Troy Calhoun: Why He Would've Been Great For The Vols

Bryan KellySenior Analyst IJanuary 14, 2010

HOUSTON - 2006:  Troy Calhoun of the Houston Texans poses for his 2006 NFL headshot at photo day in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Getty Images)
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The Twitterverse is abuzz with the news that Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun will not be accepting the head coaching job at Tennessee, vacated by Lane Kiffin's departure to USC.

Simply put, this is a huge miss for the UT administration on an up-and-coming coach, and perhaps more importantly, a chance to put a stop to the chaos.

Calhoun's hire would have been where the Pete Carroll saga ends, where the last real seismic shake on the college football carousel was felt. And almost no one would have minded who would have taken over for Calhoun at Air Force (unless Mike Leach decides he wants to learn more about flying airplanes).

The character evaluations on Calhoun check out, for the most part. In fact, Troy Calhoun is the complete opposite of Lane Kiffin: hard-working, un-entitled, understated, and capable of getting the most out of his players. He walks the line.

His career path as a football coach isn't decorated, per se. His Falcons have finished fourth in the Mountain West for two straight years and have never been ranked.

But his past also isn't fraught with questionable ethical decisions, underwhelming production, and instances of attempted character assassination .

For Vol fans placating themselves by saying he would've run the triple option like he did at Air Force Academy, I will remind you that he was offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans for one year (2006), and it wasn't a year when David Carr was suddenly running the dive play.

Like Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, Calhoun has been a coach who wins by doing more with less. Like Kelly, he'd be walking into a situation rich in the kind of talent he could only dream of at his previous places of employment.

Indeed, Calhoun's triple option attack is, and always has been, designed to mask obvious talent deficiencies on the field, which is why all three service academies—which are unable to recruit the high-caliber athletes of the non-service institutions—run it.

Tennessee really wouldn't have that problem. Though the Vols' offense hasn't been its strong suit since the days of Peyton Manning (and flashes of Eric Ainge), there'd be more there for Calhoun to work with than anything close to what he had at AFA.

If that sounds short of a big miss, here's more bad news: under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, Air Force also fielded one of the best defenses in the country last year.

The Falcons finished 10th in the country in scoring defense and a whopping fifth overall against the pass, crushing the Houston Cougars in the Armed Forces Bowl on the strength of three interceptions, and nearly grinding out a win over TCU in overtime. DeRuyter was up for a variety of defensive coordinator jobs around the Big 12 as early as a week ago.

The charming Monte Kiffin he's not, but if he'd been included in the package deal, DeRuyter, like ol' Monte, would have been an outstanding get for a proud defensive school.

Fans bruised badly enough by Kiffin's sudden departure would justify missing out on Calhoun by saying he boasts no Tennessee connection of any kind. And it's true: the closest he's come to Knoxville is as an offensive coordinator and QBs coach of Wake Forest in the early aughts.

But he also wouldn't be trying to make Tennessee into the Air Force of the East, either. His humility and gravitas would have fit effortlessly into the prove-it-on-the-field mentality of the Vols fanbase, and of the SEC in general. He'd sing "Rocky Top" at the top of his lungs; he'd just sing it without a fake southern accent.

All in all, Troy Calhoun would have been an outstanding hire in college football's newfound tradition of doing more with less. Hopefully, Vols AD Mike Hamilton can do less swinging and more hitting with the next candidate.