SEC coaches adapt to league's speed, talent
BY KURT VOIGT Associated Press
Thursday, October 25, 2012
10/25/12 at 2:38 AM
College football is college football, right?
Not in the Southeastern Conference, home to six straight national titles and the inside track to a seventh this season. The players seem faster, the talent level is higher, the scrutiny hotter than anywhere else.
"It's like every week is murderer's row," Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. "You've got to prepare for the real guys, the guys who look like they should be playing on Sundays."
Smith has seen college football from just about every angle in his 40 years of coaching. His career began at his alma mater, Weber State, and his 19 years as a head coach includes stops at Louisville and Michigan State.
"I'm not downgrading any of the other leagues, but you take a look at some of the other leagues and you say, 'My goodness, that's slow football,' " Smith said.
Coaches enter the league with reputations as an offensive whiz, only to find they must quickly change plans to counter the oncoming rush of the SEC's defensive linemen.
Former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, in his first season as the head coach at Arkansas State, spent 15 years as a high school coach in Arkansas before earning his first chance as the Razorbacks offensive coordinator in 2006. During his last prep stop at Springdale High School, Malzahn often tried to make the 15-minute drive to go watch Arkansas play.
"(The speed) was overwhelming, especially if you're not used to it," said Malzahn, who also spent two seasons as Tulsa's offensive coordinator. "It's just a different game as far as the speed factor is concerned."
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, a former Oklahoma assistant in his first year with the Aggies, has a team that leads the conference in total offense. He said the biggest change has been adapting to its year-round nature.
"The coaches in this league are extremely aggressive on the football field and in recruiting," Sumlin said. "Aggressive is probably not the right word, but competitive is. Because of that there's some very, very talented guys in this league and some really, really good coaching."
Arkansas up next
Vs. Ole Miss in Little Rock, Ark.
11:21 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KCFO am970