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UT Loses Another Assistant; Turnover Could Hinder UT For A While To Come

Earlier this morning we told you that Tennessee offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was pretty far along in talks with Notre Dame to become that’s school’s new O-line coach.  Now it’s being reported that Hiestand has finalized his move to South Bend.

According to Jimmy Hyams of WNML-AM/FM in Knoxville:

“UT OL coach Harry Hiestand takes a similar job at Notre Dame.  Vols now have 4 vacancies.”

None of this is good for Derek Dooley, of course.  The perception is that rats are jumping from the sinking ship he currently captains.  Hiestand is the fourth assistant this offseason to leave Tennessee for what amounts to a lateral move.  Another assistant simply retired.

The Volunteers’ recruiting class has already been affected by the turmoil.  Even worse for Vol fans, the turnover now could create a mess for Tennessee if Dooley fails to keep his job at the end of 2012.

A quick flashback — When Lane Kiffin arrived in Knoxville in 2009, he brought with him a so-called “super staff” of assistants who required high salaries and multi-year contracts.  When he left in January of 2010, he took only two of those aides with him to Southern Cal immediately — Ed Orgeron and his father, Monte Kiffin.

When the Volunteer administration set out to find a new coach, not only did they have to convince a new guy to take over a program that would suffer the attrition caused by two coaching changes in two years, but the new coach might also be stuck with many of Kiffin’s leftover assistants.  (Paying off Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee did not want to buy out multiple Kiffin aides, too.)

It turns out, Dooley was the only man who felt comfortable walking into the buzzsaw situation at Tennessee without knowing up front that he’d be able to build a full staff of his own people.  Eventually, Kiffin did come back and take a number of his coaches with him and only assistants Jim Chaney and Lance Thompson became holdovers.

Fast forward to UT’s current mess.  To land a quality staff for Dooley, the Vols will likely have to hand out some multi-year contracts.  Example: new running backs coach Jay Graham was already given a three-year deal to leave South Carolina.

If UT hires a solid staff with multi-year contracts and Dooley craps out next year, Tennessee will either have to buy out a lot of assistants or once again search for a new head coach who’ll be willing to step in and work with some other guy’s hires.

Top of the line candidates will want to have control of their coaching staff.

So if new AD Dave Hart okays multi-year deals in order to help Dooley land good assistants this time around, he’d better hope the third-year coach can show improvement in 2012.  Or else he may be stuck bringing in another Dooley-level hire next offseason.

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SEC Headlines – 1/11/12 Part Two

1.  New Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease thinks he and Will Muschamp will make “a perfect fit.”

2.  Former Gator safety Josh Shaw will transfer to Southern Cal.

3.  They’re already breaking down Georgia’s 2012 football schedule in the Peach State…

4.  And asking when UGA might reach the BCS title game.

5.  Heading into a game at Auburn tonight, John Calipari says point guard Marquis Teague will have to play at the right pace.

6.  Overall, Kentucky looks quite ready for its first SEC road trip.

7.  It was the defense that sparked South Carolina’s 11-win season.

8.  Hoops coach Darrin Horn needs to keep on politicking in Columbia.

9.  After springing an upset at home over Florida, Tennessee prepares for an SEC road trip to Starkville.

10.  Former Vol receiver Matt Milton will transfer to Louisville.

11.  New UT running backs coach Jay Graham got a three-year deal for $225,000 a season.

12.  No surprise, Vanderbilt rained 3-pointers down upon South Carolina last night.

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Two Prospects Decommit From Tennessee

Tennessee lost two commitments for the class of 2012 during the weekend.

One prospect, wide receiver Keithon Redding from Decatur, Ga., told MrSEC he decommitted from UT because of recent coaching changes.

Wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett left the program last month. UT hired Jay Graham to coach running backs and moved Darin Hinshaw from quarterbacks coach to receivers coach.

Redding, who told MrSEC he will consider Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, told that he saw a “whole lot of issues” at UT and factored that in to his decision to look elsewhere.

Redding said the decision to decommit was completely his choice.

That wasn’t necessarily the case for Austell, Ga., linebacker Khalid Henderson, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was encouraged by UT coach Derek Dooley to look elsewhere.

“Coach Dooley said there is a ‘possibility’ you might not be coming to Tennessee,” Henderson said, via the AJC. “He said you have two options: ‘You can stay committed to us, wait it out and see what other players do. Or you can de-commit and try to get some attention from other schools but that doesn’t mean you can’t come to Tennessee’ or whatever. He was very iffy about everything. He wouldn’t say anything concrete. He kept on using that word ‘possibility.’”

Henderson decided it was in his best interest to decommit from UT. And he didn’t appear to be happy about it.

