Garner better than Brooks?

While reading a ranking of the top NCAA defensive line coaches compiled by's Dennis Dodd I was reminded of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's famous phrase:

"There you go again."

Dodd is a knowledgeable guy and a good writer but sometimes ... well, sometimes he just gets a little confused.

The most recent example: Dodd rates Rodney Garner the finest defensive line coach in college football and does not even list Tennessee's Dan Brooks among the five also-rans. North Carolina's John Blake made the list. So did Florida State's Odell Haggins, Penn State's Larry Johnson, Kansas State's Mo Latimore and Florida's Dan McCarney.

Dan Brooks is nowhere to be found. Amazing.

I'll concede that Garner is one of the most valuable assistant coaches in America. But that's due more to his recruiting skills than his coaching skills. He coached Auburn's tight ends from 1990-95 but contributed much more as the Tigers' recruiting coordinator. He served as tight ends/offensive tackles coach at Tennessee in '96 and '97 but was better known for recruiting some studs (Jamal Lewis, Deon Grant, Cosey Coleman, Fred Weary) who helped the Vols win the '98 national title. Even now, as assistant head coach and defensive line coach at Georgia, Garner continues to serve as recruiting coordinator.

Rodney might be the No. 1 procurer of talent in college football ... but the No. 1 molder of defensive linemen? I don't think so.

Even so, Dodd's decision to tab Garner No. 1 doesn't confound me as much as the total omission of Dan Brooks. I've covered Big Orange football for 24 years, and I don't believe the Vols have had a better position coach during that time.

Working primarily with the tackles, Brooks has produced three first-round NFL Draft selections – John Henderson (pick 9) and Albert Haynesworth (pick 15) in 2002, Justin Harrell (pick 16) in 2007. Henderson and Haynesworth are all-pro caliber players, while Harrell is looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued rookie season.

Some might argue that anyone talented enough to be a first-round draft pick probably didn't need much coaching at the college level. OK, then consider some of Brooks' other proteges:

- Aubrayo Franklin, who came to UT from junior college, was a fifth-round draft pick in 2003 who is still playing for the San Francisco 49ers.

- Jesse Mahelona, another juco transfer, earned some All-America recognition in his first season with the Vols (2004). He is looking for a new pro team after being cut by the Atlanta Falcons in late December.

- Tony McDaniel, who bolted for the NFL in 2007 after making just one start in three seasons at UT, has earned a roster spot with the Jacksonville Jaguars, even though he was not drafted.

- Rashad Moore, a part-time starter at Tennessee, was a Round 6 draft pick in 2003 who is still active in the NFL.

- Demetrin Veal, another part-time starter at UT, was a Round 7 draft pick in 2003 who continues to draw an NFL paycheck.

- Darwin Walker, a transfer from North Carolina State who started for two years at Tennessee, was a third-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. He started 75 games for the Philadelphia Eagles between 2002 and 2006 and makes around $1.5 million per year.

- Dan Williams, whose greatest high school honor was honorable mention All-South, developed into a quality starting tackle as a Vol sophomore last fall. He projects to be an All-SEC candidate this season.

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