John Adams: Art Briles' record too good for UT to ignore

John Adams
Baylor coach Art Briles yells during their NCAA college football game against West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. No. 9 West Virginia beat No. 25 Baylor  70-63. (AP Photo/Christopher Jackson)

Baylor coach Art Briles yells during their NCAA college football game against West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. No. 9 West Virginia beat No. 25 Baylor 70-63. (AP Photo/Christopher Jackson)

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While Tennessee was losing to Vanderbilt 41-18 Saturday, Baylor was routing No. 1-ranked Kansas State 52-24. How could you ignore the connection?

Baylor has a good coach. UT needs one.

So how could the Vols not consider Baylor coach Art Briles when they begin searching for a successor to third-year coach Derek Dooley, who was fired by athletic director Dave Hart on Sunday?

Briles, who will turn 57 next month, already has rebuilt two programs; produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Robert Griffin III; and won big games other than the one Saturday night in Waco. He even has a Tennessee connection, if you're willing to stretch all the way back to high school.

He was the coach at Stephenville (Texas) High School in 1993 when Branndon Stewart was an All-American quarterback. Stewart eventually signed with the Vols but later transferred to Texas A&M after he was beaten out for the starting job as a freshman by Peyton Manning.

Stewart was one of six Division I quarterbacks developed by Briles in his Texas high school coaching career from 1979 through 1999. He also won four state championships at Stephenville.

If you read only the first 20 years of Briles' coaching resume, you would assume he ended his career as a high school hall of fame coach, which he is. But the next thing you know, he had moved up to the college ranks, and another career had begun.

When Briles became the head coach at Houston in 2003, the Cougars were only two years removed from an 0-11 season. The turnaround was immediate. Briles' first team won seven games, his fourth won 10, and in his last two seasons it won 18.

Briles also laid the foundation for the success of his Houston successor, Kevin Sumlin, now in his first season at Texas A&M.

In 2008, after five years at Houston, Briles started another rebuilding job at Baylor. And he succeeded where so many others had failed.

Even when Briles was going 4-8 in each of his first two seasons, he provided flashes of better seasons to come. His first team knocked off Texas A&M, and his second team upset Missouri.

In 2008, Briles took the Bears to their first bowl game in 16 years. Last season, Baylor went 10-3 while beating Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Missouri and TCU. It's 5-5 this season after upsetting Kansas State.

That leaves Briles at 30-25 in five seasons at Baylor. You need to know something about the program's history to fully appreciate that record. In the 11 seasons before Briles, Baylor was 31-94. In eight of those seasons, it won three or fewer games.

Briles hasn't just dramatically upgraded two college programs. He has advanced his reputation as a quarterbacks guru while coaching Case Keenum, Kevin Kolb and Kliff Kingsbury in addition to Griffin. Kolb, like Griffin, was a first-round NFL draft pick.

UT athletic director Dave Hart made it clear how much he values head-coaching experience in a conference as demanding as this one. He also addressed the challenge that the SEC presents.

"This is the ultimate challenge that competitors embrace for a football coach," he said. "If you are a competitor and you want to prove your worth, come to the Southeastern Conference and Tennessee."

Briles proved his worth as a Texas high school state-championship coach. He proved himself again by turning around dismal programs at Houston and Baylor.

UT should find out if he still has something to prove.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 30

hueypilot writes:

Good article featuring a previously unheralded choice

fprex writes:

Kolb was NOT a 1st round pick.

Dalton writes:

Wouldn't scream at this choice...OR ANY OTHER CHOICE...I dismiss myself and allow people who do this for a living to make the right informed choice...it helps when you're cheering for your team to streamline your responsibilities GO VOLS

LIBDESTROYER writes:

Good, interesting--how about same thing on TCU guy? He seems similar.

vfl76 writes:

this is a "wow" not a "WOW" choice. We need a "WOW" choice.

vfl76 writes:

in response to fprex:

Kolb was NOT a 1st round pick.

You are so right. He was 36th overall, which puts him in the second round. I don't guess they do any research when they write these articles.

dragon18 writes:

Is there not a black cloud hanging over the Baylor athletic dept. (not just football) concerning recruiting violations? I don't know if that is accurate but I could swear I read that somewhere. If that is true we don't need that. Have any of you guys heard that?

oldster writes:

in response to vfl76:

this is a "wow" not a "WOW" choice. We need a "WOW" choice.

