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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Coaching Carousel: Tennessee

Out: Derek Dooley (Fired)
Record: 15-21
School record, previous 36 games: 23-13
Let's look at Tennessee's NEPA over the Dooley era, but as a frame of reference, we'll include the 3 previous years as well.  So for both graphs, the first three plot points are for Fulmer/Kiffin.  The last 3 will reflect Dooley's performance.:

Let's start with the offense (data indicates NEPA):





Now, for the defense:



It's not hard to see which side of the ball killed his career, as the current UT defense was one of the worst of the era, and clearly worse than his predecessors.  The strangest thing was his decision to transition this year to the 3-4 defense.  There was reason for optimism on offense, and that optimism was validated with a very productive year.  Unfortunately, 3-4 transition years are never, ever easy.  Georgia went 6-7 in theirs.  Alabama lost to UL-Lafayette in theirs.  Why Dooley picked this season for the switch, especially after 2011's showed some improvement, is the question that will haunt Dooley for years.  If there was more gradual 4-3 improvement, even just a little bit, Tennessee's offense likely would have been good enough to win 8, maybe 9 games.

How has recruiting gone?  Dooley did get a bad deal in terms of recruiting.  Lane Kiffin left in mid-January, taking many recruits to USC with him.  Dooley had 2 weeks to recruit, and still managed a top 10 class, #9 overall.  Here's a look at UT's last 8 recruiting classes - four that Dooley had a hand in and the 4 that came before.  First # is national rank, SEC rank in parentheses (from Rivals):
2007 - #3 (2nd)
2008 - #35 (8th)
--- Phil Fulmer out, Lane Kiffin in ---
2009 - #10 (4th)
--- Kiffin out, Dooley in ---
2010 - #9 (5th)
2011 - #13 (6th)
2012 - #17 (5th)
2013 - #23 (9th)

So, recruiting has gone... poorly.  Very poorly.  In fact, many cited Fulmer's inability to follow up on his 2007 SEC East title with a good recruiting class as a major reason the fans turned on him so quickly.  Dooley's classes have slowly gotten worse and worse.  However, between the '09 and '10 classes, Dooley has had talent on-hand.  So, it's not an excuse for the poor play.  But the recruiting since is a valid reason for his firing.  Right now, Tennessee's recruiting class for 2013 is ranked behind Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.  That's right, Vanderbilt.

Tennessee expects to be a premier program in the SEC.  Derek Dooley's tenure rendered them not even the premier program in their state.  It's an embarrassment that was apparently unforgivable.

Where Tennessee turns from here, I'm not sure, but they should have their pick of strong candidates.  And with Mike Hamilton no longer making these decisions, they should be better off.  No matter what has happened the last 6 years, this is still an elite program, a 'destination job' for many head coaches.  It's an exciting and optimistic time for Tennessee football.  Those words really haven't been logically applied to this program since the George W. Bush administration.

Brent Blackwell compiles the NEPA rankings for cfbtn.com.  Follow Brent on Twitter by mashing the pretty button below.

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