If you have ever studied the Mayans you would know that they saw life as one big cycle. For instance, where you may think in terms of one, two, three, four and five; the Mayans believed in one, two, three, four and one. Life is a living, breathing cycle.
I believe the college football world works in cycles much like the Mayans believed.
If you take some time to do research on the past few years of our beloved sport, you would see that many coaches have had a breakout year in their second season as head coach. Let’s take a look at these recent trends among coaches.
We'll start in 2006. Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer was beginning his second season at the helm of the Gators. He started the season ranked No. 8 in the country and never looked back. He would go on to lead the Gators to a 13-1 season, culminating in a 41-14 dismantling of Ohio State.
Fast forward two years to 2008. Brian Kelly was in his second year as head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats. After a great debut year, Kelly wasted no time getting the Bearcats back in the national spotlight. He led them en route to a Big East championship and an 11-2 regular season. The season would peak with a trip to the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.
Also in 2008, we have Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban. After a very lackluster 2007 season, Saban turned things around fast enough to give some fans whiplash. The Crimson Tide started the season under the radar, but they gained national recognition after a trouncing of the black jersey-clad Georgia Bulldogs.
They would continue their success until their meeting with Florida in the SEC Championship game where they dropped their first game in over a year. The Tide would bounce back from their postseason woes the next season, however, winning Nick Saban's second BCS National Title with as many teams.
In 2010, we were formally introduced to Gene Chizik and his Auburn Tigers. Chizik came out with a chip on his shoulder after an 8-5 season in his first year as a head coach. Auburn would go on to run the table in the SEC in Chizik’s second year, an accomplishment that can’t be overstated, in my opinion. Chizik is on cloud nine as we speak, but we will have to wait a few months to see how he will fair without Heisman winner and No. 1 NFL draft pick Cam Newton.
So here we are in 2011. Tennessee Volunteers' coach Derek Dooley and Kentucky Wildcats' coach Joker Phillips are the only coaches in the SEC entering the second year of their tenure, but I don’t think Joker will have as good of a season as he had last year, with key losses all over the field. Derek Dooley returns virtually all starters on the offensive line, quarterback Tyler Bray, standout receiver Justin Hunter, six defensive starters and 1,000-yard rusher Tauren Poole. I believe Derek Dooley will make a strong push in 2011 and solidify his job for years to come.
Dooley did a great job at the end of last year as he guided Tennessee to a 6-6 regular season and a Music City Bowl appearance. That's not a bad season when you consider the depleted talent level the team was at in August. I believe Derek Dooley has the tools to follow in his Fathers footsteps and win multiple SEC championships.
The skeptical Tennessee fans will just have to wait to realize this—but their wait won't be long