Having trouble waiting until the start of college football season? In a series on Sundays, the Times Free Press is providing top-three lists on various Southeastern Conference topics. Today's list contains the most intriguing offensive coordinators for 2011.
1-- FLORIDA'S CHARLIE WEIS
This may be the most curious pairing of a head coach and an offensive coordinator in league history, and it has both Florida fans and rivals captivated.
Will Muschamp, 39. is in charge for the first time in his career, and it comes at the only program that has won three national championships in the past 15 seasons. The 55-year-old Weis has five years of head-coaching experience at Notre Dame and may be the most recognized offensive coordinator in NFL history.
Weis called the plays for Bill Belichick's New England Patriots when they became the NFL's first such coaching combination to win three Super Bowls in a four-year stretch.
"When you have an opportunity to hire a Charlie Weis with the record he has offensively and his development of quarterbacks - he brings instant credibility to what we're trying to do," Muschamp said. "He's a great teacher and is really good with the players, and he's an outstanding recruiter and a really good evaluator. Charlie has been great, and he has been a sounding board as a former head coach.
"He has a vast knowledge of what we need to do to take advantage of our playmakers and putting them in a position to where they can be successful."
The Gators soared to a 48-7 record in Urban Meyer's spread offense from 2006 to '09, when Tim Tebow was a prominent backup quarterback in '06 and a heralded starter the next three seasons. Last year's unit, however, collapsed with John Brantley, who had more interceptions than touchdowns.
Brantley is expected to benefit from the pro-style attack Weis employs, but he went just 4-of-14 for 45 yards in the spring game.
Weis came to Gainesville to be with his son, Charlie Jr., who wants to get into coaching and will be a freshman manager for the Gators this season. His three-year contract worth a total of $2.5 million is a pay cut from his job last season as offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, but Notre Dame reportedly doled out $6.64 million to Weis last year as the primary payment of a buyout running through 2015.
2-- LSU'S STEVE KRAGTHORPE
Kragthorpe was hired by Les Miles to remedy an offense that was high on potential but low on consistent productivity last season. The Tigers ranked 11th in the SEC in total offense (341.3 yards per game) and last in passing offense (155.6), often wasting the receiving talents of Rueben Randle, Terrence Toliver and Russell Shepard.
Last year's struggles occurred under Gary Crowton, who oversaw the 2007 LSU offense that set school records for points (541), points per game (38.6), touchdowns (64) and yards (6,152). Crowton is now Maryland's offensive coordinator, so it's up to Kragthorpe to have better fortunes with hot-and-cold quarterback Jordan Jefferson or give Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger a try.
Kragthorpe has been a head coach for most of the past decade, taking Tulsa to three bowls in a four-year stretch through 2006 before stumbling to a 15-21 mark in three seasons at Louisville. He climbed the ranks as a quarterbacks coach, helping Drew Bledsoe become an all-pro with the Buffalo Bills in 2002.
If Kragthorpe's system suits Jefferson half as well as Gus Malzahn's did last season for Cam Newton at Auburn, LSU could live up to its hype and successfully navigate that taxing schedule.
3-- OLE MISS'S DAVID LEE
This is the third time Lee, pictured at left, has worked for head coach Houston Nutt, and he may have to be the charm if Nutt expects to enjoy a lengthy career in Oxford following last season's 4-8 debacle. Nutt and Lee were first together in 2001 at Arkansas and steered the Razorbacks to an SEC West Division title in '02. Lee then left for the Dallas Cowboys, where he helped develop Tony Romo from undrafted obscurity in 2003 to a Pro Bowl selection in 2006, before returning to Fayetteville in 2007. The '07 Razorbacks set school records in points per game (38.8) and yards per game (457.4), but Nutt bolted to Ole Miss after the regular season and Lee wound up with the Miami Dolphins. "He's probably one of the best, if not the best, quarterback coaches in the country," Nutt said after his fourth spring with the Rebels. "He's so good at teaching and analyzing, from the throwing motion to the steps and the transfer of weight to the reads. He's just really good and is such a natural fit for us. "We believe in the same things, and it's just always been good when he comes back with us. I'm glad that he's here." Lee has three SEC-untested quarterbacks - junior college transfers Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti - with whom to work. He will call the plays for Nutt, who has chosen to spend more time on a defense that allowed more points (422) a year ago than any team in program history.