The expected grumblings were heard from the beginning when Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton named Derek Dooley the new head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
The detractors and supporters all questioned his record and experience, but as expected, Hamilton came to his defense and much to his own, in spectacular fashion. Does Hamilton have the guts to keep backing a losing coach?
Much as everyone expected most of the Vol nation has warmed up to Dooley and his gentlemanly, southern charm, as they should anyone who so warmly embraces a school tradition and all the obligations that come with it.
His tutelage was re-enforced to the Vol fans that questioned his hiring. Hamilton reminded everyone that Dooley was with Saban during his championship run at LSU, and during his tenure with the Miami Dolphins, because his time at Louisiana Tech was less than impressive, regardless of his achievements and responsibilities as athletic director.
But Hamilton still chose to place it on a banner and advertise it as stellar heroics.
Remember the narrow glances and whispers when Lane Kiffin took over? It was a little easier for Kiffin, much in part due to his NFL pedigree; regardless of Al Davis's eccentric rants we were all aboard the "Lane Train" as soon as his daddy was named the defensive coordinator.
The only difference was Hamilton assumed all the glory when “Wonderboy” Kiffin lured in the big named prospects, and began to win ballgames. When everything went downhill he squarely placed the blame on the research firm that found Kiffin, and not himself.
Kiffin enjoyed a recruiting class that Fulmer primarily built, and really walked his way through the seven wins he accumulated; thanks much in part to Jim Chaney and his defensive-samurai pops, Monte.
Looking back at it, the team could have run on auto-pilot and still finished the same way, and I know that is my opinion so save the salivating.
They should have given Kiffin’s salary to Eric Berry last year and we all know it, with the help of Montario Hardesty they carried the entire team on their shoulders.
Unlike the benefits enjoyed by “Wonderboy”, Dooley really has had to literally build a competitive SEC team from scratch, and setting aside the Georgia loss he has done just that.
Granted the Vols have lost in superb fashion to the likes of Oregon and Georgia, but as I said with the Bulldogs being the exception they have been competitive and even a little scary for LSU and Florida, and I believe that warrants bearing witness to the things that can improve.
Whether you want to admit it or not, that has come from above average coaching. Yes, I know there have been times thus far that even I have had to wince sharply, more than a dozen times. There have been missed assignments, runs instead of passes and vice versa, and sacks galore.
Despite it all, can you blame a guy for losing with less, or do you blame him in spite of it? We've all played Risk, you know how it works. Once you get behind in numbers the guy with the most armies pounds you into nothing.
Right now Tennessee has only got a few armies left, but it isn't Dooley's fault. All Vols should be thankful that they're even playing.
I whole-heartedly believe we can at least be thankful for his honesty; at least he isn’t making excuses over the losses, which is something that Kiffin was more than comfortable doing. How many times did he pour shameful blame on the heads of the players, shouldering zero responsibility for himself?
By the way, is anybody watching the recruiting boards? Granted, these new commits don’t have the notoriety of Bryce Brown, but he is recruiting early and getting quality athletes.
By the time signing day rolls around I expect a top 15 class, still nothing to sneeze at. Go look at these kids for yourself, and you tell me whether or not they look better than average. http://tennessee.scout.com/a.z?s=7&p=9&c=8&yr=2011
As the Vols face Alabama next week, or anyone else for that matter we should all remember that even General Neyland himself would’ve had considerable difficulty with the Vols’ challenges so far.
This will probably come back to haunt me, but even if the Vols lose out the remainder of the season Volunteers should be patient enough to give Dooley one more season to redeem the Vols and himself.