Now, the Southeastern Conference head coaches appear poised to relinquish that role to new offensive coordinators and focus on the bigger picture of running a program in the era of athlete compensation, the transfer portal and December signing periods.
Texas A&M’s Fisher hired former Arkansas, Louisville and Atlanta Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino in a bid to rejuvenate the offense and his fortunes with the Aggies. Freeze, Auburn's first-year coach, has said he’s handing over the primary play calling duties to former Tulsa coach and Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery.
Fisher has been more circumspect, but Petrino indicated he will be making those calls on game day in a collaborative offensive effort. Time will tell on both counts in a season that includes a whopping 10 new offensive coordinators among the 14 SEC teams.
“We work hard on game-planning and then I get to go out in the game and decide what play to call,” Petrino said. “When they boo and it’s a bad call, that’s my fault.”
Petrino was a potentially pivotal hire for Fisher after a disappointing season for the Aggies and their offense. He was also the biggest name among the league’s new crop of offensive play-callers, many of them like Petrino well acquainted with the SEC.
The Aggies are hoping Petrino brings some juice to the 101st-ranked scoring offense was sorely lacking last season. Handing off play-calling duties to Petrino would be a significant move for Fisher, who had three Florida State quarterbacks drafted in the first round during his tenure.
“It’s a more collective thing than people want to give it room for,” Fisher said at SEC media days. “But when you get to calling and you get on a roll, you’ve got to have a guy that can do it. And I think Bobby can definitely do that, and does it as well as anybody in college football.”
He’s banking on it, in fact, after a five-win season.
Freeze has his hands full trying to rebuild Auburn. He turned to Montgomery as his primary playcaller.
“Coming back, knowing what was all-encompassing to bring Auburn back, sitting in the chair that I have to sit in, I needed help,” Freeze said.
Missouri's Drinktwitz brought in former Fresno State offensive coordinator Kirby Moore. He took to heart the sign in the football building that reads: “Embrace your role.”
“I do not plan on calling plays. I plan on being involved on the offensive side of the ball just like I am on special teams and on the defensive side of the ball as the CEO of the organization,” Drinkwitz said.
Texas A&M, Auburn and Missouri have plenty of company in the league with new coordinators:
— Alabama’s 71-year-old coach, Nick Saban, turned to an offensive coordinator four decades his junior. Tommy Rees, 31, takes over a Bryce Young-less offense after three seasons as Notre Dame’s coordinator.
— Dan Enos has begun his second stint as offensive coordinator at Arkansas after holding the same post from 2015-17. Enos, who arrives from Maryland, inherits an offense led by veteran quarterback KJ Jefferson and All-SEC tailback Raheim Sanders.
— Two-time defending national champion Georgia turns once again to Mike Bobo after Todd Monken left for the NFL. Bobo is a former Bulldogs quarterback and coordinator who spent five seasons as Colorado State’s head coach.
— Kentucky’s Liam Coen returns to his old job after spending last season as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator. The Wildcats must replace quarterback Will Levis, a second-round draft pick, and prolific tailback Chris Rodriguez Jr.
— Mississippi State's Kevin Barbay takes over the offense under new coach Zach Arnett. He led offenses at Appalachian State (2022) and Central Michigan (2021).
— Dowell Loggains will preside over the Spencer Rattler-led South Carolina offense. He has had stints as an NFL offensive coordinator and spent the past two seasons as tight ends coach at Arkansas.
— Tennessee coach Josh Heupel is still the main playcaller but promoted Joey Halzle to coordinator after Alex Golesh left to take over South Florida’s program.
“He sees the game through the same type of lens,” Heupel said. “It’s been a seamless transition. Our players have great trust in him.”
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll