Point to ponder

With Lane Kiffin off to a 2-3 start as Tennessee's head football coach, some of the more impatient Vol fans already are wondering if Mike Hamilton hired the wrong guy.

That remains to be seen, of course, but this much is clear: Hamilton could've done worse. Some of the other supposed candidates for the Vol vacancy aren't exactly lighting it up themselves this fall.

Consider:

- Butch Davis (North Carolina) was the odds-on favorite when Phillip Fulmer stepped down under pressure last November. But Davis' 2009 Tar Heels stand just 3-2 overall and 0-2 in Atlantic Coast Conference play after suffering a 16-3 home-field loss to Virginia on Saturday. Carolina managed a meager 38 rushing yards and 174 total yards in the setback. The Tar Heels fell 24-7 to Georgia Tech one week earlier. The two-game losing streak follows a 3-0 start that featured defeats of The Citadel 40-6, UConn 12-10 and East Carolina 31-17.

- Mike Leach (Texas Tech) was considered a strong possibility for the UT opening because of his high-scoring offenses. His 2009 team stands just 3-2 overall and 0-1 in Big 12 play, however. The Red Raiders dumped winless New Mexico 48-28 last weekend by passing for 453 yards and rushing for a mere 34 yards. They previously beat North Dakota 38-13 and Rice 55-10 before suffering back-to-back losses to No. 2 Texas (34-24) and No. 17 Houston (29-28).

- Tim Brewster (Minnesota) was viewed as a possible successor to Fulmer because of his reputation as an ace recruiter. His 2009 Gophers are 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play, however, following a 31-28 loss to Wisconsin last weekend. The Badgers gashed Minnesota's defense for 295 rushing yards and 454 total yards. The Gophers previously defeated Syracuse 23-20, topped Air Force 20-13, lost 35-21 to Cal and beat Northwestern 35-24.

- Troy Calhoun (Air Force) had his name mentioned in connection with the Vol vacancy due to the competitiveness of his Falcons program. His 2009 team stands a mere 3-2 overall (2-0 in the Mountain West Athletics Conference) after losing 16-13 to Navy in overtime last weekend, however. Air Force completed 6 of 14 passes for a paltry 57 yards en route to a modest 240 yards of total offense. His Falcons previously beat Nicholls State 72-0, lost 20-13 at Minnesota, defeated New Mexico 27-13 and topped San Diego State 26-14.

- David Cutcliffe (Duke) was an obvious possibility for the UT job because of two successful stints as Tennessee's offensive coordinator. His 2009 Blue Devils stand just 2-3 overall and 0-1 in ACC play, however, after losing 34-26 to No. 6 Virginia Tech last weekend. Duke lost its opener 24-16 to Richmond of the Football Championship Subdivision, subdued Army 35-19, lost 44-16 to Kansas, then dumped North Carolina Central 49-14.

Of all the guys whose names came up in the Vol coaching search last winter, three are doing quite well this fall:

- Brian Kelly (Cincinnati) appeared to be the frontrunner for the UT vacancy once Butch Davis dropped out of the running. His Bearcats won the Big East title in 2008 and appear headed for another strong season in '09. They stand 5-0 overall and 1-0 in league play after trouncing Miami of Ohio 37-13 over the weekend. Cincy beat the Redhawks despite losing the time of possession battle 40:51 to 19:09. Cincinnati previously beat Rutgers 47-15, Southeast Missouri State 70-3, Oregon State 28-18 and Fresno State 28-20. Kelly's team is ranked No. 8 in the new Associated Press poll.

- Gary Patterson (TCU) was mentioned late in the Vol coaching search but boasts a strong resume. His 2009 Horned Frogs stand 4-0 after trouncing SMU 39-14 last weekend. TCU rushed for 229 yards while limiting the Mustangs to minus-16 rushing yards. The Horned Frogs, ranked No. 10 nationally, previously won 30-14 at Virginia, won 56-21 over Texas State and won 14-10 at Clemson.

- Bronco Mendenhall (Brigham Young) was linked with the UT vacancy due to his productive offenses. His 2009 Cougars are ranked No. 18 and stand 4-1 on the heels of a 35-17 defeat of Utah State last weekend. The balanced BYU offense registered 218 passing yards and 213 rushing yards. Brigham Young shocked No. 3 Oklahoma 14-13 in its '09 opener and spanked Tulane 54-3 before suffering a 54-28 home-field loss to Florida State. The Cougars bounced back to beat Colorado State 42-23 in Game 4.


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