19 for ’19 Offseason Topics, No. 15: The five head coaches who’ll have much, much better second seasons
There were 20 new head coaches coming into the 2018 season – compared to the 27 newbies this year – but there were a whole lot of major coaching players taking over major programs.
But there was a reason that many of them got their respective jobs – they were open because the previous guys were bad.
Some did an amazing job in great first years – like Dan Mullen at Florida, Chad Lunsford at Georgia Southern, and Josh Heupel at UCF – others really, really didn’t.
Which five got through the rain, the adjustment period, the change of scenery, etc., and are about to blow up large in Year Two?
These are the five coaches about to have fantastic second acts.
5. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee
It was a disastrous coaching hire process two seasons ago for a program coming off an even more disastrous final season of the Butch Jones era. But all’s well that ends well, and it all ended with landing Jeremy Pruitt as the head man.
But just when it looked like Pruitt was going to come up with a fantastic turnaround after Jones’ 4-8 2017 campaign – starting 5-5 and needing just one more win to get bowl eligible – it all went into the tank with losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt by a combined score of 88-30.
For all of Jones’ fault, he was able to bring talent to Knoxville – he just didn’t do enough with it. There was enough in place for Pruitt’s team to push South Carolina in a close loss on the road, and beat Auburn and Kentucky. But the finishing kick showed just far the team has to go.
It’s still going to take a year or so to become any sort of a player in the SEC race, but there’s experience to work with.
The defensive line has to undergo an overhaul, but six starters return in the back eight, and everyone is back on an offense that sputtered and struggled, but had its moments.
Start 3-0 against Georgia State, BYU and UT Chattanooga, and there’s the base of wins to build off of. UAB is a winnable home game, and so is Vanderbilt. It’s going to take a few upsets to get bowl eligible, but this year’s team will do it.