SEC Football 2024 Head Coach Power Rankings

While names like Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin and Kirby Smart towards the top won't surprise you, names like Josh Heupel being more towards the bottom may. In this article, we dive into my coaching power rankings for the head coaches of the SEC heading into the 2024 season.
Troy v Ole Miss
Troy v Ole Miss / Justin Ford/GettyImages

The SEC is the best conference in college football and has been for a few decades now.

Coaches like Nick Saban, Kirby Smart and Lane Kiffin have helped the conference during this time period to emerge. Players like Jayden Daniels, Joe Burrow, Derrick Henry, Leonard Fournette, Bryce Young, Nick Chubb and AJ Green have done the same.

With what some viewed as a “down year” in 2023 for the SEC, it saw the conference for the first time since 2013 that any team other than the Clemson Tigers has won the national championship. And that team was the Michigan Wolverines of the Big 10 that were coached by Jim Harbaugh.

2024 however hopes to see the SEC back on top. With the retirement of Nick Saban with the Alabama Crimson Tide and the firing of Zach Arnett at Mississippi State, it has allowed for new coaches to emerge like Kalen DeBoer and Jeff Lebby. This whilst the league retained big time names like Lane Kiffin and Kirby Smart.

The conference has also expanded to 16 teams in 2024 with the additions of the Texas Longhorns coached by Steve Sarkisian, and the Oklahoma Sooners coached by Brent Venables.

Here are my SEC head coach power rankings going into the 2024 college football season.

16: Shane Beamer (South Carolina Gamecocks)

Beamer appeared to have the Gamecocks heading on an upward trajectory after the 2022 season with an 8-5 campaign. However, after allowing 41 sacks in 12 games in 2023 in front of a veteran quarterback in Spencer Rattler, the Gamecocks took a step backwards and finished the season 7-6.

Beamer was able to snag former Arkansas Razorbacks running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders from the transfer portal and will bring back redshirt freshman quarterback, LaNorris Sellers  who he hopes can get him over the hump in 2024.

As of right now though, many question marks loom around Beamer in Columbia and beyond. So for the time being, he sits at number 16.

15: Sam Pittman (Arkansas)

Sam Pittman is going into his fifth season with the Razorbacks and has an overall win percentage of 48% through four seasons.

After a 9-4 campaign in 2021, the Hogs digressed in 2022 to 7-6 and to 4-8 last season. Pittman barely kept his job and big changes have ensued in Fayetteville for a hopeful 2024 which includes bringing in former Razorbacks head coach and offensive mind, Bobby Petrino to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator.

14: Clark Lea (Vanderbilt Commodores)

I’m a fan of Clark Lea, but coming off of a 2-10  season in 2023, it is difficult to put him any higher.

Lea made significant changes in the off-season bringing in several coaches from the New Mexico State Aggies including former head coach Jerry Kill who will serve as the chief consultant to Lea.

Lea also brought in offensive coordinator Tim Beck from the Aggies and has a stiff quarterback competition to go along with it with Utah Utes transfer, Nate Johnson and New Mexico State transfer, Diego Pavia.

Lea will also call the defense this year for the Commodores after delegating the duty after the 2022 season. In his second year in 2022, the team saw improvement overall to a 5-7 record before digressing the following year.

Needless to say, Lea and the Commodores could surprise some people this season, but time will tell.

13: Billy Napier (Florida Gators)

Honestly Napier is probably high at 13 on my list, but he did just pull in the 10th overall ranked recruiting class in 2024 according to .

The Gators return veteran quarterback Graham Mertz who threw for 2,903 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2023 with only three interceptions. This combined with former five-star wide receiver, Eugene Wilson III poised to take the next step positions Napier at 13, but no higher until proven otherwise.

12: Jeff Lebby (Mississippi State Bulldogs)

Yes, I know this may seem high considering Jeff Lebby has never been a head coach at the division one level. However, Lebby has coached under some great offensive minds including Lane Kiffin, Josh Heupel and Lincoln Riley.

Arguably, although Heupel was the head coach, Lebby was responsible for the success of the UCF Knights in 2018 and 2019 when the team went a combined 22-4.

Lebby may have a rough first year in Starkville taking over a team that went 4-6 and fired head coach Zach Arnett following the tragic death of former head coach Mike Leach the year prior. However, look for Lebby to start turning things around the second half of the season for the Bulldogs.

11: Mark Stoops (Kentucky Wildcats)

John Calipari sure kept the debate going with the Wildcats disappointing March Madness appearance as to whether Kentucky is a football or basketball school.

What is not debatable is that head football coach Mark Stoops has had some successful seasons with the Wildcats. So although Stoops has had back-to-back seven win seasons, he does have two 10 win seasons in Lexington and is the only coach that can say that.

