Who is the “hottest” coach in the SEC right now (other than Saban)? Well if you listen to most fans and media, they will say it is Dan Mullen. He was also the national coach of the week by at least one organization after the big win over LSU last Saturday.
And I believe that Mullen is a good coach myself. However, let us look at some facts. Mullen has a 59% overall winning percentage in his 8 full seasons at MSU. His MSU teams have won 45% of their SEC games in his 8 years. And they have only had ONE season out of 8 in which they have won more than half of their conference games. That was in Mullen’s SIXTH season at MSU (2014) when they went 6-2 in the SEC with Dak Prescott as their QB. A couple other interesting facts about Mullen’s record at MSU is that in his fifth season there they went 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. I point that out because this is of course Coach B’s fifth season at Arkansas. And last season Mullen had a losing overall and conference record at 6-7, 3-5. One of those losses of course was to Arkansas in Starkville.
I am aware that Coach B’s winning percentage at Arkansas is lower than Mullen’s. However, I would note that Coach B’s first season came right after a one year disaster interim season under John L. Smith. Also, the winning percentages stated above for Mullen were even lower after his fifth season at MSU than they are now. And he had not had one winning SEC record by that point. Coach B had a winning SEC record in 2015 at 5-3.
Now I turn to Smithmier, the guy that has a thread about him on this board after he was on Finebaum yesterday talking about coaches. I listened to that segment yesterday as I was driving home from Little Rock. With regard to Coach B, he basically said that his record at Wisconsin should be disregarded, as all of the credit should go to Alvarez because the coaches at Wisconsin since Coach B left have had similar winning percentages. And so Wisconsin wins because of the AD was his assessment. Those three Top 10 finishes Coach B had at Wisconsin were all a mirage as far as Coach B per Mr. Smithmier. And Coach B has been a “500” coach at Arkansas and so that is more telling is what Mr. Smithmier opined. In my opinion, his assessment is fundamentally flawed because it does not take into account any variables. An obvious counter with regard to the Coach B/Alvarez thing would have been to say that maybe Wisconsin has been good because Alvarez is GOOD AT PICKING COACHES. I mean if Alvarez is a football genius then wouldn’t it make sense that he is good at hiring coaches? And I didn’t have to stay in a Holiday Inn last night to come up with that.
I like Coach B and I want him to succeed at Arkansas. Will he? Of course I can’t say for sure. But what I do feel strongly about is that in the first 4 to 5 years of a coach’s tenure, the “process” is more telling than the “product”. And I feel confident in the day to day process of the football program right now. I am talking about off the field, academics, recruiting the right kind of players, relationships between coaches, players, and administrators and so forth. Obviously the product on the field has not caught up with that process but I do believe that it will. And I will support the Coach and those young men he coaches as long as they are at the University of Arkansas.