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Tennessee Vols Football: 5 Coaches That Could Replace Derek Dooley

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIINovember 28, 2011

Tennessee Vols Football: 5 Coaches That Could Replace Derek Dooley

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    For the first time since 1911, the Tennessee Volunteers football team has had its second consecutive losing season. When a team is setting records like that, the coach is usually on the hot seat.

    Derek Dooley has found his way there.

    I have defended Coach Dooley for his entire two-year tenure at the helm of the Vols program, even slyly suggesting that Tennessee give him a raise after all of his team's injuries. But after seeing the Vols lose to Kentucky for the first time in my life, I've had to reassess my views on Dooley.

    I do think he's a good man with principles and will never lead Tennessee into trouble with the NCAA. I think he's smart and knows football -- he was one of Nick Saban's most trusted assistants for years and is the son of Georgia's most successful coach in history. I see him building a program of integrity while still reeling in top recruits.

    Indeed, I like where the Tennessee football program is going with Dooley, but will it get there fast enough? Does he have the stomach to coach year in and year out in the SEC against Saban, Les Miles and Mark Richt?

    The effort that the Vols gave against Kentucky led to the first loss to the Wildcats since 1984. Losing is okay, especially when the best receiver hasn't been on the field in months, and the quarterback has a bum thumb.

    But losing due in part to a lack of passion is always unacceptable. If the Vols have a semi-repeat performance in 2012, here are five coaches that Tennessee should make a run at to get the Big Orange back in contention.

Kevin Sumlin: Houston Cougars

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    Kevin Sumlin has become a hot name in the coaching world now that he has led the Houston Cougars to a 12-0 record and a No. 6 BCS ranking.

    Does Houston play a lot of tough competition? No, not really. But then again, the fact that Houston has become a powerhouse name and destroys its conference competition (including formidable Tulsa on the road) says a lot.

    Sumlin is a product of the Oklahoma coaching staff which has produced coaches with prolific offenses for years now. Tennessee hasn't been able to hang their hat on one specific element of its game for a long time now, and acquiring Sumlin would certainly fix that.

    Current salary - $1.37 million

    Dooley's salary - $1.8 million

Kirby Smart: Alabama Crimson Tide (Defensive Coordinator)

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    Kirby Smart is the hottest assistant name in college football. If you put him with Auburn's offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, you would have the Uber Bear Bryant, at least according to the amount of press each gets.

    Smart has been with Nick Saban for seven years with three different teams. Clearly, Saban thinks a lot of him. He played defensive back in college at Georgia and spent one year coaching at his alma mater before heading to the Miami Dolphins with Saban.

    But wait a second...

    A former college football player. Attended Georgia. A Saban product. Coached at LSU and the Miami Dolphins with him. Hot commodity as an assistant.

    If you like Kirby Smart, shouldn't you like Derek Dooley?

    Current salary - $0.75 million

    Dooley's salary - $1.8 million

Mike Gundy: Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Mike Gundy came to national attention when he explained to everyone his age and his manhood in 2007. But while we focused on his outburst, Gundy was building a program unlike any in school history other than a sprinkle of success in the mid 1980s.

    There's something about coaches that build programs. It doesn't necessarily make them better coaches, but I do think that it makes them better leaders all around. Coaches like Gundy that take a program from mediocrity to excellence stand out among those that usher teams from excellence to more excellence.

    Furthermore, that's exactly the kind of job he'd have to do at Tennessee in rebuilding that once proud program.

    Gundy is an Oklahoma State man through and through having played there while in college and spending all but five of his 21-year coaching career there. He might be exactly where he wants to be, but there's no harm in asking him to swap shades of orange for nicer facilities and a pay raise.

    Current salary - $2.1 million

    Dooley's salary - $1.8 million

David Cutcliffe: Duke University

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    In the wake of the Lane Kiffin mess, it was reported that the only thing that kept longtime Tennessee assistant David Cutcliffe from heading back to Rocky Top as head coach was the limitation on his coaching staff selections.

    Cutcliffe, in true form to his Philip Fulmer upbringing, wanted to bring his entire staff from Duke to Tennessee, but that wasn't allowed. Apparently Lance Thompson and Jim Chaney were too valuable of assistants to lose for a new head coach.

    Hindsight isn't 20/20. It's 20,000/20.

    Duke has to be one of the hardest places to coach football. In his four years there, Cutcliffe is 15-33, which is a huge step forward after a 6-45 stint before his arrival. He has proven what he can do when on equal footing with the big boys, amassing a 44-29 record at Ole Miss before his lone losing season of 4-7 caused the Rebels to fire him. For them, hindsight might be 20 million/20.

    This suggestion might be a desperate attempt to regain a sense of calm in Neyland Stadium. For 17 years, the Vols knew exactly who their coach was and Cutcliffe was there for nearly all of it. It would be quite a welcome home.

    Current salary - $1.5 million

    Dooley's salary - $1.8 million

Bob Stoops: Oklahoma Sooners

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    Bob Stoops' name always comes up in coaching changes, and he always seems to be somewhat open to the idea of switching. Credit Oklahoma with always upping his salary.

    I have to think, though, that Stoops is biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to join the premier conference in college football so that he can compete regularly against his coaching equals. He keeps in touch with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who was his mentor at Florida while Stoops was the defensive coordinator for three years.

    Yes, you read right. Stoops comes from defense.

    His offenses at Oklahoma have been some of the most high-scoring squads in history, but Stoops himself played defensive back in college at Iowa and coached defenses at Kansas State and Florida. The guy knows the full spectrum of the game.

    It would take a lot of convincing to get Stoops to enter the SEC, but I think he has his heart set on it. Tennessee would have to back up to dump truck for him, but wouldn't you for a couple SEC titles and another national championship?

    Current salary - $4.3 million

    Dooley's salary - $1.8 million

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