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How much difference does a new OC make in the SEC?

New coordinators tend to improve teams’ offensive numbers...unless they’re stepping into an already strong situation.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos
Derek Dooley changes hats this year. How much will he change the fortunes of Missouri’s offense?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve still got a little less than two months until we find out what effect new coordinator Derek Dooley will have on the already potent Missouri offense.

Will Drew Lock keep throwing deep? Will the line keep pushing fools downhill and opening up huge run lanes? Will the Tigers keep running a play every, like, three seconds?

We don’t know yet. What we can do until that point is analyze what effect new offensive coordinators have had on SEC offenses in the recent past.

I looked at the 27 new offensive coordinator hires at SEC schools since 2013 and saw what sort of numbers they put up in their first seasons, compared to the years before.

Then, to cater it a little more to Dooley’s experience, I also separated out a group of new hires under existing head coaches — 17 of the 27 — and ones that stepped into offenses that had put up at least 400 yards a game the year before — 13 of 27.

Because Dooley, as you know, is stepping in for established head coach Barry Odom and taking over an offense that averaged 502.2 yards per game last year.

(Missouri in 2018, actually, is the second most prolific offense welcoming in a new coordinator over the past five years, trailing only Jake Spavital taking over Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M’s attack in 2013, post Kliff Kingsbury leaving for Texas Tech.)

What’s the big takeaway? New offensive coordinators, on the whole, put up better numbers than their predecessors in their first years in charge. Ones who step into situations with returning head coaches do even better than the average.

But ones who step into high-volume offenses actually take a step back. Let’s take a little look into the numbers.

All New Offensive Coordinators

  • Points/Gm: +3.48%
  • Yards/Gm: +4.51%
  • Yds/Play: +3.85%

Two of the three most dramatic improvements in this category, actually, come from Columbia, Missouri: Josh Henson in 2013 and Josh Heupel in 2016. The other is Rhett Lashlee (or, you know, Gus Malzahn) at Auburn in 2013.

Heupel improved Missouri’s points per game by 131.3 percent (!!!!) and yards per game by 78.2 percent in his first year. Henson improved those numbers 52 percent and 37.7 percent over David Yost, and Lashlee’s offense ticked up 111.6 percent in points per game and 64.4 percent in yards.

The two biggest droppers were Larry Scott (2017) and Mike Bajakian (2013), both at Tennessee. Their offenses dipped in the 25-45 percent range in their first years.

And you know who Tennessee’s head coach was the year before Bajakian, right? Yeah, I think you do.

MU 2018 Projections, Based on Whole Population

  • 38.8 ppg
  • 522.3 ypg
  • 7.38 ypp

New Offensive Coordinator/Same Coach

  • Points/Gm: +4.64%
  • Yards/Gm: +5.03%
  • Yds/Play: +5.76%

Henson, again, is the head of this class. Cam Cameron at LSU (2013) picked the Tigers’ offense up about 20 percent, and Billy Gonzales and Jon Hevesy at Mississippi State (2014) picked up the Bulldogs’ scoring 33.3 percent and yards 18.3 percent under Dan Mullen.

Scott owns the biggest drop here as well, and Brian Schottenheimer at Georgia (2015) didn’t exactly cover himself in glory either, dropping scoring 36.3 percent and yards 17.6 percent.

MU 2018 Projections, Based on Same Coach Population

  • 39.3 ppg
  • 527.4 ypg
  • 7.54 ypp

New Offensive Coordinator/High Volume

  • Points/Gm: -6.01%
  • Yards/Gm: -3.70%
  • Yds/Play: -0.79%

Here’s where we run into some trouble. Coordinators who stepped into offenses that averaged at least 400 yards a game the year before had a net negative effect in their first years. Which, I guess, you could kind of see coming, right?

Gonzales and Hevesy were the class of this group, and Dan Enos at Arkansas in 2015 ticked the Razorbacks’ points per game up 12.5 percent and yards per game up 14.6 percent.

Schottenheimer and Scott show back up in this group. And the aforementioned Spavital nearly maintained, with points going down 0.52 percent and yards down 3.61 percent, with yards per play up 3.67 percent.

MU 2018 Projections, Based on Same Coach Population

  • 35.3 ppg
  • 483.6 ypg
  • 7.07 ypp

Pretty optimistic projections, right? And not something that’s far out of the realm of possibility, given how much is coming back on offense this year.

Here’s all the work, if you wanted to check it out: