John Adams: Confidence paying off for SEC coaches

DESTIN, Fla. — Bret Bielema seemingly had it made at Wisconsin.

He coached the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowls, averaged almost 10 victories per season for seven years, and built up a respectable following on Twitter.

But he left it all for Arkansas after last season. And he didn’t go just for the money.

Bielema wanted to prove himself in the best conference in the country. You can’t do that in the Big Ten.

Although Arkansas could be the worst team in the SEC this fall, Bielema couldn’t resist the opportunity.

You can question his judgment. You can’t question his confidence.

Confidence seems to be a common attribute among the coaches who recently have taken over losing SEC programs.

They have something else in common. They aren’t just recruiting to their school. They’re recruiting to the SEC.

And it’s working.

Look what James Franklin has done at Vanderbilt. His first team won six games and qualified for a bowl. His next team won nine games.

That’s 15 victories in two seasons for a program that won four games the previous two seasons.

How confident is Franklin? He’s so confident that he didn’t take another job after going 9-4 last season.

He believes he can keep winning at Vanderbilt by recruiting to the school and the conference.

He delivered his recruiting sales pitch for reporters at the SEC spring meetings this week: “We sell an opportunity to get a world-class education. There’s only a handful of schools that can compete with us.

“We have that, coupled with an opportunity to play in the SEC as well. So if you’re a kid who wants to chase both of your goals at the very highest level, where else would you go?”

Recruits are buying what Franklin is selling. They’re also buying Hugh Freeze’s pitch at Ole Miss.

Like Franklin, Freeze hasn’t been all talk. He surprised everyone by winning seven games in his first season at a school that had lost 16 of 22 games the previous two seasons.

He followed that up in February with a top-five recruiting class.

Mark Stoops at Kentucky and Butch Jones at Tennessee have yet to win a game. But they already have turned heads.

Stoops got Kentucky fans so excited in his first few months on the job that more than 50,000 of them showed up for the spring game. He improved Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class drastically in what little time he had and has nine commitments for the 2014 class.

Jones’ salesmanship helped the Vols draw more than 60,000 fans to their spring game. He’s selling recruits, too.

UT already has 14 commitments for 2014, proving recruits believe Jones can turn around a program that has suffered three

consecutive losing seasons.

Auburn went 3-9 last season and was outscored 150-20 in its last three SEC games under Gene Chizik.

But that didn’t prevent new coach Gus Malzahn from assembling an impressive staff of assistants, who already have had a favorable impact on recruiting.

“Every school in our league has something to sell,” Freeze said. “If you get a coach who believes it and has a lot of passion about it.”

Maybe Bielema is another one of those coaches.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 11

Peoplecallmestag writes:

I'm a bit disappointed. This article doesn't really say much.

It's great these coaches have confidence, but that's kind of a given as you can't work/perform at their levels without it.

I would have liked to have seen some stats to back up the assertion. Right now UT has the number-one-ranked class for 2014 according to Rivals. Why not make the correlation between last year's class and 2014 based on what CBJ is cooking?

TheVolMan writes:

in response to Peoplecallmestag:

I'm a bit disappointed. This article doesn't really say much.

It's great these coaches have confidence, but that's kind of a given as you can't work/perform at their levels without it.

I would have liked to have seen some stats to back up the assertion. Right now UT has the number-one-ranked class for 2014 according to Rivals. Why not make the correlation between last year's class and 2014 based on what CBJ is cooking?

Talk about not saying much. You must not like JA because he was right about Fulmer. Even if not then no matter -- you just don't have much to say.

Oh, and those of you who disagree are just more dense JA haters. The Moronic Inferno.

ChadBTindell writes:

A more interesting look would be at Texas A&M v. Texas. The Longhorns were the top dog in the Big 12. The Aggies made no secret about the Longhorn Network and preferential treatment being a reason they left for the SEC. The Aggies now have an exciting coach, a Heisman winner in 'Johnny Football', the best football conference in America and a newly minted (literally) ESPN/SEC Network. The Aggies are adding on to Kyle Field to make it one of the largest in the country.

So, how has all this impacted the A&M-Longhorn rivalry? They may not play each other on the field, but they compete for the same recruits. The state of Texas has a load of high school talent. The other U of T used to wrap up it's recruiting before the season even started. While it's only been a short time, A&M in the SEC v. Texas in the Big 12 would be an interesting examination.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to ChadBTindell:

A more interesting look would be at Texas A&M v. Texas. The Longhorns were the top dog in the Big 12. The Aggies made no secret about the Longhorn Network and preferential treatment being a reason they left for the SEC. The Aggies now have an exciting coach, a Heisman winner in 'Johnny Football', the best football conference in America and a newly minted (literally) ESPN/SEC Network. The Aggies are adding on to Kyle Field to make it one of the largest in the country.

