Booger McFarland, like the rest of us, has a one in six chance at being right when it comes to picking the top new SEC football coach in 2018. Those are pretty tough odds for all of us after an unusually busy coaching carousel season which saw new coaches assigned at six of the league’s 14 programs.
So who is the smart choice between Arkansas’s Chad Morris, Florida’s Dan Mullen, Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead, Ole Miss’ Matt Luke, Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt and Texas A&M’ Jimbo Fisher?
The former LSU and NFL defensive lineman turned ESPN college football analyst has already narrowed it down to two, and we’re only in February.
During a recent appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show, McFarland said Fisher and Mullen not only had the chance to be the top new coach, but also had the potential to win right away and contend in the SEC as soon as this fall.
“You’ve gotta look at Jimbo at A&M because of the wealth of talent and the amount of money they have out there in College Station,” McFarland told Finebaum. “And you’ve got to look at Dan Mullen because of his acumen with developing quarterbacks and getting guys to play.”
McFarland pointed out two areas he feels can potentially be corrected in short order within the Aggies and Gators program.
“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta and I told Jimbo point-blank the same thing I’ve told you guys about Texas A&M the last couple of years: Texas A&M is a soft program,” McFarland recalled. “And he looked me in the eye and he was like ‘You know what? You’re damn right. We are soft and I’m going to change that.’ So if Jimbo can change what is wrong at A&M, they’ve always had talent and athleticism. They’ve got players, money and speed. They’ve got all the things you need. I think Jimbo will have every opportunity if he can fix the softness problem at A&M.
“And when you look at Dan Mullen, what’s their biggest issue at Florida? Quarterbacks. Who has developed Dak Prescott? Who has developed Nick Fitzgerald? It’s been Dan Mullen. Those two guys– it’s going to be in their wheelhouse to fix each respective problem.”
McFarland went from analyzing Fisher and Mullen for the top new coach in the league to a bullish prediction on their chances to rejoin the league’s elite in Year 1 of the their respective tenures.
“If they can do that, then I don’t see why A&M and Florida can’t contend,” McFarland said. “There’s going to be some teams, Paul, that contend this year. This is not just going to be the Alabama-Georgia invitational for the next two years. You know that better than anyone else. The SEC is bigger than just two teams. I look for four or five teams– Georgia, Alabama, Florida, A&M, Auburn– those teams are going to be right there in the mix and there’s going to be some hard-fought football games like they always are.”
It may be surprising for Florida, which finished with a 4-7 record and dismissed Jim McElwain in the middle of a tumultuous 2017 season, to be considered among the league’s top contenders a year later, but McFarland likely is looking at the Gators’ two SEC East titles from 2015 and 2016 and figuring the talent is likely there to contend again.
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