SEC coaching is fascinating for all sorts of reasons, one being the reality that coaches land at schools they either coached against or (as players) played against, even hated.
Vince Dooley, Auburn graduate, became a coaching icon at Georgia.
Pat Dye, Georgia graduate, learned how to coach as an Alabama assistant and then became an SEC head coaching fixture at Auburn.
Steve Spurrier might be second to Urban Meyer in terms of national championships at Florida, but no Gator head coach is more famous in the longer run of history. Yet, that didn't stop Spurrier from coaching South Carolina when his miserable NFL experiment ended in Washington, D.C.
Will Muschamp, a Georgia alumnus, has been an assistant at Auburn, a head coach at Florida, and is now head coach at South Carolina. (At least Georgia fans can say he will never be an assistant at Tennessee, but still -- how can a Georgia man ever coach for Florida?)
In the SEC, coaching associations often defy history -- at least often enough to notice.
Mississippi State doesn't involve a coach working against his alma mater, but the Bulldogs nevertheless offer one of the more intriguing coaching combinations in the SEC this year.
For one thing, Mississippi State and Louisville swapped defensive coordinators, which is not something college football fans witness every day. Peter Sirmon left MSU after one season, while Louisville's Todd Grantham came to Starkville.
SEC fans know Grantham extremely well from his stormy but moderately successful tenure as Mark Richt's defensive coordinator at Georgia. No, those Bulldogs (the SEC East version) didn't win the SEC title... but they came mighty close and won multiple division championships. Georgia has seen worse days under other defensive coordinators than under Grantham, but when the defense regressed in 2013 and Missouri -- MISSOURI! -- took over the SEC East for a two-year run, the shine quickly wore off Grantham's rough-edged personality... as is usually the case with coordinators and coaches who might be talented, but are often (enough) abrasive.
Grantham's tenure at Louisville was not as successful as his run at Georgia. Just a pinch of defense would have given Louisville an Orange Bowl berth last season, but the Cardinals could not stop an SEC quarterback -- Stephen Johnson of Kentucky. The loss to an SEC team contained a knife-in-the-gut component on several levels, one of them being that Grantham's association with UL head coach Bobby Petrino represented a pairing of SEC exiles, Petrino having coached at Arkansas. It is highly doubtful that Petrino will ever coach in the SEC again, but for Grantham to make what is CLEARLY a downward move in the coaching profession (Louisville is undeniably a better job, for a head coach or coordinator, than Mississippi State), he obviously craved another bite at the apple in the SEC.
The situation is fascinating: Grantham has become an unexpectedly nomadic coach in relative terms. A nomad generally doesn't:
A) win consecutive SEC East titles, only to depart a year after the second one;
B) leave Louisville (a job with national championship potential as long as Petrino is there) for a job such as Mississippi State.
Yet, Grantham, the Nomad, has done both.
The man he now works for is a coach who -- based purely on rumors in coaching carousel season every November -- was SUPPOSED to have become a nomadic figure in the profession.
Dan Mullen -- a lot like Jon Gruden and a few other familiar names -- always comes up when coaching jobs open. Given Mississippi State's place in the SEC pecking order, it seemed natural that Mullen would want a shot at a bigger job if the opportunity presented itself. Yet, Mullen is about to coach his ninth season in Starkville, anchored to the Bulldogs because of the prospect of coaching Nick Fitzgerald a few years after molding Dak Prescott into an elite quarterback.
So much about Mullen's quarterback coaching is right, but working with a combustible defensive coordinator who has made a downward move in the coaching industry seems so wrong, a situation fraught with peril.
Many head coaches enjoy a hand-in-glove fit with their "opposite" coordinators, the people who specialize in the other side of the ball. One of the more interesting coaching dynamics in the 2017 SEC will be the relationship between offensive guru Dan Mullen and defensive nomad Todd Grantham.
Popcorn will be served in Starkville this fall.