[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with the 3-Point Stance looking at the head coaching rankings in the SEC, the running back tiers in the Big 12, and five true freshmen defensive back to watch.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]— Wrapping up the Power Five coaching rankings I look at the SEC where the man on top is no surprise.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Is there anything that needs to be said? Not only is he the best coach in the conference, he's the best coach in college football, and more than likely, the best college football coach of all time.
2. Kirby Smart, Georgia
Smart has long been arguably the best recruiter in the country, but he finally put it all together last season and broke through to win the national title behind a legendary defense. He's setting himself up for a very long run at his alma mater.
3. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
The third coach on this list with a national title, Fisher hasn't quite lived up to the lofty expectations that were set for him when he came to College Station from Tallahassee. But he's still one of the best in the business, and coming off of signing the best class in the nation this year, he'll have the Aggies in the hunt.
4. Brian Kelly, LSU
It was a bit of a shock to see Brian Kelly leave Notre Dame for LSU, not only because Notre Dame is widely considered a 'destination job', but also because Kelly has zero connection to the university or the southeast in general. Still, he's one of the best coaches in college football and managed to get the Irish into the CFP twice during his tenure.
5. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Very few coaches have had to undergo the ups and downs professionally that Kiffin has. But he's in a great spot right now at Ole Miss, and he's already mastered the transfer portal. It wouldn't be surprising if he jumped to an even bigger job in the near future, but for now, he seems very content in Oxford.
6. Sam Pittman, Arkansas
The former Georgia offensive line coach has made a massive impact for the Hogs in just two seasons. He took a team that had completely fallen apart and instilled a tough-nosed, bulldozing mentality that looks a lot like what Bret Bielema was supposed to bring to Lafayette.
7. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Stoops was probably the hardest guy to rank on this entire list - you could make a case for him to be anywhere between 5 and 10. But he's won consistently at Kentucky during his nine-year stretch, including being on a current run of going to a bowl in six consecutive seasons. He's one of the most underappreciated coaches in the country.
8. Mike Leach, Mississippi State
The Pirate is still up to his tricks in Starkville, throwing the ball 60 times a game and figuring out ways to scheme receivers open in space. While his offenses may not be quite as potent as they were in his heyday at Texas Tech, the Bulldogs can still score with the best of them.
9. Billy Napier, Florida
Napier was one of the most coveted coaches on the carousel this offseason, and he drew interest from a lot of the top programs around the country before picking Florida. Despite a bit of turmoil to start his tenure in Gainesville, Billy Napier still is an excellent coach who turned Louisiana, which had been hapless for decades, into a consistent winner in the Sun Belt. It might take a minute to get everything cooking at his new stop, but once he does the Gators will be a factor year-in and year-out.
10. Josh Heupel, Tennessee
When Heupel arrived in Knoxville last year, he was coming into a gigantic mess left by the Jeremy Pruitt administration and had his work cut out for him. But few people expected the Volunteers to be so good so quickly. Heupel got Tennessee's offense working very effectively in a very short amount of time. With another strong season, he'll be rocketing up these rankings.
11. Shane Beamer, South Carolina
The 11th spot seems kind of low for a guy coming off of a very successful first season at South Carolina, but there are simply too many guys who are more proven ahead of him. Beamer clearly does a great job connecting to players and getting them to play for him. He's a rising star in coaching and he's going to be leading a blue blood program in the very near future.
12. Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri
Missouri has never been the easiest place to win, so it's not entirely fair to completely judge Drinkwitz off of his 11-12 record during his two seasons in Columbia. He's been fine after coming over from Appalachian State, but if the Tigers have another mediocre (or worse) season, he's going to be on the hot seat.
13. Clark Lea, Vanderbilt
Speaking of tough places to win, Vanderbilt continues to be among the toughest in the Power 5. The former Commodore fullback actually made his bones as a defensive coordinator under Brian Kelly before taking the job in Nashville. But year one was not pretty - they lost to FCS Eastern Tennessee State to open the season and went winless in conference.
14. Bryan Harsin, Auburn
It's still a bit of a shock that Harsin still has a job considering everything that has been going on around the Auburn program. The mass exodus of coaches and players coupled with the lack of results on the field is very telling. It will take a miracle for Harsin to last the season on the Plains.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]— And I wrap up the look at the running back rooms in the Power Five with the Big 12.
