Strange: SEC coaches enjoy going back to school

Steve Spurrier, Rich Brooks, Nick Saban and, now, Bobby Petrino.

The common denominator? If that NFL gig doesn't work out, come back to an SEC campus.

Petrino made his mark at Louisville. He lasted 13 games as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons before resigning last December to take the Arkansas job.

"I like going to softball games, basketball games, being a part of the entire university," Petrino said Thursday on an SEC spring football teleconference. "It's something you do miss when you're way from it.''

Throw in Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, who was a career assistant in the NFL, and that's five schools whose current hire came from the pro ranks.

Saban lasted two years with the Dolphins (15-22) between LSU and taking the Alabama job.

Brooks, after 18 years at Oregon, took over the St. Louis Rams in 1995-96. He also was an assistant eight years with various teams.

"I think you always come out a better coach having been in the NFL,'' Brooks said.

"The atmosphere around college football is a little more celebratory ... a lot more 'up,' if you will.''

Amen, says Spurrier.

Spurrier departed his beloved Florida for the Redskins in 2002 but lasted only two years (12-20). He resurfaced at South Carolina in 2005.

"What happened was we all realized it was a lot more fun coaching in college,'' Spurrier said. "You answer to the president and the athletic director and you very seldom see them unless you're losing too much or breaking the rules.

"The lifestyle is more conducive to a normal, happy person as a college coach.''

Here's what's going on around those normal, happy campuses this spring:

Auburn: The new spread offense is a good fit for quarterback candidate Kodi Burns.

Auburn hired Tony Franklin as offensive coordinator from Troy in time to install the offense before the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

"This new offense really helped Kodi use his athletic ability,'' coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I don't know whether he's going to be the starter but he's going to play a lot.''

Abandoning the West Coast Offense for the spread is a boost for recruiting, Tuberville said:

"It's going to help us in terms of putting a little more speed on the field and it energized a lot of us. We averaged 56 plays a game last year and we ran 93 in the bowl game.''

Florida: Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow is so integral to the offense, coach Urban Meyer said the challenge is staying one jump ahead of scheming opponents.

"Whether it's adding a fullback or no-huddle or two tight ends, that's the fun part,'' Meyer said. "We're very well aware that (opponents know) to beat Florida you've got to go hit Tim Tebow. We'll be ready.''

Emmanuel Moody, a transfer from USC, looks to be an upgrade for the Gators' running game.

Ole Miss: Escaped from his critics at Arkansas, Houston Nutt has resumed play-calling duties with the Rebels.

Mississippi State: Croom acknowledged the stakes are up with Nutt taking over the Bulldogs' archrival.

"They've got a lot of enthusiasm going up there now,'' Croom said. "We know Houston's track record as a coach and he's a good recruiter.

"I know Houston's going to compete very intensely, but we're up to the challenge.''

South Carolina: The good news is the Gamecocks return 10 defensive starters. The bad news is quarterback is still unsettled.

Blake Mitchell's departure left Chris Smelley as the likely successor but he has yet to put Tommy Beecher out of the picture. Then there's the uncertainty of redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia, who can't stay out of the doghouse for off-the-field issues.

Kentucky: Life after Andre Woodson might be more grounded.

Brooks lists the Wildcats' strengths as a nice stable of tailbacks, a decent offensive line and a mobile quarterback in Curtis Pulley.

Neither Pulley nor Mike Hartline have shown great passing prowess. What's more, the receiving corps was gutted by graduation.

Dicky Lyons is the only receiver back with more than seven catches. Alcoa's Kyrus Lanxter is trying to win a spot in the rotation.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or strange2@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 9

gavol2572 writes:

I dont care about all of these other schools!!!! I want more good positive UT football news. Have they interviewed Drayton and Scott yet?

volroadwarrior writes:

Who gives a rat's a**. I want to hear about UT. Maybe the UT coaches are reluctant to interview the KNS jackels.

GreerVol22 writes:

gavol, I couldn't agree more. Problem is the communist rule of Adams won't let any of his puppets write an original thought.

CoverOrange writes:

Myopia, not just a suburb of Utopia.

What this tells me is just about every team in the SEC but Vandy is expecting to take a step up in competition this year.

bigbluevol writes:

Actually Steve, what you all realized is that you couldn't coach in the NFL so you went back to college.

richvol writes:

Sorry guys but I like to know as much as possible about other SEC teams. It makes the game more interesting to watch due to knowing your enemy's players and tendencies. That's why we scout other teams...knowledge is power.

johnlg00 writes:

I'm with you, richvol. It's not as if there is any lack of articles about the Vols. There are about six articles up on this site right now about various aspects of the team, not to mention radio, TV, and all the football-related websites. I don't want to take the time to go to all the various other teams' sites to learn about them, but I like to have some inkling of what other teams think about their prospects for the upcoming season and a little about what we can expect from them.

WorkinLikeHeck writes:

Meanwhile, Florida is my pick to win the East. UGA will finish 2nd and UT will finish 3rd. UT could finish in a tie with UGA for 2nd due to UGA having to play a pretty tough gauntlet of 5 road games @ Arizona State, @ Auburn, @ LSU, @ South Carolina, @ Kentucky and then home games vs. Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Florida in Jacksonville.

Florida meanwhile only has 1 tough road game which is at Tennessee. Their only other 2 SEC road games are @ Vandy and @ Arkansas both of whom will probably not be bowling this year. The UGA game is in Jacksonville. Florida also does not have to play Auburn or Bama from the West this year (they get Arky and Ole Miss) LSU in Gainesville who is their permanent West rival.

Bigger_Al writes:

One thing each of those coaches has in common is that they lost big in the NFL.

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