10: Mike Elko (Texas A&M)

Elko has surprised some people so far with his ability to recruit and develop relationships in College Station for the Aggies since his arrival earlier this year.

Elko served as the Aggies offensive coordinator from 2018-2021 which included helping lead the Aggies to a 9-1 campaign in 2020 barely missing out on the college football playoffs.

Elko continued his success as a head coach at Duke University where he has been since 2022 leading the Blue Devils to back-to-back winning seasons. That has only happened a handful of times in the history of this basketball school.

With that being said, Elko deserves some respect here, and could gain even more if the Aggies have a strong season in 2024.

9: Josh Heupel (Tennessee Volunteers)

I personally am not high on Josh Heupel. And considering the ranking, you can probably tell. The number to me do not lie. During his time as the head coach of the UCF Knights, Heupel’s teams got worse by record each year. The knights went 12-1 in his first season in 2018, 10-3 in 2019 and 6-4 in 2020.

Then UCF Athletic Director, Danny White took the same position at the University of Tennessee and brought Heupel with him.

After a 7-6 season in year one in Knoxville, Heupel’s Vols took off going 11-2 in 2022 before falling off some in 9-4.

Many say the quarterback play of Joe Milton this past season was a big factor in the Vols winning only nine games. Milton had lost his job twice prior to be fair- once the Hooker at Tennessee and another benched by Jim Harbaugh earlier on in his career when he was a quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines.

If this logic is true, then to me Hooker is that good of a player that he did indeed have a larger hand than Heupel himself in elevating the Vols to an 11-2 record in 2022.

If Heupel is the quarterback and offensive guru Vols fans are hoping he is, then he will have to put up or shut up this year as he will  be relying on redshirt freshman sensation, Nico Iamaleava to lead the Vols back.

To ask a freshman in the SEC to win you any more than seven or eight games in year one is a tall task in my opinion. And that could put Heupel squarely on the hot seat heading into 2025.

8: Eli Drinkwitz (Missouri Tigers)

Considering Missouri’s 11-2 run last season which was capped by a bowl victory against the Ohio State Buckeyes, you may be wondering why Drinkwitz only sits at number eight. If that is your thought process, recency bias is real with you in my opinion then.

Prior to the Tigers 2023 season, Drinkwitz had zero winning seasons in his first three seasons with Missouri. His combined record at the school even with the 11 win season in 2023 is only 28-21.

With that being said, an 11 win season is more than almost all coaches in the SEC can say. And that is the reason Drinkwitz sits at eight.

It is worth noting that before his time in Columbia, Drinkwitz accomplished the same double digit win feat with Appalachian State where he went 12-1 in his first season as head coach in 2019.

My counter argument here however is that the Mountaineers had just had three seasons of 10 wins or more in their last four years between 2015 and 2018 under their previous head coach, Scott Satterfield. So although impressive, I do not put much of any merit into his 2019 campaign as he was coming into a program that was already built.

Recruiting in Columbia however is trending upward, and the recruitment rankings have Missouri’s class ranked 21st for 2024. That is Drinkwitz’ s best class so far in his time with the Tigers, improving on his 36th overall ranking in 2023 which was also impressive.

As part of the 2024 class, Drinkwitz landed one of Missouri’s most prized recruits ever in Williams Nwaneri who has listed as the number one edge rusher nationally, and the seventh ranked overall prospect in the class.

If Drinkwitz keeps this up, he will undoubtedly be higher than eight in the coming years. But for now, fair is fair based on previous performance.

7: Brent Venables (Oklahoma Sooners)

Texas Longhorns head coach, Steven Sarkisian overshadows Venables who is going into his third season as the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.

Venables is a defensive minded coach that walked into program that has seemingly been offensive minded forever under previous head coaches Bob Stoops and Lincoln Riley.

Now that Venables has been able to put his imprint on the Sooners for a few years now, you are starting to see a team and coach that looks more the part with each passing game.

Although the Longhorns have gotten a lot of hype (and deservedly so), let us not forget that Venables led the Sooners to a victory over the Horns in 2023.

Venables improved the Sooners from 6-7 in his first year in 2022 to 10-3 last season.

Previous to his time as head coach of the Sooners, Venables has worked as a defensive position coach and coordinator under three different power five programs between 1993 and 2021. This included long-term stints under coaching legends Bill Snyder of the Kansas State Wildcats, Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners and Dabo Swinney with the Clemson Tigers.

6: Kalen DeBoer (Alabama Crimson Tide)

Nick Saban’s replacement is what Kalen DeBoer is more known for at this current state instead of who he actually is; Kalen DeBoer.

The 49-year old head coach of the Tide is only the second since Saban took over in Tuscaloosa in 2007. Deboer has won wherever he has been including three national championships at the NAIA level before making his was to division one.

DeBoer’s overall coaching record is an impressive 104-12.

