2021 SEC Football Coaching Changes and Betting Notes

SEC Coaches and Coordinators

WagerTalk handicapper Rob Veno breaks down the new coaches and coordinators in the SEC this season. Which teams are introducing a new offense this year? Which teams are expected to play at a different tempo than previous seasons? Rob shares his SEC coaching notes and how they will impact the upcoming season.

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Alabama Crimson Tide

New Offensive Coordinator: Bill O’Brien (1st season) – QB coach since 2021 / Houston HC 2014-1st 4G of’ ’20 / GM 1st 4G of ’20 / Penn State HC 2012-’13

Coaching Notes:
Bill O’Brien named new OC Jan 21, 2021
Ex-OC Steve Sarkisian (2 seasons) – Accepted Texas HC position Jan 2, 2021

System & Changes: Offense – Pro-Style (Multiple) / Defense – 3-4 (Multiple)
Offense: Ex-Houston Texans HC O’Brien steps into Alabama’s existing “Pro Style” Multiple system and will take over as the game day play caller.

Auburn Tigers

New Head Coach: Bryan Harsin (1st season) – Boise State HC GDPC 2016 / Arkansas State HC 2013 / Texas OC 2011-12

New Offensive Coordinator: Mike Bobo (1st season) – QB coach & GDPC since 2021 / South Carolina OC & QB coach 2020 / Colorado State HC 2015-’19 / Georgia OC 2007-’14 & QB coach 2001-’14

New Defensive Coordinator: Derek Mason (1st season) – Vanderbilt HC 2014-’20 / Stanford DC 2012-’13 / co-DC in 2011 / Associate HC L3Y

System & Changes: Offense – Multiple “Pro Style” / Defense – 3-4 Multiple
Offense: Auburn is undergoing a transition from a pure “Spread” system to more of a “Pro Style” look under HC Harsin & OC Bobo. This is a more controlled tempo style with a lot of 2 TE sets incorporated into it. The overall playbook is going to be a blend of Harsin & Bobo traits which the HC said will be installed in stages during the offseason right through Fall camp. The passing game is likely to feature both “11” & “12” personnel with some RPO concepts and misdirection from Harsin’s Boise State tenure and the drop back “Pro Style” employed by Bobo at Colorado State. Each prefers to start with the ground game so this figures to be a system that will based on achieving run/pass balance with establishing the run game as the key component. There is new terminology and there are new concepts which have been noted by the players to be different & difficult to learn and become comfortable with throughout the Spring so while the knowledge progression has been good, it is definitely a work in progress.

Defense: Auburn will also be changing defensive systems going from their hybrid 4-3 with a nickel back to new DC Mason’s trademark 3-4. Mason’s defensive philosophy is predicated on the interior defensive line being firm at the line of scrimmage while the the DE’s set the edge allowing the LB’s the space to read the play & react aggressively. This funnel type system is designed to prevent offenses from getting wide and try and eliminate explosive plays in the run game. Mason likes to use multiple fronts with disguised rush & coverage concepts to combat current day “up tempo” offenses. The idea is to confuse opposing QB’s who are trying to read defenses at the line. Optimism should reign here since Mason will have first team talent & backup depth far superior to what he ever had at Vanderbilt. His current knowledge of SEC opponents and how to game plan for them is also a positive.

Florida Gators

Co-Offensive Coordinator: Billy Gonzales (3rd season) – Passing Game Coordinator since 2020 & WR coach since 2018 / Mississippi State co-OC 2014-’17 / WR coach since 2013 & PGC since 2014 / Illinois co-OC 2012
Co-Offensive Coordinator: John Hevesy (3rd season) – Running Game Coordinator since 2020 & OL coach since 2018 / Mississippi State co-OC 2014-’17 / RGC and OL coach since 2009 / Florida TE & Asst OL coach

Coaching Notes:
Ex-OC Brian Johnson (1 season) – Accepted Philadelphia (NFL) QB coach position Jan 27, 2021
Billy Gonzales – Promoted to co-OC & PGC / Was co-OC here from 2018-’19 before losing that title / Has been WR coach here since 2018
John Hevesy – Promoted to co-OC & RGC / Was co-OC here from 2018-’19 before losing that title / Has been OL coach here since 2018