I am less concerned about the size of the wow I will get when the hire is made than the size of what ever feeling I get after the first season. I just doubt that this guy: 1) would leave the state of Texas (think of the lack of success UT has had with players from the state), 2) would fix what ails the Vols - the defense - as all his best teams in college were known and are known for great offense but no defense whatsoever.

paradisetaxi writes:

Gruden spent some weeks learning Oregon's team....If Kelly skips off to the NFL....Where is Gruden going...I think everyone is going to wait to see what happens to Kelly.

paradisetaxi writes:

Can someone put Sunseri on the bus with Dooley ... Please ???

burpee_von_rotweiler_IV writes:

Since everyone is talking about the future, why not consider "The Future," aka former Vol Kelly Washington for coach? Howz that for WOW?

Gotta go. The men from "the farm" are here to take me away now.

Conrad writes:

A convincing case.

pms151 writes:

We need defense. You need to do some research guy. We have all the offense we need unless guys like you make them bolt!!!

pms151 writes:

in response to paradisetaxi:

Gruden spent some weeks learning Oregon's team....If Kelly skips off to the NFL....Where is Gruden going...I think everyone is going to wait to see what happens to Kelly.

To think he would skip to the NFL is just plain crazy. He is the toast of the town in OR. and can name his own salary. His success is built on the Spread. That does not work in the NFL. Why risk your future?

VolunteerLifer writes:

good column today, Adams. It's good to get names like this out there for discussion. I hadn't thought of Briles, but fhe should be considered. He meets my qualifications. Though he's not an SEC coach, he plays people who are tough enough. My main concern are his recruiting connections, which are most likely all in Texas, and not equal to UTAustin or T A&M. No doubt he can coach, though.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Dalton:

Wouldn't scream at this choice...OR ANY OTHER CHOICE...I dismiss myself and allow people who do this for a living to make the right informed choice...it helps when you're cheering for your team to streamline your responsibilities GO VOLS

Good advice! We can all have our own opinions, but we can't make the choice. It is our job as fans to support whoever is hired until he proves that he was a wrong choice.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to paradisetaxi:

Can someone put Sunseri on the bus with Dooley ... Please ???

It's pretty safe to say that the whole staff is gone, unless the new guy, whoever he is, decides to keep some of them, and there might be some worth keeping. I would nominate Jay Graham and Sam Pittman as two worth considering. That is pretty rare, however. Most new coaches want all their own assistants.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to pms151:

We need defense. You need to do some research guy. We have all the offense we need unless guys like you make them bolt!!!

I'm afraid most of the offensive stars will bolt on their own, especially if UT hires a coach that runs a spread offense. On the other hand, there is no real advantage to hire a pro-style coach just to keep Bray, Hunter, and Patterson one more year. We just need to make a sound hire who has a proven record of success at a program comparable to UT's.

ralphie writes:

john just needs to fill article quota. rather lame mr adams. you can do better

cyclonevol87 writes:

Baylor second to last in over all Defence,yea thats what we need.

BigOrangeFreak writes:

And if he didn't mind coaching a little defense, I'd support him too.

strops writes:

A record of 30-25 and adams wants to hire him. He who spearheaded the drive to get Fulmer, who won more than a 100 more games than he lost as an SEC coach, fired! If adams is for him I don't want him.

firemancooper writes:

Hart hires Gruden, I'm buying two season tickets in B46 for $2,500

FEARinSEC writes:

in response to vfl76:

You are so right. He was 36th overall, which puts him in the second round. I don't guess they do any research when they write these articles.

I have come to expect no less from Hack Adams.

Cousin_Eddie writes:

Baylor's defense was worse than Tennessee's this year. No thank you.

snuffysmiff writes:

in response to Cousin_Eddie:

Baylor's defense was worse than Tennessee's this year. No thank you.

I didn't know it was possible to have a defense worse than Tennessee's.

VOL1972 writes:

A good offense is fun to watch, but defense wins championships. If you look at the better UT teams over the years and the better SEC teams now, they all have outstanding defenses. Notre Dame and Alabama aren’t ranked 1 & 2 because of their offenses.

I think winning games is more satisfying than scoring a lot of points. The conclusion is simple. Hire someone who can recruit and has proven defensive credentials.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

At 57 he's not over the hill yet, but I was thinking we should get someone younger. I'm not sure about the energy he would bring to a very difficult rebuilding job in the toughest conference. But, I guess I'm prejudiced by military retirement, where most are pushed out when they are 40 to 55.

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

Would this choice represent a model where you have budget room for top notch coordinators and recruiters? As opposed to the superstar coach? If so, which is the way to go? Just a novice askin.

gogovols2002#222335 writes:

Nick Saban would not like his style of offense. Saban claims the hurry up offense increase injury risks...I find it amusing because Bama is a wrecking ball in its own right. ..also more than few key injuries this year with his program.

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