Series Record: Georgia trails 16-21-2
The Lane Kiffin experiment… that didn't turn out to be a great thing. When the better-looking girl that was USC came calling Kiffin was out the door – and fast. He did a great job of recruiting for Tennessee, but only put it together on the field against Georgia.
Recruiting is a big part of the job in college football, but coaching matters, too. Enter Derek Dooley, who everyone knows is the son of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley. Kiffin did things one way – it appears Dooley will do thing another way, which should stun no one. Dooley enters his first year in the SEC unproven. He ended his time at Louisiana Tech with a 12-12 conference record and a 17-20 record overall. Still, Dooley did what he needed to do to close out Kiffin's recruiting efforts in 2010, and that was a very important class for the Vols.
Tennessee is limited on offense right now. In fact, the Vols lost quite a bit of talent in general this off-season. That will hurt them this fall. It doesn't seem right to think that the Vols will be as limited as they were in 2008, but it might be shaping up that way. Most of Tennessee's talent is young, so, with a new coach, it shouldn't be so insulting to predict that the Vols will have a rebuilding year. Still, it seems like Tennessee has been rebuilding since the end of the 2007 season.
Dooley is the third coach in three years in Knoxville. A program that had stability for decades suddenly has been as turbulent as the stock market the last few years. Phillip Fulmer was run out of town; Kiffin took over for him and bolted and was subsequently actually run out of town… literally; then Dooley took over after a whirlwind of activity in the middle of recruiting in January.
On top of that, Tennessee hasn't claimed an SEC crown since they tripped up Mississippi State on the way to the National Title in 1998. It's hard to believe the way the Vols have fallen on hard times, but they have, and, in a lot of ways, have become an afterthought in the SEC East. It won't stay that way for a long time, but that's been the case for some time now.
LAST TIME OUT:
Most memorable Georgia win: 2001 – Mark Richt, David Greene and Georgia arrive on the SEC by shocking Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time in 20 seasons. It was Tennessee's only loss of the regular season.
Most painful Georgia loss: 2007 – Tennessee slams Georgia 35-14 in perhaps the worst loss of the Mark Richt era. The loss cost Georgia the SEC East and without question a shot at the national championship.
Player to Watch: Matt Simms will likely be the starting quarterback in Knoxville this fall, and he is going to have to be productive for the Vols to have a chance to win more than four SEC games this fall. Simms spent last year at El Camino Community College in California where he threw for 2,204 yards and 17 touchdowns.
2010's Big Question: Can Dooley get the Vols to six wins in 2010?
Recruiting Implications: Hard to tell. Lane Kiffin did an effective job of recruiting in Georgia. He grabbed Ja'Waun James from suburban Atlanta, and that was a big recruiting win for the Vols. But Kiffin and company did what they had to do to get Da'Rick Rogers from the Dawgs on Signing Day. One year is an outlier, but two years in a row is a trend. It does not appear that Dooley and company have made inroads with the top prospects in Georgia for the class of 2011. Still, Tennessee is only going to be successful when they are getting production from players who are not from in-state. There are not enough players in Tennessee to make the Vols competitive on a year-to-year basis. What Dooley and company need to do is establish relationships with 2012 prospects in Georgia. They are not going to win with the class of 2011, but they can do so with the 2012 class… and Georgia needs to know that.
Legge's must-win game for the Vols: October 30th at South Carolina… Derrick Dooley is going to have an uphill battle in 2010, but winning at South Carolina could get the Vols to a bowl game. If not, the margin of error will be thin.