System & Changes: Offense – Spread Option / Defense – 3-4 Multiple
Offense: After an severe swing to a downfield pass heavy attack last season, HC Mullen is switching back to his true “Spread Option” system Florida promoted a pair of assistants from their offensive staff in WR coach Gonzales & OL coach Hevesy. HC Mullen will remain the game day play caller with Gonzales as the passing game coordinator and Hevesy as the run game coordinator. The change in schemes appears to be Mullen fitting the system to his personnel especially his QB Emory Jones much like he did last season with Kyle Trask.

Kentucky Wildcats

New Offensive Coordinator: Liam Coen (1st season) – QB coach since 2021 / LA Rams (NFL) Ast QB coach 2020 & Ast WR coach 2018-’19 / Maine (FCS) OC 2016

Coaching Notes:
Liam Coen – Named OC & QB coach Dec 15, 2020 (35 years old)
Ex-OC Eddie Gran (5 seasons) – Fired Dec 6, 2020
Ex-co OC Darin Hinshaw (5 seasons) – Fired Dec 6, 2020

System & Changes: Offense – Pro Style / Defense – 3-4 Multiple
Offense: New OC Coen is installing the “Pro Style” system he learned under HC Sean McVay the past 3 years as a Rams offensive assistant. The new scheme is a run first philosophy with the QB under center much more and “play action” plus RPO concepts making up the bulk of the passing game. Straight drop back passing is not featured in this offense so it will be a limited part of the paly book. Coen wants to be run/pass balanced but establish the run and wok off of that. The offensive line is learning the “wide zone” blocking scheme which is currently becoming more prominent across the CFB landscape. The new playbook and terminology has presented UK with a steep learning curve but according to Coen and some of his players a lot of the stuff is presented differently but not really that different once they learn it.

LSU Tigers

New Offensive Coordinator: Jake Peetz (1st season) – Carolina QB coach 2020 & RB coach 2019 / Alabama Off Analyst 2018 / Oakland (NFL) QB coach 2017 & Asst QB coach 2016 / Off Asst 2015
New Defensive Coordinator: Daronte Jones (1st season) – Minnesota (NFL) DB coach 2020 / Cincinnati (NFL) CB coach 2018-’19 / Miami (NFL) Asst DB coach 2016-’17

Coaching Notes:
Daronte Jones – Named new DC Jan 26, 2021
Jake Peetz – Named new OC Jan 6, 2020
Ex-OC Steve Ensminger (3 seasons) – Re-assigned to off field role as Offensive Analyst Dec 22, 2020
Ex-DC Bo Pelini – Fired Dec 21, 2020

System & Changes: Offense – Pro Style (Multi Tempo RPO) / Defense – 4-3
Offense: LSU is going back to their 2019 “Joe Brady” offense which will be led by Jake Peetz who was with the Carolina Panthers and worked with Brady last season. The “Spread” system features “11” personnel along with some four WR sets, FB’s split out wide and RPO pass patterns. HC Orgeron is adamant about bringing the explosiveness back to LSU’s offense. DJ Mangas was also brought in to be the passing game coordinator and work in unison with Peetz. Mangas was also a member of the Carolina staff last season and he worked here as an offensive analyst in 2019 during the offense’s historic season with Joe Brady. The familiarity here with this system is extreme which should lead to an increase in production this season. The Spring game was a good sign as it produced deep passes, long runs and explosive plays with what Orgeron described as vanilla play calling.

Defense: First time FBS level DC Jones enters after six seasons in the NFL coaching defensive backs for three different teams. He is tasked with simplifying the LSU 4-3 system especially in pass coverage where HC Orgeron wants the complex nature of last year’s schemes eliminated. Orgeron cited the difficulties players had handing off receivers to other defenders at certain levels of the routes. He wants to simplify the coverage and communication in order to prevent breakdowns and explosive plays. The return to a fast and attacking style of defense is also a priority and Orgeron has taken a bigger role in the shaping of this year’s identity. The personnel is talented including what is one of the best CB tandems in the country Derek Stingley & Eli Ricks. According to Coach “O” he saw a noticeable improvement during Spring practices.

