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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

SEC Breakthrough: Program Needs Players, Culture and Perseverance

If you want to break out at the top level of college football, you need a seasoned player, an established culture, and time to get both.

Yet each year, fans, boosters and administrators expect teams to celebrate their titles, no matter how new the program is or the tough Southeastern Conference.

No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama look like the favorites for the SEC title, but a group that includes No. 8 Kentucky, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 11 Tennessee and No. 16 Ole Miss is undefeated. and have big goals. .

“I think that’s one of the things that helped me get buy-in from the players.” Tennessee coach Josh Hupel said in his second season: “I never set a cap on what I could or could not do.”

He’s not the only one with the SEC.

Ole Miss and coach Lane Kiffin started 3-0 with rushing and defense. The Rebels are second in the league with 243 rushing yards, his fourth behind Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.

The undefeated Razorbacks (2-1) against No. 23 Texas A&M on Saturday night are headed by coach Sam Pittman, a former offensive line coach in Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia before being hired after 2019. I adopt a tough style. Season.

Tennessee is the top offensive team in the conference, averaging over 553 yards and 52 points per game.

What’s the secret to rising in the SEC? Arkansas receiver Matt Landers said, “We just play our brand of football.

Former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier agrees. Having a top player is important, but having an established culture that his team can rely on week after week, season after season, is just as essential.

Plus, “you have to give the players you hire a little bit of time,” said Spurrier, who led Florida to a national championship and six SEC titles in 2010 and South Carolina to its only East Division title. .

That’s the path Kentucky took with Mark StoopsIn his 10th season, he overtook Bear Bryant to become the school’s leader in coaching wins.

Stoops’ team went 10-3 in 2018, his sixth season, before going 8-5 and 5-6 over the next two years. But the Wildcats rebounded to a 10-3 record last year, and their focus is on bigger things this fall.

According to Spurrier, part of Stoops’ success has been the patience of fans and school administrators. Stoops said one more thing he’s focused on is keeping young players engaged so they can stick around and grow as playmakers instead of leaving. said.

“In the end, the most important thing is winning and catching up,” says Stoops. “But we can’t forget development and bringing them in.”

Stoops’ tenure is rare on many SEC campuses. His 9 of his 14 schools in the league have seen coach changes in the last three seasons.

Gary Danielson, longtime college football analyst for CBS Sports, says all the high expectations create pressure cookers every year for teams that don’t live up to them.

Danielson said other Power Five leagues may have two or three teams hoping for the title, but there are six schools in the SEC that can change coaches “if they’re not an NCAA playoff team.” Said there were one or seven.

The current four-team college football playoff format makes it difficult for all but the SEC’s best teams to compete for the national title. Danielson believes things will change once CFP transitions to his 12-team, as announced earlier this year.

Ten wins is likely enough to put an additional SEC team in a large berth in the extended playoffs, Danielson said.

A change in coaching does not guarantee immediate success. South Carolina coach Shane Beamer finished an amazing 7-6 debut season last year, losing 1-3 to Arkansas (44-30) and Georgia (48-7). Lost both SEC games.

Beamer was disappointed with the Bulldogs’ loss. But afterward, participating recruits and their families raved about the stadium atmosphere.

“Thankfully, that was all they could talk about, not the results on the field,” he said with a smile.

There’s nothing like sitting on the sidelines of NFL-class talent. According to 247sports.com, Texas A&M and Alabama, defending national champions Georgia, went 1-2-3 in the recruiting cycle this season.

7 SEC teams in top 16 of 247 sports 2023 recruitment rankings Alabama is leading the way. For the programs behind the pack like Gamecocks, Missouri and Vanderbilt, it’s upside.

“If you don’t have the three to five top-three picks in the NFL Draft that LSU, Alabama, and Georgia have, I think they need to be a little more unique.


AP Sports Writers Mark Long, Jacksonville, Florida. Teresa Walker of Nashville, Tennessee. and John Zenner of Birmingham, Alabama contributed to this report.


More AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football When https://twitter.com/ap_top25Sign up for AP’s College Football newsletter. https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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