clearn.png
Friday January 27th, 2023 7:45PM

SEC resources, right hires can help programs rebound quickly

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Less than a year ago, fans across the Southeastern Conference were mocking new LSU coach Brian Kelly for trying to talk Southern.

No one's laughing now.

Josh Heupel’s revival of Tennessee from the SEC depths to one of the nation’s top teams in his second season has been impressive, but Kelly topped that by turning the Tigers from cellar dwellers into SEC West champions in his first year.

In the SEC, programs can jump from the basement to the college football penthouse in a matter of months by making the right moves.

“The resources here are better than anywhere that I’ve been in my career,” Kelly said Wednesday. "And so those resources go to work right away in helping you develop your football program.”

That's saying something considering Kelly spent 12 years at his last job at college football's most storied program. LSU was able to lure Kelly away from Notre Dame to arguably the sport's most competiive conference because the coach knew he'd be given exactly what he needed to win.

This has happened faster than even Kelly expected. The Tigers clinched a berth in the SEC championship game with two games remaining and will face defending national champion and top-ranked Georgia in Atlanta on Dec. 3.

The tranfer portal certainly helps coaches, not just in the SEC, restock a depleted roster quickly.

Kelly had 39 scholarship players available for LSU's bowl game a year ago. He needed to restock both his coaching staff — only offensive line coach Brad Davis was retained — and the support staff for a program that won both the 2019 SEC title and national championship.

If LSU athletic director Scott Woodward had told Kelly last December winning the SEC West title in his first season also was on that to-do list, Kelly likely would've said nope.

“That would not have been a realistic expectation,” Kelly said.

Heupel has Tennessee fifth in both The Associated Press Top 25 and the College Football Playoff rankings two seasons after the Vols went 3-7 in an SEC-only season that ended weeks later with the head coach and nine others fired for “serious” NCAA violations.

His scholarship players available also plummeted as Vols ran to the transfer portal, heading to other teams in the SEC like linebacker Henry To'o To'o to Alabama.

Tennessee (9-1) just finished its first undefeated record at Neyland Stadium since 2007 along with six straight sellouts, and Heupel credits fan support as a huge part of the turnaround.

“Obviously, when Neyland is rocking, it is unsurpassed by anybody,” Heupel said.

Not winning quickly enough is cause for concern in this league.

That No. 1 recruiting class only ramped up the pressure to win at Texas A&M where a 3-7 record has fans wondering if Jimbo Fisher's buyout really is too big after his pricey extension last December. Eli Drinkwitz's own extension lowered his future buyout in case Missouri doesn't keep going to bowls.

Lane Kiffin, already mentioned as a candidate at Auburn or even Nick Saban's eventual successor at Alabama, made clear winning, not coming close, is the expectation these days at Ole Miss after last week's loss to the Crimson Tide.

“Two years ago, I walked off this field and I said we didn’t come here to cover spreads, we didn’t come here to play what at the time was the No. 1 team in the country close," Kiffin said. "So all these things about, ‘Well, you did this good, your freshman running back,' it doesn’t matter. We didn’t win the game.”

Shane Beamer took over a South Carolina program that went 2-8 in 2020. Now the Gamecocks are 6-4 and even climbed into the Top 25 earlier this season. Senior wide receiver Josh Vann says he's definitely proud of the steps this program has taken toward winning.

“From talking bad about us to two years later, we’re literally the same team just with a different coach,” Vann said. "It’s just been fantastic. Last year we had seven wins. We have six this year so hopefully we can get these last two up. Definitely very proud of where we are, where we can be.”

Florida gave Billy Napier a budget of $7.5 million for assistants and $5 million more to hire an “unprecedented support staff.” The Gators at 6-4 have as many wins as they managed a year ago before hiring Napier last December as they prepare to visit Vanderbilt.

“I think the chemistry, the team dynamic, the morale is much better," Napier said of the culture he's building. "Obviously, winning helps that.”

Clark Lea, Kelly's former defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, is busy in his second season trying to build his alma mater Vanderbilt. Lea won his first SEC game last week, snapping the Commodores' 26-game skid in league play just ahead of the program's biggest football stadium renovation in 41 years.

“Building a program is hard, and and you have to be able to stick with your process," Kelly said. “And he has, and they’re starting to see that begin to pay off.”

Still, as Kelly has reminded everyone, faster matters more in the SEC.

___

AP Sports Writers Brett Martel, Pete Iacobelli, John Zenor, Mark Long and Dave Skretta contributed to this report.

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2

  • Associated Categories: Sports, Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - College Football
© Copyright 2023 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Same-sex marriage legislation clears key Senate hurdle
Legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages has crossed a major Senate hurdle, putting Congress on track to take the historic step of ensuring that such unions are enshrined in federal law
4:30PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Facebook still banning Trump — for now — despite campaign
Donald Trump's suspension from Facebook and Instagram will stand for now despite his candidacy for president
4:20PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Storming Capitol was 'really stupid,' Oath Keeper testifies
A former Ohio bar owner who stormed the U.S. Capitol in a military-style stack formation with fellow members of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group Wednesday has testified that it was a “really stupid” decision
4:20PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Prosecutor: Witness told police UVA suspect targeted victims
A prosecutor says a witness told police the University of Virginia student suspected of opening fire on fellow students as they returned by bus from a field trip targeted specific victims
3:50PM ( 59 minutes ago )
Mariners make early offseason move landing Teoscar Hernández
The Seattle Mariners made one of the first big moves of the offseason by acquiring outfielder Teoscar Hernández from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for two pitchers
3:36PM ( 1 hour ago )
Tom Brady, Larry David, other celebrities named in FTX suit
A host of Hollywood and sports celebrities including Larry David and Tom Brady were named as defendants in a class-action lawsuit against cryptocurrency exchange FTX, arguing that their celebrity status made them culpable for promoting the firm’s failed business model
3:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
UVA cancels upcoming game in wake of shooting that killed 3
The University of Virginia has canceled a home football game scheduled for Saturday in the wake of a shooting that left three players dead and another wounded
9:08AM ( 7 hours ago )
UVA campus shooting suspect due for 1st court appearance
The University of Virginia student accused of killing three members of the football team and wounding two other students in an on-campus shooting is due in court for his first hearing
8:30AM ( 8 hours ago )
Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson reflects on his career
Jimmy Johnson won two Super Bowls as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and a national championship at Miami
6:00AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online Football
No. 6 Kansas rallies late to beat No. 7 Duke 69-64
Jalen Wilson scored a career-high 25 points and Gradey Dick made three crucial baskets in the final 2 1/2 minutes to lead No. 6 Kansas past No. 7 Duke 69-64
1:37AM ( 15 hours ago )
No. 5 Kansas rallies late to beat No. 7 Blue Devils 69-64
Jalen Wilson scored a career high 25 points and Gradey Dick made three crucial baskets in the final 2 1/2 minutes to lead No. 4 Kansas past No. 7 Duke 69-64
12:38AM ( 16 hours ago )
Michigan State outlasts Tshiebwe, No. 4 Kentucky in 2OT
Malik Hall forced two extra periods with dunks off inbounds plays, and Michigan State outlasted No. 4 Kentucky 86-77 in double overtime after Oscar Tshiebwe concluded his strong season debut by fouling out
11:13PM ( 17 hours ago )
College Sports
Senate: Migrants subject to unnecessary medical procedures
A Senate investigation has found that U.S. immigration authorities didn’t do enough to adequately vet or monitor a gynecologist in rural Georgia who performed unnecessary medical procedures on detained migrant women without their consent
7:59AM ( 8 hours ago )
Veteran skippers Francona, Showalter voted Managers of Year
Terry Francona of the Cleveland Guardians and Buck Showalter of the New York Mets have been voted Managers of the Year, improving the already sparkling resumes of both veteran baseball leaders
10:39PM ( 18 hours ago )
Guatemala expat community roiled by relic smuggling charges
Two Americans, one a photographer and the other a connoisseur of Mayan folk art, are facing charges of smuggling pre-Hispanic artifacts in Guatemala
5:32PM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
Coach: Slain Virginia football players 'were all good kids'
Three University of Virginia football players killed in an on-campus shooting are being remembered by head football coach Tony Elliott as “incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures.”
7:26PM ( 1 day ago )
No. 1 Georgia eyes perfect season with tightly bonded team
Georgia added another title to its growing collection, yet didn't see a whole lot of reason to celebrate
6:16PM ( 1 day ago )
Suspect in deadly U.Va. shooting taken into custody
Authorities say the suspect in the shooting at the University of Virginia that killed three members of the football team has been taken into custody
12:02PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - College Football
Same-sex marriage legislation clears key Senate hurdle
Legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages has crossed a major Senate hurdle, putting Congress on track to take the historic step of ensuring that such unions are enshrined in federal law
4:30PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Facebook still banning Trump — for now — despite campaign
Donald Trump's suspension from Facebook and Instagram will stand for now despite his candidacy for president
4:20PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Storming Capitol was 'really stupid,' Oath Keeper testifies
A former Ohio bar owner who stormed the U.S. Capitol in a military-style stack formation with fellow members of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group Wednesday has testified that it was a “really stupid” decision
4:20PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Harper's opening day status in doubt following elbow surgery
Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will have surgery next week to repair the small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow
4:20PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Vehicle hits 25 LA County sheriff's academy recruits on run
Authorities say 25 Los Angeles County sheriff’s academy recruits on a training run were hit by a vehicle that veered onto the wrong side of the road Wednesday morning, and five were critically injured
4:14PM ( 35 minutes ago )