Missouri Tigers

New Defensive Coordinator: Steve Wilks (1st season) – Out Of Football 2020 / Cleveland (NFL) DC 2019 / Arizona (NFL) HC 2018

Coaching Notes:
Steve Wilks – Named new DC Jan 21, 2021
Ex-DC Ryan Walters (3 seasons) – Accepted Illinois DC position Jan 6, 2021

System & Changes: Offense – Pro Tempo / Defense – 4-3 Multiple
Defense: DC Wilks returns to the football field this season and has made some changes to Missouri’s previous 4-3 system. The most notable is in pass defense where Wilks has switched from man-man schemes to zone coverage. The new look has also changed the standard DE position on one side to a hybrid edge rusher / OLB which also has some responsibility in pass coverage. While the 4-3 alignment remans the base, there will be a large amount of 4-2-5 looks and a lot of NFL concepts. During his season as Arizona Cardinals HC in 2018, Wilks used their 4-3 base defense less than any team in the league. Spring reports suggest that there has been rapid development and improvement in the Tigers defensive unit but this is still a vastly different playbook with new terminology that is not fully grasped heading into August camp.

South Carolina Gamecocks

New Head Coach: Shane Beamer (1st season) – Oklahoma Asst HC & TE coach 2018-’20 / Georgia TE & ST coach 2016-’17 / Virginia Tech AHC & RB coach 2011-’15

New Offensive Coordinator: Marcus Satterfield (1st season) – QB coach since 2021 / Carolina (NFL) Asst OL coach 2020 / Baylor TE coach 2018-’19 / Tennessee Tech (FCS) HC 2016-’17

New Defensive Coordinator: Clayton White (1st season) – ILB coach since 2021 / Western Kentucky DC & CB coach 2017-’20 / North Carolina State Safeties coach & co-STC 2013-’16

Coaching Notes:
Clayton White – Named new DC & ILB coach Jan 9, 2021
Marcus Satterfield – Named new OC & QB coach Jan 7, 2021
Shane Beamer – Named new HC Dec 6, 2020
Ex-DC Travaris Robinson (5 seasons) – Not retained for 2021 season / Accepted Miami (Fla) DB coach position Jan 9, 2021
Ex-OC Mike Bobo (1 season) – Not retained for 2021 season / Accepted Auburn OC & QB coach positions Jan 7, 2021
Ex-Will Muschamp (5 seasons) – Fired Nov 15, 2020 (after 7th game) / Accepted Georgia Def Analyst position Feb 3, 2021

System & Changes: Offense – Pro Style (Multi Tempo RPO) / Defense – 4-2-5 Multiple
Offense: A modified version of the “Joe Brady” offense is being installed here by new OC Satterfield who worked under Brady last season at Carolina (NFL). The system is predicated on getting players in space. It utilizes “11” personnel and emphasizes explosive plays via the downfield passing game. TE is also a position featured in the aerial attack which uses a heavy amount of option routes.. Three WR bunch sets on the strong side are used to create a mismatch which the QB is responsible for recognizing. An all-purpose running back that can provide chunk plays rushing and receiving is also a staple. Satterfield has said he would like the offense to resemble the Green Bay Packers and he’s also incorporating some concepts he learned while coaching under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma. The Green Bay element features a lot of pre snap motion designed to reveal defensive looks and run jet sweeps along with plenty of quick hitting WR screens & slants. Saterfield will mold the system around his personnel which is most talented at RB and also returns 84 starts across the OL.

Defense: Western Kentucky has had a very solid defense the past couple seasons and the DC responsible for that now runs that side of the ball for the Gamecocks. OC White brings his 4-2-5 system which is predicated on allowing players to play fast, defensive linemen to attack and linebackers to read, react and play downhill. Tight, press coverage is featured in this scheme and DB’s are also a key part of blitz packages. White said “Our DBs are going to be up close in coverage when they’re blitzing, they’re going to be blitzing with a purpose. So that’s kind of the mindset.” The scheme is also versatile and can use 4-3 & 3-4 fronts. A key component is having a hybrid which can be either a DL/LB or Safety/LB. How quickly South Carolina can grasp the assignments & terminology will dictate the defensive results of this system which is susceptible to explosive plays due to its aggressive nature on all three levels.