“I thought it was a bunch of crap,” Henderson told the AJC. “I guess if Tennessee is out there looking for other linebackers, then I can do find another place to go. Tennessee is where I wanted to go, and that’s where I’ve been loyal to ever since June. But it is what it is.”

UT will now have to deal with the loss of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon. The two coaches left on Monday to take the same positions at Washington.

The losses of Henderson and Redding leave UT with 20 commitments for the class of 2012.

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SEC Headlines – 12/7/11

Between housework and business meetings, today is going to be an abbreviated one here at  As a “sorry ’bout that,” here are a few more headlines than usual:

1.  This writer would like to see a committee used to pick the teams for the BCS Championship Game.

2.  The Florida basketball team hosts Arizona and one of Billy Donovan’s best buds tonight.

3.  No joke: A woman who named her son Spurrier Urban wants to change his middle name now that Urban Meyer has signed on with Ohio State.

4.  As folks in Georgia sour on flighty tailback Isaiah Crowell, the next next Herschel Walker is ready to come onboard.

5.  UGA and Georgia Tech will take their rivalry to the hardwood tonight.

6.  This coach-turned-analyst believes Kentucky’s Terrence Jones needs to give more consistent effort.

7.  Sasquatch?  The Loch Ness Monster?  Well, no, but how ’bout some video of Rick Pitino and John Calipari actually shaking hands and speaking?

8.  South Carolina might miss former running backs/tight ends coach Jay Graham on the recruiting trail.

9.  For Tennessee, landing Graham is big step in the right direction

10.  There’s a chance Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli will be back in action against Davidson tonight.

11.  On the football front, Vandy’s opponent in the Liberty Bowl — Cincinnati – might have its starting quarterback healed up and ready to go come kickoff.

12.  There are a whole lot of players transferring away from Maryland right now… might any of them land with ex-Maryland assistant James Franklin?

13.  Anthony Grant will face his alma mater when Alabama visits Dayton tonight.

14.  At Arkansas, Garrick McGee, John L. Smith and Willy Robinson are leaving while Paul Petrino returns.

15.  This writer says the Hogs will need to replace the positive energy provided by McGee and Smith.

16.  Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu has won the admiration of former LSU Heisman-winner Billy Cannon.

17.  Arnett Moultrie — a transfer from UTEP – is averaging 16.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game (that last number is tops in the SEC) at Mississippi State.

18.  Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze is busy assembling his coaching staff (and he’s bringing another Kiffin into the SEC to boot).

19.  The new Rebel coach wants his offense moving at an uptempo speed.

20.  The SEC’s football coaches have announced their all-conference team.

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RB Coach Graham Leaves USC For UT

South Carolina running backs Jay Graham is going home.  After serving on Steve Spurrier’s staff for three seasons, Graham will return to Knoxville to take over as running backs coach at Tennessee — a possibility we mentioned earlier today.

“Jay is not only one of the most accomplished running backs in Tennessee history, but he has also proven to be one of the top running backs coaches in the SEC,” Derek Dooley said via press release.  “Jay understands what it means to be a Vol, and we are thrilled to have him on our staff.”

For Dooley, the hire is a sound one.  He takes an up-and-coming coach from an East Division rival, he sends the message that his program isn’t so troubled that other coaches wouldn’t want to come onboard, and he earns some goodwill from the fanbase by hiring an ex-Vol.

For Graham, the decision is a bit tougher to decipher.  Yes, he’ll get to help his alma mater.  Also, you can bet he’ll get a hefty raise.  But while Dooley and his staff will face a hot seat season next year, Spurrier has things on the rise in Columbia.

Be it for his heart or his wallet, Graham might be risking his rear — at least in the short term — by moving from the Palmetto State to the Volunteer State.

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Keith Marshall Set To Announce

Running back Keith Marshall from Millbrook High School in Raleigh, N.C., is scheduled to announce his college choice today at 2:45 p.m. ET.

The nation’s No. 2 ranked running back by is considering Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame.

Georgia has long been considered a favorite to land Marshall, who the Bulldogs hope will join standout freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell in Athens.

But Clemson has gained some momentum after meeting with Marshall on Monday night. Still, ESPN’s Dave Hooker wrote Monday that it would be “surprising” if Marshall announced he’s signing with Clemson.

Marshall, who rushed for 1,891 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, met with Georgia coach Mark Richt on Sunday.

Florida, South Carolina and Notre Dame enter the day as darkhorse candidates to land Marshall.

He’s shown an interest in Florida’s pro-style offense under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. And the recent decommitment from Mike Davis has led others to wonder if Florida has already found another tailback.

South Carolina will hope that Marshall’s relationship with running back coach Jay Graham will be enough to put the Gamecocks over the edge.

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