Strange: Dooley, Saban share philosophy

Urban Meyer, Les Miles and Mark Richt. Chris Peterson, Pat Hill and Jeff Tedford.

In three-plus seasons as a head coach Derek Dooley has taken on some of the household names in college football.

This week, however, is a little different.

There is no bigger name in college football at the moment than Nick Saban. Who else has won national titles at two different schools in the past seven years?

Besides that, there's no bigger name on Dooley's resume than Nick Saban.

Dooley wouldn't be leading Tennessee onto the field Saturday night at Neyland Stadium against Alabama were it not for a seven-year apprenticeship under Saban.

His name might be Dooley - an honored designation in SEC circles - but his coaching pedigree has a larger dose of Saban: five years at LSU and two with the Miami Dolphins.

So this week, it's the student vs. the master.

It's not a fair fight, though. Alabama is a 16-point favorite, which is to say Saban has a samurai sword and Dooley a Swiss Army knife.

Their paths first crossed in late 1999 after LSU hired Saban from Michigan State.

Dooley, a late-comer to coaching after a brief run at law, had only three years under his belt on the staff at SMU. But he landed an interview with Saban.

"He had never hired young coaches,'' Dooley said.

The two talked for five hours, Dooley recalled. Saban wrapped it up with an inconclusive nice-to-meet-you and Dooley left thinking that would be the end of that.

But Saban hired this young coach and was impressed enough to promote him to various titles in five years at LSU and then invite Dooley along to the Dolphins in 2005-06.

Dooley was there for every game of Saban's 48-16 run at LSU that included two SEC titles and the 2003 national championship.

With Saban in his corner, Dooley was able to grab the head job at Louisiana Tech in 2007. Had that break not materialized, Dooley likely would have followed Saban to Alabama.

Saban on Monday remembered Dooley as a "very bright guy" with a broad vision.

"He understands the big picture of issues and problems that you have to deal with in a program,'' Saban said, "and I think he is a really good recruiter.

"I think he has all the right stuff to be a very successful college coach.''

If that turns out to be the case, Tennessee will look a lot like Alabama - and that's a good thing.

"Philosophically,'' Dooley said, "I've always believed in what he believes in.

"That's a starting point. And a lot of our organizational structure is very similar. But we're very different personalities.''

Dooley, for one thing, has a sharp sense of humor. If Saban has cracked wise, I missed it.

But both are relentlessly detail-oriented. And at the end of the day, the similarities outnumber the differences.

"The base philosophy and the ways they win are very simple,'' Dooley said. "It's stop the run, it's pressure the quarterback on third down, it's a good return game and special teams to control the vertical field position and it's run the ball.

"That formula has been around a long time in football and it's what I believe in.''

Now, if Dooley can only go get players like Saban has to implement that philosophy.

Then one day it might be a fair fight.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 6

psychovol2 writes:

All I can say is I hope DD was paying attention to the evil one. I think the wild card is recruiting. If DD can get the stars to K-town then I believe he can coach'em up.

CoverOrange writes:

Dooley may be detail oriented but ironically it has been details that has shot this team in the foot several times this season.

OTPVol writes:

Naffy, you're usually pretty funny but I think you might have took a hit or two too many off the crack pipe this morning.

volsreign writes:

Remember, Saban was 6-6 his first year at Bama with much more talent, depth, and experience than UT has now. Give it time people.

tulelakevol writes:

Dooley wet his pants with themerlot, then changed them and threw the wet ones out with the trash.

procraft writes:

in response to Dead_Head_Vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

THAT IS THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO HAVE, STAY POSITIVE AND WE WILL RISE

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