Tennessee Volunteers

New Head Coach: Josh Heupel (1st season) – Central Florida HC 2018-’20 / Missouri OC & QB coach 2016-’17 / Utah State OC & QB coach 2015

New Offensive Coordinator: Alex Golesh (1st season) – TE coach since 2021 / Central Florida OC & TE coach 2020 / Iowa State TE coach & RC 2016-’19 / Illinois TE coach 2013-’15 & RB coach 2014

New Defensive Coordinator: Tim Banks – Penn State co-DC & Safeties coach since 2016 / Illinois co-DC & DB coach 2012-’15 / Cincinnati co-DC & DB coach 2010’11

Coaching Notes
Alex Golesh – Named new OC & TE coach Feb 16, 2021
Tim Banks – Named new DC & Safeties coach Feb 15, 2021
Jimmy Brumbaugh (1 season) – Not retained for 2021 season
Ex-DC Derrick Ansley (2 seasons) – Not retained for 2021 season / Accepted L.A. Chargers DB coach position Jan 27, 2021
Ex-OC Jim Chaney (2 seasons) – Not retained for 2021 season / Accepted New Orleans (NFL) Offensive Analyst position
Josh Heupel – Named new HC Jan 27, 2021
Ex-HC Jeremy Pruitt (3 seasons) – Fired Jan 18, 2021 / Accepted N.Y. Giants Sr. Defensive Assistant position Mar 10, 2021

System & Changes: Offense – “Extreme Tempo” Spread / Defense – 4-3 “Hybrid”
Offense: New HC Heupel takes over his fifth offense in eight years and is in charge of resuscitating Tennessee’s unit which has gone dormant the past couple of seasons.. His extreme tempo “Spread” will push the pace far faster than the previous regime. Heupel’s three seasons at UCF showed that it will likely take time for the system to operate on all cylinders. In 2018 UCF averaged 76.2 plays per game, in 2019 they averaged 78.8 and last year they led the country averaging 88.0 per game. Heupel has proven to be very adaptable to personnel strengths varying his scheme from run oriented to “Air Raid”. A couple of differences from last year figure to be the number of designed QB runs and the fact that this system attacks all levels in the passing game horizontally and vertically taking plenty of “quick strike” downfield shots. Expect the play calling to be fairly balanced. This is a complete overhaul with a pair of first year transfers battling for the QB spot but ex-Virginia Tech starter Hendon Hooker has had more experience in a system somewhat like this one than has ex-Michigan QB Joe M Milton (Michigan) have previous starting experience

Defense: DC Banks who came over from Penn State is directing a system change here from the prior 3-4 to his preferred 4-3 “hybrid” which basically means that there will be plenty of 4-2-5 played as well. Spring was used to evaluate personnel and where they fit best in the new system which requires position changes on the outside of the front seven (DE/OLB). The sentiment coming out of Spring from the defense was that this scheme allows them to know their assignments & alignments better. The firmer understanding of what to do has allowed the Vols defenders to attack more confidently. Tennessee had problems with ex-HC Pruett’s complex scheme and it looks as if the simplified philosophy of Banks has paid early dividends heading into Fall Practice sessions but the re-configuration of personnel recruited for a different style may take some time. Tempo and conditioning have also been emphasized as the defense is practicing against their offense which can be set to run the next play in three seconds.

