John Clay

John Clay: Dooley might be good fit for Vols

Random notes:

■ Those who laughed at Tennessee for hiring Derek Dooley could be in for a surprise.

He is no Mike Shula. Or Ron Zook. Dooley walked on at Virginia, where he played for George Welsh. He spent seven years with Nick Saban, first at Louisiana State and then with the Miami Dolphins. And unlike Shula or Zook, Dooley brings three years of head coaching experience to his first Southeastern Conference head coaching job. That could be key at Tennessee.

■ Tennessee picked up one legendary fan with the hire. Vince Dooley says he will root for his son when Tennessee plays Georgia on Oct. 9. The former Georgia coach told Tommy Hicks of the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register, "Family comes first."

■ Even his detractors admitted that John Calipari went out of his way to promote the city and do charity work in Memphis. Just as Calipari went out of his way to organize the $1 million success that was "Hoops for Haiti" over the weekend.

■ Watched Texas lose at Kansas State on Monday. To be sure, the Longhorns are good. But seems a team like Kentucky, with its length and height, would give the Horns fits.

■ Looked at the Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball standings lately? It's Kentucky top-heavy. Murray State is 8-0. Morehead State is 7-1. Eastern Kentucky is 6-2. Morehead visits Eastern for a 7 p.m. tip on Saturday.

■ Great Nick Saban quote: "We play 50 or 60 guys through the course of the season and, like I always say, the bottom 40 guys on your roster usually determines how good that team really is."

■ Wouldn't you love to have seen a video of the meeting in which Lane Kiffin told his team he was headed to Southern Cal. Rumor is the room came this close to a riot.

■ Kiffin was Tennessee coach for 408 days. And made about 1,408 enemies.

■ My picks: Colts over Jets. Vikings over Saints. That means a Manning-Favre Super Bowl.

■ Big East football is better right now than it was a year ago. I know, Brian Kelly left Cincinnati for Notre Dame. But Charlie Strong at Louisville and Skip Holtz at South Florida are both improvements over their predecessors.

■ Did you see that Georgia is paying new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham $750,000 a year for the next three years? Remember in 2002 when Kentucky wouldn't come close to matching Baylor's $1 million offer to Guy Morriss? As head coach?

■ I like Mike Leach, but making Craig James look like a Little League dad doesn't excuse putting his son in a training shed.

■ Bob Knight is a great TV analyst, except when he gets obsessed with one little aspect of the game.

■ Kentucky is unbeaten and, if it beats Arkansas on Saturday, probably the top-ranked team in the country. But South Carolina's Devan Downey could be the early favorite for player of the year.

In three SEC games, Downey has scored 43 percent of his team's points. He had 35 points in Carolina's loss to visiting Vanderbilt on Saturday.

■ Right now, Vanderbilt might well be the second-best team in the SEC.

■ Good to know that Rick Pitino has matured and is toning down the hyperbole, like when he said of Saturday's loss at Pittsburgh, "outside of Duke and Christian Laettner, this is the worst loss I've ever experienced."

■ One reason makes me in favor of the Reds' big gamble on Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman. That's Walt Jocketty. He doesn't seem like the type who would throw away money on a prospect for no reason.

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