Derek Dooley: Head Coach Not Only One to Blame for Tennessee's Struggles

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IOctober 29, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 27: Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley argues with an official during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina won 38-35. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It sure was nice of Derek Dooley to hire former University of Alabama linebacker coach Sal Sunseri to his staff. Unfortunately for Dooley, Sunseri is about to repay the favor by getting him fired. 

With each loss, Dooley's seat as Tennessee's main man continues to get dowsed with more and more fuel. If the majority of the fanbase—at least from what I can tell—had its way, Dooley would already be kicked to the curb, and while the Volunteers seem intent on keeping him around for at least the rest of the season, the likelihood of Dooley making it through the winter with his job continues to decrease.

When it comes down to it, it's hard to justify Dooley holding his position.

The former Louisiana Tech head coach has led the Volunteers to two losing seasons (6-7, 5-7), and with the SEC going all "Little Mac" on him this year, it's unlikely that streak will be turned around. 

No matter the hand a coach is dealt, it's difficult to defend losing season after losing season, especially considering the high expectations surrounding the Vols this year. 

But before we so quickly boot Dooley out the door, let's not forget that the real blame belongs on the shoulders of defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri.

In 2012, Sunseri is leading a defense that, according to, is 108th in points allowed per game, 109th in yards allowed per game, 115th in yards allowed per play and 112th in yards allowed per pass.


Compare that to last year's Justin Wilcox-led squad that was 37th, 24th, 56th and 53rd in the nation in those same categories, and it's clear just how effective Sunseri's play calling has been.

Again, you might want to talk about the difference in talent from year-to-year, but consider this: In his first year with the University of Washington, Wilcox took over a Huskies defense that, last year, was 102nd in yards per game allowed and is actually still giving up points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.

Yet he already has the Dawgs ranked 58th in the nation in yards per game allowed with huge performances against the likes of Stanford and Oregon State.

Let's make this simple. Justin Wilcox good. Sal Sunseri bad. Very bad. 

Additionally, remember that Dooley, an offensive-minded coach, is doing wonders for Tyler Bray and this offense.

This unit is 40th in points per game, 33rd in yards per game and has scored 44 at Georgia, 31 at Mississippi State and 35 at South Carolina. 

Derek Dooley is likely on his way out of Knoxville, but it's pretty clear that the weakness of this team resides on the defensive side of the ball.

Does Dooley deserve disapproval (alliteration intended) for his work at Tennessee, which includes, but isn't limited to, hiring Sunseri and continuing to put his trust in him? Absolutely.

Should he get fired over it? Well, at this point, the answer to that question doesn't really matter, as he's already halfway out the door.

Sal probably shouldn't count on getting a Christmas present from the Dooley family this year.