Saturday, January 16, 2010
Derek Dooley is Tennessee's New Head Coach, Like it or Not
The reaction around Big Orange Country to the hiring of Derek Dooley has been about what I expected. The first thing everyone looks at is his record of 17-20 at Louisiana Tech. The next thing they look at is he was Tennessee's fifth or sixth choice for the head coaching position. Those facts have many in Knoxville, thinking Tennessee is doomed and we will be looking for another head coach in 2-3 years.
However, that is a very myopic view of the situation. There are some things a really like about Derek Dooley and why I am willing to give him a chance on Rocky Top.
Derek's father is legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley who won 201 games, six SEC Titles, and the 1980 National Championship. That is some great pedigree to come from. He also sounds just like his father with that southern drawl, which is a big contrast to the California boy who left town.
Not only did he learn from his father, but he learned coaching from maybe the best coach right now in college football, Nick Saban. In 2000, Dooley was hired by Saban at LSU as the Tigers’ recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach, a capacity in which he served until 2002. Dooley then spent the 2003-04 seasons coaching the Tigers’ running backs and special teams. In 2005, Dooley left LSU with Saban when the latter became head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Dooley then had a choice, he could follow Saban to Alabama where he would probably end up being a hot commodity for a head coaching job, or he could take a gamble and become a head coach at Louisiana Tech where he could work to build a program that did not focus much on football, and so far away from the other WAC conference schools (the closest is New Mexico State). Dooley stated in his press conference that his experience at La Tech better prepared him for the job at Tennessee, than staying a coordinator with Saban.
With that great pedigree comes a love and understanding of the SEC. It was pretty apparent that Kiffin did not really fit into the SEC mold. Dooley understands how much SEC football means to the fans and the south in general.
He has spent time as a lawyer, so he knows to be diplomatic and not pick fights he cannot win, a stark contrast from Trojan Boy.
I am willing to give Dooley a chance to be successful, not label him as a failure before he has even gone a a recruiting trip, let alone coach a game. If he can keep what is left of this recruiting class together and maybe add a four star recruit or two, he will be off to a good start.
Look, the 2010 season is not going to be pretty anyway for Tennessee. We have to replace four of five starters on the offensive line, replace Eric Berry, and have a new starting quarterback. Also, the Oregon Ducks come calling in the second game of the season and then it's the usual SEC wars.
Welcome to Rocky Top Derek Dooley.