Tag Archives: Kevin Steele

Best and Worst of 2016: SEC

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities

Ain’t it so?! Dickens nailed it as a preface to our first annual “Best of, Worst of” here at Campus Pressbox. This week we will take a look at the best and worst of the 2016 SEC football season.

There will be no particular template or structure that I will utilize in sharing this with you. I, obviously, did not see all of the games that were played in the SEC, however I do have an opinion on these matters and that is the way it is done on our website. We are all about opinions.

Let us proceed!

Best game.Tennessee at Georgia. October 1st . Georgia leads by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, falls behind, and comes back to take the lead with 10 seconds remaining. Yet, somehow, the Bulldogs manage to allow the Vols to run a short kickoff back for a decent gain and also tack a five-yard offside penalty on top of it. Mary was then hailed and she responded, in spades, as time expired.

Watch here.

Worst game.Florida at Vanderbilt. Same day as UT at UGA, folks!  That Dickens guy was pretty darn prophetic, huh? The score was zip-zip at the conclusion of the first quarter and it went downhill from there. Two touchdowns were scored and the teams combined for 501 yards of total offense. Final score: Florida 13, Vanderbilt 6. U-gly!

Best Coach. Nick Saban. Love him or hate him, he got it done again in dominant fashion. A 12-0 regular season record and another SEC Championship was tacked on to his resume.

Worst Coach. Butch Jones. No one got less out of more than the chief of the “Champions of Life.” Everyone had Tennessee winning the SEC East and some had them in the College Football Playoff. The Vols wound up in the Music City Bowl with an 8-4 record.

Best Coaching Hire. Kevin Steele, defensive coordinator, Auburn. He moved, laterally, from LSU to the Plains. The results? Auburn’s best defense since the Tommy Tuberville era. The Tigers were downright salty with a lethal combination of seasoned veterans and talented newcomers, giving up a mere 15.6 points per game.

Worst Coaching Fire. LSU’s complete bungling of Les Miles’ dismissal. The gruesome process began near the end of the 2015 season and continued through the Tigers’ last second loss at Auburn. A comedy of errors.

Best Uniforms. This selection, a tie, is highly subjective but you just cannot beat Auburn and LSU. The two sets of Tigers are both resplendent in burnt orange, navy blue and white, and purple, gold and white, respectively. Home or away.

Worst Uniforms. Here we go again. Poor Tennessee. The smokey grey gear that they pull out on Rocky Top, occasionally, is truly tough on the eyes.

Best and Worst Attendance. The Texas A&M Aggies averaged 101,917 fans per home game. Vanderbilt, again, shows up in the worst category averaging 31,242 for the season. To add insult to injury, there are, often, more fans supporting the opposing team than black and gold clad spectators in NashVegas.

That’s it, boys and girls! Now we turn our attention to February 1st and the conclusion of the first of three sports seasons in the Southeastern Conference, recruiting. Soon to follow is spring practice. And then? A mere four plus months remain until we kickoff the 2017 season!

More best and worst from Saturday’s Down South.

Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part Two

A little over a week ago, I introduced this idea. What if, for some terrible reason, I could only watch one SEC football game each weekend this season? Which games would I watch? Part one featured my picks for weeks one through six of the SEC football season. Here are my picks for the remainder of the season.

Week 7: #1 Alabama @ #10 Tennessee

This is probably the one game I’m most excited to watch all season. The Crimson Tide may have lost some key pieces to their championship team but they have plenty of recruits from their past few classes that can fill in those gaps. They also have Bo Scarbrough to replace Derrick Henry, and he definitely cannot be ignored. On the other hand, Butch Jones and Tennessee didn’t really lose important pieces to their puzzle at all. They return experienced players on both sides of the ball. The defense will be solid, and the offense has the potential to be explosive. If Josh Dobbs can pass for more than ten yards this season, the Volunteer offense will be hard to stop.

This game was a close one in Tuscaloosa last year, with Alabama obviously being the eventual victor. This year the two teams meet in Knoxville and I’m sure Neyland will be rocking. I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to get a win at home over the Crimson Tide. And I’d be laughing at Lane Kiffin the whole time. He might have to block me on Twitter if they lose.

Week 8: #12 Ole Miss @ #6 LSU

There are a few Ole Miss games that will definitely have my attention this season. This game in Death Valley is liable to be one of the most exciting SEC West games we’ll get to watch all season. I’ve talked about him plenty in Part One of this duo of lists, but Chad Kelly will be huge for Ole Miss this season.

The Rebels lost Laquon Treadwell to the NFL at the end of last season, but Damore’ea Stringfellow has the potential to be just as important to their offense. Playing opposite Treadwell last year, he already put up some pretty impressive stats (36 catches, 503 yds., 5 TDs) for the Rebels. LSU returns Fournette who was mostly a force to be reckoned with last season. More importantly, their quarterback Brandon Harris now has more experience and can hopefully help balance Fournette’s rushing attack with his passing attack.

These two offensive powerhouses meeting in Baton Rouge should make for a fantastic, explosive football game. The winner? Whichever team has fewer turnovers.

Week 9: #25 Florida vs. #16 Georgia (at EverBank Field)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will always draw my attention as a Gator. Heading into this season, both teams are expected to be strong but both have some pretty big question marks. The Gators need to actually move the ball on offense and they need to choose a quarterback to do that…again. Their defense will be as solid as ever as they retain the title “DBU.”

Georgia will have running back Nick Chubb again and an exciting new coach in Kirby Smart. That combination could prove to be very dangerous. As far as SEC defenses go, theirs may be pretty average. But an average Bulldog defense might overpower a below average Gator offense. At the end of the day, I’d give this one to the Gators. But I don’t say that with much confidence.

Week 10: #1 Alabama @ #6 LSU

Alabama and LSU are the two highest-ranked SEC West teams in the preseason coaches poll, making this game an easy choice. Last season, the Alabama defense shut down Heisman hopeful running back Leonard Fournette in this matchup. The question is whether or not they’ll be able to repeat that feat now that LSU has a more experienced quarterback with Brandon Harris returning.

For LSU, containing the Alabama offense will be a must. Last season, they allowed them to outgain the Tiger offense by about 250 yards. If they allow Alabama to gain over 400 yards again, they’ll be hard-pressed to win this game. Fournette and Harris will be a destructive duo, but I expect the Alabama defense to be able to contain them pretty well. And for this reason, I anticipate Alabama winning this game, despite LSU’s home field advantage.

Week 11: Auburn @ #16 Georgia

I honestly have no idea what to make of Auburn at this point. Last season I expected them to be solid but I would consider their 6-6 regular season record anything but solid. Surprisingly, they only lost to Georgia by a touchdown. That team they played a close game with was not the same team that Georgia has this season. Mark Richt was replaced with a shiny new head coach straight from Alabama, Kirby Smart. And since running back Nick Chubb is returning from his injury, the Georgia offense will undoubtedly be more difficult to stop.

The Auburn defense under Will Muschamp’s replacement, Kevin Steele, will be what decides this game. Steele has worked with a number of impressive programs: Alabama, Clemson, and LSU, to name a few. Whether or not he’ll be able to resurrect a defense that struggled during most games last year remains to be seen. Because of my doubts for Auburn’s defense and my faith in Georgia’s offense, I give them the clear advantage in this game. But I don’t expect a blowout.

Week 12: Arkansas @ Mississippi St.

Arkansas is in a similar position to Tennessee this season, even though their outlook isn’t quite as favorable as that of the Volunteers. Head Coach Bret Bielema is entering his fourth year here after a decent season last year. In theory, he should finally have his players and his system in place.

Meanwhile, Dan Mullen has had to return to the drawing board for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs lived and died by quarterback Dak Prescott the past two years. Last year, they had pretty much no offensive production unless Prescott was involved. Now that Prescott is gone, Mullen is going to have to completely revamp their offense if he wants any chance of surviving in the SEC West. Since Arkansas seems to be on more of an upward trend here, I see them winning this game at Mississippi State.

Week 13: Rivalry Week

Sorry guys, but I really can’t pick just one this week. There are far too many interesting rivalry matchups.

All rankings listed are according to the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on August 4th, 2016. Featured photo courtesy of wikimedia via user Neomrbungle.

E-Mail Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Auburn: Is Kevin Steele The Answer?

Kevin Steele is the new defensive coordinator at Auburn University. He indicated, at his press conference on Tuesday, that his goal is to make Auburn the last stop on his coaching journey. That is certainly possible, but is it likely? Steele’s path, like that of countless other assistant coaches, is often long and circuitous. That is simply the nature of the business.

Here is look at Steele’s ‘long and winding road’.

After his playing days, as a linebacker, at Furman and Tennessee, he became a graduate assistant for the Vols from 1978-1979. He was promoted to outside linebackers coach in 1982. He held this position for one year.

1983 saw Steele as the coach of linebackers at New Mexico State.

Steele then took the job as linebackers and tight ends coach at Oklahoma State for three seasons. Afterwards he returned to Knoxville to coach defensive backs from 1987-1988. The head coach at Tennessee throughout his playing and coaching time there was Johnny Majors.

Lincoln, Nebraska was the next stop for Steele. He spent six seasons with the Cornhuskers, under the tutelage of the legendary Tom Osborne, as a linebackers coach. He departed the Midwest for an opportunity to test the waters of the NFL. Charlotte was the destination and the job was linebackers coach of the Carolina Panthers for four seasons. Dom Capers was the head man for the Panthers during those years.

In 1999 Steele was offered an opportunity that every coach must relish. He was hired as a head coach. The job was with the Baylor Bears. The four years in Waco did were not productive, as far as wins and losses were concerned, and he moved on to Tallahassee, Florida to assist another coaching legend, Bobby Bowden. Linebackers were his duty there.

In 2007, the University of Alabama, in an effort to end years of frustration, announced Nick Saban as head coach of the Crimson Tide. Saban lured Steele away from the Seminoles to be his defensive coordinator. Assistant head coach was added to his title in 2008.

Dabo Swinney enticed Steele away from Tuscaloosa to Clemson as the DC of the Tigers in 2009. He remained in that capacity through 2013, when he was dismissed after a blowout loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Then it was back to Alabama where Steele, again, coached linebackers for one season.

The phone rang early in 2015. Les Miles was on the line. He offered Steele another shot as a defensive coordinator. Steele accepted. And, as you know, things got a little dicey down in Baton Rogue this past season.

“It’s certainly an exciting time for (his wife), myself and my children. … It’s an exciting time to be here with coach. It was a very, very easy decision for me.” – Kevin Steele

Everything wasn’t coming up roses for another group of Tigers during this most recent campaign. The Auburn version of fierce felines went 6-6 on the Plains of east Alabama. Auburn’s DC, Will Muschamp, was given the chance to turn it around in Columbia, South Carolina and he, wisely, embraced it. If you are afforded a shot as a head coach in the SEC then you are probably set for life, as far as your finances are concerned.

Gus Malzahn said that he was looking to build stability and continuity in his hiring of a new defensive coordinator. Will this be possible with Steele, or anyone else for that matter? If you follow football, whether it be college or pro, you know that coaches move and move and move, again and again and again. You just read of a perfect example in the words above. It is somewhat rare that any coach stays at a job for a lengthy period of time, be he the head coach or an assistant, these days. The pressure to win NOW, and continue to do so, is enormous.

But, Steele has very strong ties to the state of Alabama and Auburn. His daughter is a graduate of Auburn. His mother lives in Prattville. The first college football game he attended was at, then, Cliff Hare Stadium in Auburn. That was back in the late 60’s when his father was a head coach in Gordo, Alabama. Steele said that most of his relatives live within a one-hundred mile radius of Auburn.

Auburn has, for multiple reasons, and not all of them good, changed defensive coordinators SEVEN times in the last ten years. They desperately need that stability and continuity that Malzahn spoke of before he hired Steele. The Tigers haven’t fielded a truly good defense since the 2008 unit. That takes a toll on the program.

“I don’t know how to read a contract.” – Kevin Steele

Will Kevin Steele, at 57 years old, actually find the last stop of his coaching career at Auburn University? Will he help bring the stability and continuity that both he and Malzahn, together, seek? Will the Auburn family, finally, be able to step off the roller coaster ride that has been Auburn football since Pat Dye’s last SEC Championship in 1989?

Stay tuned.

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Photo: TigerNet/Flickr