billy Napier.

All 8 of these coaches have something to prove. Last year, I ranked Eli Drinkwitz at 14, so who on my bottom half will rise and who will be fired?