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July 23, 2010

Saban coaching tree takes root in SEC

HOOVER _ The Nick Saban coaching tree has grown to the point that it's spread back into his own conference, with Derek Dooley the new head coach at Tennessee.

The 42-year-old who left the legal profession at age 28 to get into coaching was hired in January to replace Lane Kiffin after going just 17-20 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech.

"I have a great relationship with Nick, professionally and personally, anytime you've worked with somebody for seven years, and he really gave me a lot of opportunity as a young coach to blossom, to wear a lot of hats," Dooley said. "He had a very big impact on my development as a young coach. I'll always be appreciative of that. He gave me a great opportunity.

"It's no different than playing your friends in backyard basketball. Nobody wants to win more than either one of you, but at the end of the day you have a lot of respect for each other, professionally and personally."

Dooley was an assistant coach for Saban for seven years, five at LSU (tight ends, running backs, special teams and recruiting coordinator) and two with the Miami Dolphins. They still remain close.

"Derek is a fine young coach," Saban said.

Although Saban is used to being in a mentor-former assistant position with Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, he's now beginning to experience what it's like to be on the other side. Saban faced Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp in the national championship game six month ago and will be on the opposing sideline from Dooley on Oct. 23 in Knoxville.

"I will have the same kind of experience, even though we have to compete against Derek at Tennessee, it's a rivalry game for us and for them as well, that we'll never lose respect for him and his family, what he's done," Saban said. "You can compete in a game without hating somebody or losing respect for them I guess is what I'm trying to say."


Back on the Rader

Houston Nutt believes Dave Rader's experience will crucial, especially after the Rebels lost quarterback Jevan Snead early to the NFL.

"I've been so impressed with him," Nutt said. "I've always watched him afar from the sideline. When I was at Oklahoma State, he was at Tulsa. We got to be very good friends from recruiting, to seeing each other different places, clinics. Just a quality, quality person. Couldn't be better timing to have a guy like that with two young quarterbacks."

Rader was Mike Shula's offensive coordinator (2003-6), but didn't call the plays, and also on Ray Perkins' staff both with the New York Giants and Crimson Tide. He was hired to be co-offensive coordinator with line coach Mike Markuson this past offseason. All three help put together the game plan, but Nutt calls the plays.

"If you go back and did a study on his quarterbacks, Gus Frerotte, Brodie Croyle, T.J. Rubley, his quarterbacks always play good," Nutt continued. "He knows where to go with the ball. They take care of it. Good manager of the game."

Alabama's young guns

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy raved earlier this week about some of the Crimson Tide's new players have performed during summer workouts.

"We have a new guy, his name his DeAndrew White, he plays wide receiver for us," McElroy said. "He's an incredible talent. All the wide receivers really, Keiwone Malone, Ronald Carswell, they've all done a good job for us. In the secondary I've noticed a lot of guys too, because in 7-on-7 it's tough to see the impact of say a running back or a linebacker. When I can really tell, DeQuan Menzie, what's really stood out to me is he's fresh off a torn Achilles tendon and he's already participating in 7-on-7 at full speed. That's remarkable. It's a true testament to how hard he's worked.

"A final guy that I'll mention is Arie Kouandijo, he's a stud, man. Big kid, athletic kid, smart kid. Well-mannered and he really has a passion for the game, which I like to see. This freshman class is going to be really, really special when it's all said and done. When we get into fall camp we'll get a better feel for the linebackers, the D-line and the other guys."

Fun quotes

Dooley's first question for print reporters in the main ballroom was about his mother: "She's become an icon in the state of Tennessee, so much that I had to kind of try to temper her back a little bit. As you know, that's impossible. You know, there's a lot of questions, and I'm amazed at how interested people are in what my parents are going to wear, the colors they're going to wear. She made no bones about it in Atlanta at a 'Big Orange' caravan event, walking in with an orange boa. So she's certainly a great personality. Everybody loves her because she subscribes to the theory speak first, think second, the exact opposite of my dad."

Dooley on his legal history helping him as a coach: "I can't really put a handle on specifically how it helps me, other than I am able to read the NCAA manual and understand it the first time, because it was clearly written by lawyers when you read the language.

"The next mascot? I don't worry about that too much," Houston Nutt said "We're the Ole Miss Rebels."

Tide-bits

Although Les Miles said "I like us in every game," LSU was picked by reporters to finish fourth in the SEC West and named just two Tigers to the All-SEC teams (Kelvin Sheppard and Patrick Peterson). "Obviously no one respects us," Peterson said.

Peterson on how often he was approached by runners or someone trying to influence him to sign with an agent since he became a junior: "About three times a week."

Nutt took a moment to wish former Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson well in his retirement: "I thought he was the finest coaches in the country. Great integrity."

Gene Chizik is looking for a big-play, quick-strike offense, but knows a lot of Auburn's success will depend on the success of quarterback Cam Newton, a junior college transfer who initially went to Florida. "It's a good thing that he's had a little bit of experience in this league just traveling around and being in different stadiums, seeing it, knowing it. I think that little thing in itself is big. The fact that he went to a junior college, was able to lead that team to a national championship, I think that was big. I think that's all kind of in the recipe of getting Cameron ready to play in this league consistently."

Rachel Newman Baker, the NCAA's Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities issued a statement regarding the growing issue of problematic agents: "Maintaining amateurism is crucial to preserving an academic environment where acquiring a quality education is the first priority. NCAA rules allow conversations and information gathering between agents and student-athletes, but agreements and receiving extra benefits are not permitted. The NCAA Division I Amateurism Cabinet, a group of individuals from across membership with representation by 21 conferences, is currently reviewing how the NCAA can continue to help student-athletes gather information about pursuing a career in professional athletics. As with any NCAA rule, our members can change or amend the agent rules through the normal legislative process.

The SEC credentialed 873 journalists for Media Days, which was actually down from 923 in 2009. However, it was still the second-biggest turnout in event history.


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