Jeremy Pruitt

Total continuity in the SEC for 2020

I don’t know if is in use or whether and to what extent the term is being used as a trademark, but I might as well make a grab for it all myself, as I’ve been somewhat obsessed about the issue of continuity these last couple of weeks. I first tackled why and how much returning production matters and then posted the entire list of returning production for 2020, both nationally and in the SEC. And then I started thinking about coaches, and suddenly there were rabbit trails everywhere. The first one I poked my head into concerned head coaching and coordinator continuity in the SEC over the past ten years or so. It was dark down there. Dark and mysterious and fascinating, and it smelled like sweat and blood.

It just means more

Anyway, one of the primary reasons I’m so hyper-focused on coaching and roster continuity this summer is that I think the virus and the quarantine has amplified its importance this year.

Although the data from last week’s post proved only that continuity and change can be either good or bad depending on the personnel, it is true that change always introduces some degree of uncertainty. Uncertainty is often equal parts excitement and terror, and when you put a mic on that thing and redline the faders, it’s time for the popcorn.

There’s a reason teams don’t just gather for the first time an hour before kickoff and go play. They need time to prepare. Common sense suggests that time to prepare would be more important for teams with more uncertainty in the form of less coaching and roster continuity. With COVID-19 sending everyone into isolation just as spring practice was about to begin and teams just now, some four months later, beginning to reassemble, and with so much of the programs’ focus being appropriately diverted to safety issues, it stands to reason that preparation time this season will be at an all-time premium.

Bottom line, this seems like a really bad year to be a new team, and conversely, it seems like a really good year to know the person next to you.

So, which SEC teams will be at more of a disadvantage this fall due to the shortened offseason and the divided attention? And which should have more of an advantage due to continuity? There’s a table with all of the data below for your own perusal, but here are some of our findings.

SEC coaching continuity heading into 2020

First, let’s take a quick look at coaching continuity in the SEC just for this fall, as I somehow failed to hit that with last week’s barrage of continuity posts.

Five SEC teams have complete continuity with respect to their head coaching and coordinator positions this year: Texas A&M, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, and, somewhat surprisingly, Alabama, which hasn’t had complete continuity since Lane Kiffin and Jeremy Pruitt were together in Crimson in 2015.

On the flip side, three programs have turned over all three positions: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Arkansas.

In the middle, Georgia, South Carolina, and Auburn are all breaking in new offensive coordinators, and Vanderbilt and Missouri have each swapped out two of three pieces. The Commodores retained head coach Derek Mason but replaced both coordinators, and Missouri replaced its head coach and offensive coordinator (it’s the same guy), but retained defensive coordinator Ryan Walters from Barry Odom’s staff.

LSU is a bit of a unique situation. Ed Orgeron remains, and so does offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, but defensive coordinator Bo Pelini replaces Dave Aranda, and perhaps most importantly, passing game coordinator Joe Brady has moved on.

SEC Teams with the most roster and coaching continuity heading into 2020

So, if there’s an advantage to overall continuity heading into this weird college football season, which teams will benefit and which will suffer?

First on the list of teams that might benefit is Texas A&M. The Aggies rank first in overall returning production on the field and are one of the teams with no churn in the head coach or coordinator positions. Jimbo Fisher is back with coordinators Darryll Dickey (although co-OC Jay Graham is now at Tennessee) and Mike Elko. Plus, they return 100% of last year’s passing yards, 74% of their rushing yards, 80% of their offensive line starts, and most of their defense as well. These guys are not building something new from scratch. They had to press pause like everyone else, but all they have to do to get back up to speed is to hit the play button again.

Right behind the Aggies in this category are Kentucky and Tennessee, who both also return a ton of production, their head coaches, and both coordinators.

Teams in trouble if continuity matters more this fall include Mississippi State, LSU, and Missouri. These guys are still doing meet-and-greets and icebreakers.

Here’s a list of all of the SEC teams with their respective roster and coaching continuity data for you to analyze yourself. What do you see?

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