Bijan Robinson isn't only the best back in the Big 12, he's arguably the best back in the country. He's a serious threat for the Heisman and for first-team All-American. Alabama transfer Keilan Robinson and senior Roschon Johnson serve as his primary backups, but true freshman Jayden Blue is the name to keep an eye out for in the future.
Good but not Great: Oklahoma, Kansas State, Kansas
The Sooners almost always have the best stable of running backs in the conference, but this is one of the rare seasons where they don't. Eric Gray remains the lead back in Norman in his second season after transferring in from Tennessee, while Marcus Major remains his backup. But freshman Jovantae Barnes has been the talk of the town recently and should see the field very early in his career.
If we were ranking just off of the best back in the room, Kansas State would be up with Texas in the elite category. But the drop off from All-American Deuce Vaughn to the rest of the room is monumental. Anthony Frias was one of the top-ranked JUCO players in the country last year, and Chris Klieman and staff are hoping that he can spell Vaughn because there's not much behind the two of them.
Yes, you read that correctly. Kansas is in the second group here. Why? To begin, Devin Neal returns after a true freshman season where he had three 100-yard games, including 143 yards and four total touchdowns against Texas in their massive upset. They also landed Minnesota transfer Ky Thomas, one of the better backs available in the portal this cycle, as well as former four-star Sevion Morrison from Nebraska. It's definitely the strongest position on the Jayhawks roster at this point.
That'll Do: Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech
The Cowboys lost Jaylen Warren to graduation, but Dominic Richardson looks pretty set to take his spot after serving as Warren's primary backup last season. Redshirt freshman Jaden Nixon is going to push him through and has better big-play ability based off of his high school tape.
Losing former five-star Zach Evans to Ole Miss in the transfer portal definitely hurts for TCU and new coach Sonny Dykes, but the Horned Frogs still have plenty of capable backs on their roster. Both Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado return after splitting carries after Evans was injured last season, and both showed flashes in the process. Daimarqua Foster figures to be in the mix as well, but Miller is the guy to keep an eye on.
The Red Raiders bring back their top two backs from last season in SaRodorick Thompson and Tahj Brooks, who combined for 1,068 yards and 17 TDs. They should both get more touches this season as well, as new coach Joey McGuire will likely be running the ball more than the previous regime.
Cross Your Fingers and Pray: Iowa State, West Virginia, Baylor
Losing Breece Hall hurts the Cyclones in a big way. He was the catalyst of their offense for four years, and one of the most well-rounded backs in the country. The rest of the backs on the roster combined for a grand total of 59 carries last season, so there's really no sense of what they have there. Jirehl Brock will get the first crack at the starting job, but Eli Sanders and Deon Silas will definitely be given the opportunity to compete.
The Mountaineers are in a tough spot trying to replace Leddie Brown. Tony Mathis is the starter for now, but he's struggled at times in his first few seasons on campus, and he's the only guy on the roster with any sort of significant playing experience. Sophomore Justin Johnson Jr. and redshirt freshman Jaylen Anderson should also see snaps for an offense that is definitely going to have some growing pains this year.
Baylor lost not one, but two outstanding running backs from last season's roster with both Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner now in the league. Taye McWilliams is the presumed starter, and though he has shown some big-play ability, he hasn't yet had the opportunity to show he can do it consistently. Behind him, however, there is effectively zero experience on this roster.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]— And finally let’s take a look at five true freshmen defensive backs to keep an eye on led by a guy in Ann Arbor.
Will Johnson, Michigan
A huge in state get for the Wolverines, Johnson has the size and ability to contribute in a big way as a freshman.
Domani Jackson, USC
He’s a big corner who can also play safety and will make some big plays early.
Denver Harris, Texas A&M
The Aggies have a few defensive backs who could play early but Harris is too smooth to stay off the field.
Xavier Nwanka, Iowa
A rare five star for Iowa and a big hitter he’s physically read for a big role.
Terrance Brooks, Texas
The Longhorns need help on defense and in the secondary and he’s advanced when it comes to instincts.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]