It's not easy being a coach in the SEC, especially if your team
is not one of the traditional powerhouses. The league's upper
echelon--Auburn (page 62), Florida (page 74), Tennessee (page
82) and Alabama (page 90)--is harder to crack than a CIA code.
Yet expectations for all teams are so high that woe be unto the
SEC coach who goes more than a year, two at the most, without a
winning season and a trip to the Weedeater Ho-Hum Irrelevant
Holiday Bowl Classic.
The only coaches among the league's bottom eight teams with any
comfort zone are Kentucky's Bill Curry, Mississippi State's
Jackie Sherrill and Brad Scott at South Carolina (page 112).
Georgia's Ray Goff is in a win-or-else situation. LSU was
rejected by its top choice for a new coach (Pat Sullivan) before
hiring Gerry DiNardo, who came from Vanderbilt, of all places.
The honeymoon is over for third-year coach Danny Ford at
Arkansas, and few can envy the positions the new bosses at Ole
Miss and Vandy--Tommy Tuberville and Rod Dowhower,
respectively--find themselves in.
Realizing that his job is at stake, Goff has mandated a new look
on both sides of the ball at Georgia. New defensive coordinator
Joe Kines has installed a 4-3 defense that should showcase the
talent of senior linebacker Randall Godfrey and senior end
Phillip Daniels. On offense, the Dogs will have a more balanced
attack--but that's only because quarterback Eric Zeier has gone
to the NFL.
The new quarterback, Mike Bobo, has skilled wideouts Brice
Hunter, a senior, and Juan Daniels, a junior, to work with.
Junior scatback Hines Ward will create problems for defenses, as
will junior Robert Edwards, who is switching from cornerback to
At Vanderbilt, Dowhower has installed a pro-style offense. This
means new challenges for quarterbacks Ronnie Gordon and Damian
Allen, who must prove they can throw, and junior tailback
Jermaine Johnson, who has never caught a pass in college. If
Johnson can catch, he'll be tough to defend: He runs a 4.29 40.
Dowhower has put the defense in the hands of new coordinator
Woody Widenhofer. He inherits a squad with 10 starters
returning, including two underrated linemen, junior Brian Boykin
and senior James Manley.
The 1-10 record Kentucky had doesn't accurately reflect how bad
the situation was in 1994. Really. Nevertheless, athletic
director C.M. Newton refused to fire Curry, whose teams haven't
had a winning record in his five seasons in Lexington.
Newton probably just postponed the inevitable, unless new
offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac turns out to be a miracle
worker. Junior tailback Moe Williams and sophomore wide receiver
Kio Sanford are two talented players who are trapped in a
Mississippi State will be happy to duplicate last season's 8-4
record, considering its schedule: the Bulldogs play Tennessee,
Baylor, Auburn and Alabama on the road. No matter whom State
plays, its opposition will now find a quicker team on both sides
of the ball.
After spring practice Sherrill said of his offensive skill
players, "It's going to be hard to catch some of those guys in
the open field." The backs will be Keffer McGee and Robert
Isaac, a couple of shifty runners, while senior wide receiver
Eric Moulds is a burner.
Defensively, Sherrill has switched from the 3-4 to the 4-3. The
new alignment should showcase senior end Larry Williams, State's
defensive MVP in the Peach Bowl, and senior Walt Harris, who
moves from cornerback to free safety.
Mississippi fans hope that Tuberville can back up his words.
"We're going to win big, and it's not going to take too long,"
Tuberville told a booster group over the summer. "Everybody is
laughing across the state. I know the boys over at State are
laughing, and at Alabama, but we will win a national
championship here. I promise you that."
Tuberville's No. 1 priority this season will be his defense.
Senior Michael Lowery, who was moved to linebacker after three
years at strong safety, is one of only two returning starters.
To shore up the unit, Tuberville has moved sophomore Walker
Jones from receiver to strong safety, junior David Evans from
offensive guard to defensive tackle and senior Renard Brown from
running back to defensive end.
Under new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Rebs should
operate from the shotgun more often. They have also added a
U-back--a combination of flanker, tight end and running back--that
will be manned, at least initially, by sophomore Moine Nicholson.
LSU quarterback Jamie Howard has high hopes for the Tigers,
prompting him to delay a pro baseball career (he was a No. 2
draft pick by the Atlanta Braves) to return for his senior season.
DiNardo plans to use an offense that showcases Howard, senior
tailback Robert Toomer and junior wide receiver Eddie Kennison.
On defense, the players to watch are senior end Gabe Northern,
junior linebacker Mike Calais and senior tackle Pete Ballis.
During spring practice at Arkansas, Ford said, "We've been
through some tough times, but there are better days ahead." He
didn't, however, say when those days might arrive.
This season new defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn will employ a
blitzing scheme. Dunn's best players are senior ends Marcus
Adair and Steven Conley, who both had seven sacks last season.
On offense, Ford is sticking with an outmoded option attack. It
seems the team's fate won't change until Ford changes--or the
school gets a new coach.
--William F. Reed
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Moulds is a Bulldog who's a greyhound. [Eric Moulds in game]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Vandy tailback Johnson must develop as a receiver for the Commodores to get past the beasts of the SEC East. [Jermaine Johnson in game]
3. South Carolina
3. Mississippi State