When Charlie Weis got the Kansas job after last season Florida coach Will Muschamp replaced him with Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
Chances are, he isn’t second-guessing the hire.
After Pease’s Florida offense generated 555 yards and scored the final 24 points in a 37-20 win at then-No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday, you wonder if UT coach Derek Dooley could say the same thing about his selection of first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri.
Of course, Dooley’s developing a more damning body of work than Sunseri. He’s 0-11 against ranked opponents, which is how you get to 13-15 overall at UT despite scheduling a lot of gimmes and unscheduling a pretty good North Carolina.
Remembering Pease speaking to reporters last spring after taking the Florida job, some of his responses sounded downright prophetic six months later when young quarterback Jeff Driskel and company silenced a deafening Neyland Stadium sellout crowd with 376 yards and 27 points in the second half.
“We’re gonna have shifts and motions and make things difficult and cause confusion for the defenses,” Pease said. “You’re gonna see a lot of formation changes, motion adjustments and really try to create some stress points in the defense and what they have to adjust to.”
Tennessee never adjusted Saturday night and players and coaches were still feeling the stress in the aftermath of a loss that left UT fans as hot as they were after the Vols lost to lowly quarterback-less Kentucky last year for the first time since 1984.
“They did a really good job with a lot of shifts and formations,” Dooley said. “We knew they would to kind of challenge our ability to adjust.”
You didn’t have to hear Dooley and senior defensive players Herman Lathers and Prentiss Waggner say it to know there was plenty of pre-snap – and in some cases even post-snap – confusion for the Vols. Tennessee’s defense looked all but blindfolded during one four-play stretch in the third quarter when the Gators turned a 20-13 deficit into a 27-20 lead.
Trey Burton took a direct snap 80 yards around right end and up the sideline for a TD. On Florida’s next play Mike Gillislee ran through the middle for 45 yards to set up a 23-yard go-ahead TD pass from Driskel to Jordan Reed.
If he was left-handed and less mobile you would’ve thought Driskel was Kellen Moore. Pease appears to have instilled or discovered similar poise in his sophomore.
Poise wasn’t what came to mind while watching Tennessee’s talented junior quarterback, Tyler Bray. He appeared to throw a couple of balls up for grabs and had two interceptions, an intentional grounding and several throwaways that appeared premature.
He looked like the inexperienced quarterback playing on the road, and worse yet for Vols fans, his body language looked like it did while losing at Kentucky. It gives off more of a “me” than “we” vibe when adversity arises.
A lot of the defenders appeared to lose some zest, too. On a call-in TV show Sunday, former Vols defensive end Will Overstreet was concerned when 370-pound defensive tackle Daniel McCullers is making a tackle 28 yards downfield.
Former UT coach Johnny Majors won three SEC titles. But he was 21-23-1 after four years.
He said he thinks Dooley, who, like him, is the son of a coach, can get the job done.
“I think he’s a very good coach,” said Majors, who’s watched practices. “I know he’s intelligent. … He coached for Nick Saban. He played for George Welsh. He’s got a great background.”
Majors noted Dooley having to replace seven assistants in the offseason.
“To replace seven coaches with seven new ones is one of the biggest challenges that I’ve ever known a coach to have,” Majors said.
Of course, the fact that he encountered such an exodus at this juncture seems most telling.