In his first full season with Fresno State in 2021, DeBoer coached the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record. He continued his success at the University of Washington where he was hired in 2022, going 25-3 the past two seasons falling just short of a national championship this past year losing to Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines.

One of the biggest question marks from critics on DeBoer upon his hiring in Tuscaloosa back in January was whether or not he could recruit in the south being that he had no relationships with high school coaches in the area,

That narrative is changing before our eyes as Alabama currently has the sixth ranked recruiting class nationally for 2025 according to

Time will tell and it is only going into year one, so for now DeBoer is ranked at sixth. If he wants to stay in Tuscaloosa long-term, this power ranking will inevitably need to improve as the years progress.

5: Hugh Freeze (Auburn Tigers)

Auburn’s 6-7 record in year one under Freeze in 2023 may not seem like he should be placed at six, but his track record at other schools says otherwise. And those schools have a lot less resources than Auburn. And oh yeah- he won at those.

Freeze had 10 win seasons at his previous three stops including Arkansas State, Ole Miss and Liberty.

During his time at Ole Miss, Freeze beat the Alabama Crimson Tide under Nick Saban twice in back-to-back seasons, so once in Tuscaloosa.

These types of accolades are more than almost any other SEC coach can say. Freeze’s ability to get the most out of his players and to turn around a program has been done before, and watch for year two at Auburn to be the turning point of it to happen again.

Freeze already has highly touted freshman wide receivers Cam Coleman and Perry Thompson in the fold as part of his 2024 recruiting class that ranked eighth nationally according to This class includes four-star quarterback Walker White as well who looks to be the future at the position for Auburn in years to come.

4: Steven Sarkisian (Texas Longhorns)

Longhorn fans will probably be really upset to see that Sarkisian is only ranked fourth after taking the Longhorns to the college football playoff for the first time in the school’s history.

However, much like Eli Drinkwitz at Missouri, this was Sarkisian’s first eye-opening season record-wise for the Longhorns.

Do I think it will be sustained? Considering the recruiting and Sarkisian’s success as an offensive coordinator, play caller and head coach, absolutely. However, it is only one solid season so far with the Longhorns as far as their expectations go.

The team went 12-2 before losing to the Washington Huskies in the semifinals of the college football playoffs. Their only other loss was to the Oklahoma Sooners who finished the regular season ranked 12th in the AP poll.

3: Brian Kelly (LSU Tigers)

Brian Kelly has made the playoffs twice with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 2018 and 2020. Despite stiffer academic requirements than most other institutions and geographic challenges with recruiting, Kelly still managed to get it done in South Bend over his 12 seasons with the school posting a 113-40 overall record.

Before that, Kelly turned around a Central Michigan program from 2004 to 2006 going from 4-7 in his first season to 9-4 in his last. This propelled him to the job with the Cincinnati Bearcats where he went 34-6, posting double digit wins in his final three seasons before ultimately taking the job in South Bend.

And oh yeah- like Kalen DeBoer, Kelly won national championships outside of the division one level at division II Grand Valley State University, winning four at the school between 2002 and 2006.

This is year three for Kelly in Baton Rouge, but watch for it to start to really click for the Tigers this year as Kelly had to rebuild after the mass exodus under previous head coach, Ed Orgeron.

The overall logic here is that if you can win at the previous four stops I mentioned for Kelly, you can most likely win anywhere; especially a recruiting hot bed like the state of Louisiana.

2: Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss Rebels)

This may seem high to some, but considering that Kiffin has matured more than most ever though he would, his ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of college football and the impressive NIL Collective at Ole Miss, The Grove Collective, I would be hard-pressed to bet against Kiffin and the Rebels in 2024 and beyond

This year specifically, Kiffin racked up the third best class in the transfer portal according to

Kiffin also returns starting quarterback, Jaxson Dart and leading receiver Tre Harris on offense, along with some defensive studs in transfers Chris “Poo” Paul and Walter Nolen.

All this comes on the heels of an 11-2 season for the Rebels this past year. It is hard to argue that anyone has the current state of college football figured out more than Lane Kiffin, hence the reason he sits at number two on the list.

1: Kirby Smart (Georgia Bulldogs)

How can you bet against Kirby and the Bulldogs? You cannot. Smart has won two national championships in the past three seasons, and only two games in the last three years as well  with the most recent being to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship this past season, which ultimately cost the Bulldogs a playoff berth.

The Bulldogs also added some key off-season transfer portal additions in former Miami receiver, Colby Young and former Florida Gators running back, Trevor Etienne.

2024 saw the Bulldogs sit atop the recruiting class rankings again according to with the number one overall class in the country.

Highlighting the class were cornerback Ellis Robinson IV,  Linebacker Justin Williams and Safety KJ Bolden. All look to push for immediate playing time for the Bulldogs in 2024.