Vanderbilt Commodores

New Head Coach: Clark Lea (1st season) – Notre Dame DC 2018-’20 / LB coach since 2017 / Wake Forest LB coach 2016 / Syracuse LB coach 2013-’15
New Offensive Coordinator: David Raih (1st season) – WR coach since 2021 / Arizona (NFL) WR coach 2019-’20 / Green Bay (NFL) WR coach 2018 / OR coach 2017 & OL coach 2016 / CA 2014-’15 / Texas Tech OR & Asst QB coach 2013
New Defensive Coordinator: Jesse Minter (1st season) – Safeties coach since 2021 / Baltimore (NFL) DB coach 2020 / Ast DB coach 2019 / Def Analyst 2017-’18 / Georgia State DC 2013-’16

Coaching Notes:
David Raih – Named new OC & WR coach Feb 2, 2021
Jesse Minter – Named new DC & Safeties coach Jan 28, 2021
Clark Lea -Named new HC Dec 14, 2021 /
Ex-OC Todd Fitch (1season) – Not retained for 2021 season / Accepted Ohio State Off Analyst position Feb 10, 2021
Ex-DC -Ted Roof (1st season) – Not retained for 2021 season / Accepted Clemson Def Analyst position Feb 1, 2021
Ex-HC Derek Mason (7 seasons) – Fired Nov 29, 2020 / Accepted Auburn DC position Jan 12, 2021

System & Changes: Offense – Spread (Pro Style) / Defense – 4-2-5
Offense: This is Vanderbilt’s 3rd OC & system change in the L3Y. OC Raih who has been involved with “Spread” offenses the past 8 seasons is incorporating numerous NFL concepts into the playbook. Early looks at the offense showed it to be a run oriented system which is complemented by a play action style passing attack. The ground game will be a zone scheme utilizing everything from inside runs to “jet sweeps”. All purpose backs who can run inside or outside and create one on one mismatches in the passing game will be an integral part of the playbook. Like most current offensive schemes, the Commodores too are focused on getting playmakers in space. The slot receiver will be a focal point and RB’s will at times occupy the slot or be split out wide. The push is now on to make Vandy more explosive and while their currently limited short term, future recruiting will dictate how wide open they can become long term.

Defense: After keeping the base alignment but modifying their 3-4 defense set last season, Vandy now undergoes a system overhaul as HC Lea installs his preferred 4-2-5. This is the third change to the defense in the last 3 years and new DC Minter (son of longtime CFB coach Rick) brings NFL experience and concepts with him. Word on the new scheme is that it may be more like a 4-3 to start due to current personnel not being fully equipped to make the change immediately. Position changes can take time for players to get comfortable with so combined with the overall speed and depth issues at all three levels this figures to be a unit that will gain on field learning experience this season and be much improved next year.

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Meet the Capper: Rob Veno

Rob Veno has been entrenched in the sports handicapping community for nearly three decades. He was a major component in the success of Sportsmemo from its inception as a daily radio show in 1998. Rob’s fundamental analysis of football, basketball and baseball on the college and pro levels has him regarded as one of the best in the business at breaking down games. Rob began to make an imprint on the Las Vegas scene in the mid-1990’s with his weekly football and basketball newsletter which contained game selections and analysis. Las Vegas’ Gambler’s Book Club along with sportsbooks on and off the strip carried the publication which expanded his recognition. He was subsequently invited into Las Vegas’ most prestigious handicapping contests of that time, the Stardust Invitational in 1996 and 2004 and the Sunset Station Invitational in 2000. A veteran of sports handicapping radio, Rob began in 1992 by co-hosting a weekly Friday night show at 840 AM KVEG. He went on to do numerous live shows as a guest analyst from casino sportsbooks across the Las Vegas valley working with a litany of respected hosts and the most recognized handicappers in the business. Rob finally settled in as one of the mainstays on the daily Vegas Sportswire betting show which ultimately became the famed Sportsmemo Radio Show and subsequent podcast. His expertise has been heard on radio stations across the country over the years as he’s done a multitude of guest analyst segments. Rob joined WagerTalk in the summer of 2020 and has quickly become a prominent member of their world class handicapping roster.

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College Football Offseason Previews

In this week’s edition of The Best Damn College Football Show, Drew Martin and Rob Veno offer an early look toward the SEC East Division. Rob and Drew take a look at the new coaches and quarterback transfers that are coming into the SEC East this season. Who is a mid-pack team that might surprise some people and make a move up this year, and who is a team to fade that might struggle this year?

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