November 30, 2011

2011 Tiger Mailbag: 31st Edition

Each Wednesday, publisher Gabe DeArmond and recruiting editor Pete Scantlebury will answer questions from subscribers in our Tiger Mailbag. This feature will allow for longer, more in-depth answers than you may get on the message board on a daily basis. To have your question in next week's mailbag, send an email to Gabe at [email protected] On to this week's inquiries:

Zoufan27 asks: Now that FB is down with the Big 12, where are the coaches going to start recruiting for the SEC?

PS: Gary Pinkel already announced that two coaches are recruiting Florida, and another has been sent to the Atlanta area. He didn't name names, but we already know that Josh Henson has been recruiting Florida, and I doubt that stops. The other coach, it appears, is running backs coach Brian Jones. Jones has an in-home visit with Largo (FL) tight end Sean Culkin scheduled for Thursday, so he could be that second coach. Then again, Jones may just have a connection in Largo; sometimes, boundaries overlap because of pre-existing relationships.

As far as Atlanta goes, that's the most intriguing part of this new-recruiting saga to me. One coach that could be sent there is Barry Odom, as he seems to be a strong up-and-coming recruiting coach, and his boundaries are spread out. Odom focuses mainly on East Texas, but he's also recruited Louisiana. Because he doesn't have a long-standing presence in some of these areas, it's more likely that he'll be shifted.

I also expect Missouri to look in the Memphis area, but at this point, that's just speculation. Pretty much any coach that's recruited East Texas could start making their way farther east, however. It's going to be a very interesting story to follow, and one I plan to cover at great extent during bowl practice and around Signing Day.

Truffle_Shuffle asks: Pinkel has said he thinks Steckel is ready to be a head coach. Do you agree and where could you see him possibly going?

GD: I'm not really qualified to say whether he's ready to be a head coach or not. I don't really have any idea. I think the thing he'd have to adjust to is being the guy that deals with the media each and every day. It's no secret that Stec doesn't love that part of the job. He's certainly gotten a lot more used to it the last two years being the DC, but I don't think he exactly looks forward to it. Not saying he couldn't do it by any means, I'm sure he could. I'd have said the same thing about Dave Christensen three years ago and he's done just fine. As far as where he'd go, I'd think it would have to be a mid-major type place. Maybe Akron to start? Somewhere in the Ohio, Pennsylvania, part of the country where he has some roots? If there were a mid-major in Texas looking for a coach, he's got a lot of recruiting ties down there, but I really don't know if there is. Probably have to wait and see if any mid-major jobs open up with coaches leaving for some of the BCS jobs that are open.

tigerpimp96 asks: Is there another D-1 program that might be comparable making the move to a more difficult conference?good or bad results? Just wondering what steps should be taken first with boosters, facilities, more coaches namely for recruiting, and how to bolster fan support.

GD: I would say there are a few you can look at. In 1992, Arkansas went from the Southwest Conference to the Southeast Conference. We'll start there.

From 1975-89, the Hogs won at least eight games 11 times and never had a losing season. They won the SWC four times and finished second five times. Their last two years in the SWC, they were 3-8 and 6-6, so they didn't make the move at an ideal time. In the first six years in the SEC, Arkansas won as many as eight games only once. They have finished first or tied for first four times in the SEC West, though the first time was not until 1998, their seventh season in the league. The Razorbacks have not won an SEC title. Arkansas didn't really become a true contender in the SEC until 2006 when it tied for first in the division and won ten games. After three mediocre years, they've been real contenders again over the last couple of seasons. I think Missouri is making the move at a time it is a better program than Arkansas was in 1992, but I also think the SEC is better now than it was then from top to bottom.

The other team that made the SEC move is South Carolina in the same season. The Gamecocks were in the ACC from 1953-71 and then were independent for the next 20 years.

SC won the ACC only one time, in 1969. In the five years preceding the move, the Gamecocks were 31-23-2. Decent, but nothing special. The first five years in the SEC, they went 27-28-1. A little worse, but not that much. The Gamecocks went 1-21 in 1998-99 before a renaissance. They have had seven winning seasons since then and finally won the SEC East for the first time in 2010. Again, Missouri is probably better than SC was when the Gamecocks made the move initially. And the SEC East is worse, with Tennessee and Florida not nearly as strong as they were in the 1990's.

Another team I'd say made a similar jump is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had won the Southwest Conference in 1994 before moving to the Big 12 in 1995. Tech has never won the league, but has been bowl eligible in every single year of its existence up until this year. Playing in the same division as Texas and Oklahoma (and an A&M team that was very good in the late nineties) meant they weren't winning championships, but they've been very competitive throughout the league's history.

A&M made the same move from the SWC to the Big 12 at the same time. The Aggies won the SWC 17 times, including six times between 1985 and 1993. They made just one Big 12 title game, winning it in 1998. Whether the conference move hurt the Aggies or other factors led to it, A&M certainly has not been nearly as good in the Big 12 as it was in the Southwest Conference.

redhawk81 asks: Do we have any ideas as to how the SEC basketball schedule will be set up? Number of conference games? Play east teams twice and west teams once as the SEC is doing this year (even though they did away with division standings)? You've admitted to being a basketball guy. I'd like your opinion as to how this impacts basketball recruiting and potential success.

GD: I don't really know how the schedule will work yet. If you play every team in your division twice and the other division once, that's 19 conference games, which is more than any conference has ever played. I think you almost have to have an unbalanced schedule of some sort. I would think the league would want everyone to play every other team at least once, but then how do you make it work in your own division? Are there in-division teams you play only once? Not sure.

As far as how it impacts the program, I don't think it has an effect on recruiting. The simple fact is that basketball recruiting is and always has been national. You can schedule a game where every kid on your team can have his family see him play in person at least once every year.

The Tigers pretty much trade Kansas for Kentucky by moving to the SEC. Beyond that, I think the Big 12 is a better basketball conference, especially once Nebraska and Colorado bolted. Alabama is on the upswing and Florida is usually strong. Vandy and Mississippi State are solid teams. But LSU, Auburn and South Carolina are worse than anyone in the Big 12 except maybe Texas Tech (which has been better over the last 10 years than any of those teams for sure). Georgia and Ole Miss aren't scaring anyone either. I think the Tigers go in clearly in the top half of the SEC right now and ought to be there on a regular basis.

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