So, how has all this impacted the A&M-Longhorn rivalry? They may not play each other on the field, but they compete for the same recruits. The state of Texas has a load of high school talent. The other U of T used to wrap up it's recruiting before the season even started. While it's only been a short time, A&M in the SEC v. Texas in the Big 12 would be an interesting examination.

Good call..I find it interesting that A&M could keep some of their Big 12 rivalries alive in their OOC scheduling but choose not to by playing Rice and SMU instead of maybe Baylor and Texas Tech

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

It will certainly be an interesting year with all the changes in coaches and recruiting..Vandy will not repeat 9 wins and will not be playing a Vol team that had thrown in the towel before kick off..Hogs and Vols have the toughest road back. Our schedule is absolutely brutal and we just don't have SEC talent and depth at every position..YET!!! I regret to say Worley;Neal and Howard don't strike fear into many SEC Defensive Coordinators but Butch's schemes might be just enough for us to win all the games we are suppose to win

rbwtn writes:

One thing for sure, Big Orange now has a coach that can sell too and he isn't afraid to do it. It's going to make a huge difference in the future.

rbwtn writes:

in response to ChadBTindell:

A more interesting look would be at Texas A&M v. Texas. The Longhorns were the top dog in the Big 12. The Aggies made no secret about the Longhorn Network and preferential treatment being a reason they left for the SEC. The Aggies now have an exciting coach, a Heisman winner in 'Johnny Football', the best football conference in America and a newly minted (literally) ESPN/SEC Network. The Aggies are adding on to Kyle Field to make it one of the largest in the country.

So, how has all this impacted the A&M-Longhorn rivalry? They may not play each other on the field, but they compete for the same recruits. The state of Texas has a load of high school talent. The other U of T used to wrap up it's recruiting before the season even started. While it's only been a short time, A&M in the SEC v. Texas in the Big 12 would be an interesting examination.

and A&M will have a new stadium, which is a huge selling point. Remember back when all your heard on TV was TN's huge stadium out of TN Pride we need to add to it to stay the largest in the SEC at least it would only take a few thousand seats it is a huge selling point that Hamilton destroyed, it's beautiful but wait until you hear how A&M uses it as a selling point over Texas Stadium which will hold about the same. One of the best moves the SEC did is Texas A&M now we're right in the middle of Great Talent.

DC82_Vol writes:

I am still amazed at how poorly Dooley recuited. I guess his dry lawyer type humor did not work with High school kids. I really thought this was an area he would have excelled.

TommyJack writes:

in response to DC82_Vol:

I am still amazed at how poorly Dooley recuited. I guess his dry lawyer type humor did not work with High school kids. I really thought this was an area he would have excelled.

Dooley was flat-out lazy.

JSmith525 writes:

Coach Dooley was a place holder. As it turned out he was not SEC HC material. He did many things that I disagree with but one thing he did do was to stabilize things, and by that I mean "he stopped the bleeding" after the CPF dismissal and the Kiffin BS, Coach Dooley came and the wins were not there however the character improved tremendously. He had little in "quality players" and most of the quality players he inherited left on their own or were ask to leave. Coach Jones has been impressive to say the least. He did not inherit an a low character/quality team and has built "impressively" upon what he did inherit. Will UT finish with the number 1 overall class in 2014? I don't know, but they can sign like 30 or so players, so the possibility does exist. This 2014 class is so very much important because of it being a "legacy class". Building upon tradition by recruiting tradition. This class could start the wheels rolling toward a chance for a NC. Only time will tell, and it will take time! UT should take the time to build it the right way as CBJ say's "Brick by Brick" Quick fixes don't git r done, ask Auburn!

bUTch_please writes:

in response to JSmith525:

Coach Dooley was a place holder. As it turned out he was not SEC HC material. He did many things that I disagree with but one thing he did do was to stabilize things, and by that I mean "he stopped the bleeding" after the CPF dismissal and the Kiffin BS, Coach Dooley came and the wins were not there however the character improved tremendously. He had little in "quality players" and most of the quality players he inherited left on their own or were ask to leave. Coach Jones has been impressive to say the least. He did not inherit an a low character/quality team and has built "impressively" upon what he did inherit. Will UT finish with the number 1 overall class in 2014? I don't know, but they can sign like 30 or so players, so the possibility does exist. This 2014 class is so very much important because of it being a "legacy class". Building upon tradition by recruiting tradition. This class could start the wheels rolling toward a chance for a NC. Only time will tell, and it will take time! UT should take the time to build it the right way as CBJ say's "Brick by Brick" Quick fixes don't git r done, ask Auburn!

Well said.

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