Senior College Football Columnist

Mailbag: How many wins does Dooley need to keep UT job?

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send your questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @timHill_:How many wins does Dooley need this year to stay safe?

At least eight. If Derek Dooley ends up 7-5 in the regular season, I've heard from people around the UT program that he'll be gone. Remember, there is a new AD there (Dave Hart), and there are going to be some intriguing candidates available. Alabama DC Kirby Smart for starters.

I've always felt that it's tough to pull the plug on any coach after just three years, especially amid a situation of complete chaos as what Dooley inherited. Three coaches in basically a little more than one full year is a ridiculous amount of transition for players in a program to cope with. But ultimately the question is, will Dooley have warranted enough faith to show the Vols that they have the right guy to lead a program to the place it should be? Not just back to respectability, but as a legit SEC powerhouse? After all, this is Tennessee, a place with a proud tradition, a huge fan base and an awesome stadium to fill. Remember, Dooley got the UT job despite a pretty mediocre three years at a WAC school, going 17-20 at La. Tech. He is 4-12 in SEC play in two seasons. His teams haven't beaten anyone of consequence yet. That last part has to be especially troubling to the Vols brass. Never mind that he finished off the 2011 season with a loss to a miserable Kentucky team that was using a wide receiver at quarterback.

Looking at what Dooley has on this team and their schedule and you'd think the Vols have a decent shot to win nine games in 2012. They have a talented, confident, experienced QB in Tyler Bray with some gifted wideouts and an O-line that now has a lot of seasoning. They also have seven home games, plus a neutral site game in Atlanta against NC State. Their four non-conference games are against three FBS opponents that had a combined record last season of 12-25, and the fourth team is from the FCS. They also don't have to face LSU or Arkansas. A 4-0 start seems very possible before they visit Athens. The key game could be Week Three when UF visits. The Gators, 7-6 last year, also are rebuilding, but they're still The Gators, and to folks in Knoxville, beating them would be a big statement for the embattled coach. UT hasn't beaten Florida since 2004 and the Vols have lost by double-digits five years in a row.

From @jtrent2746:what's your outlook on Texas longhorns this year?

I see 2012 as Texas taking another positive step forward. I don't see the Longhorns have enough consistency on offense with a still pretty raw QB situation to be a legit BCS title contender, but they have some young stud running backs and a fast, active defense that will give people lots of problems. They should be good enough to get back to finishing in the Top 20 for the first time since 2009. As I said the other day, we'll find outjust how for real UT is based on a three-week stretch that starts at the end of September: at Oklahoma State then home for WVU and off to Dallas to face OU. I don't see them winning all three, but it's very likely they can get two of the three.

From @tfletch2: Is Knile Davis a threat to win the Heisman?

Yes. If reports of his spring testing are accurate--or even close to accurate (according to the school he clocked the fastest 40 on the team at 4.33 and had the third-best squat, lifting 570 pounds), Davis is recovered from his ankle injury that kept him out of the 2011 season.

He emerged as a great back in 2010, rushing for over 1,300 yards in the SEC. He is a difference-maker in the truest sense. Last year, the Hogs ranked 81st in the country in rushing. An even more telling barometer of just how much they missed Davis, as my pal Matt Hayes pointed out, is they ran for just 64 yards combined in their losses to LSU and Alabama. I doubt those two teams will be able to bottle up the Arkansas running game with Davis healthy this season. The other big thing he does is take a lot pressure off QB Tyler Wilson, who got absolutely pounded by the Crimson Tide last fall.

As far as how realistic a threat Davis is to win the Heisman, well, he probably needs for the Hogs to win the SEC West, overtaking both Bama and LSU, who by the way both have to visit Arkansas this fall. Wilson actually could hinder his candidacy some by taking some votes away--although since Arkansas has to replace three very talented receivers and has Davis back, you'd think the QB's numbers won't be quite as significant and the "star" of the team will be Davis. The other big thing Davis needs is for a re-built Hogs defense to blossom. That part of it is a major concern. It'll also help Davis' cause if USC and Matt Barkley lose at least one game.

From @iampangean: Will Oregon's OOC schedule prevent them from getting an at-large BCS bid?

Obviously, if Oregon wins the Pac-12, it won't have to worry about that. The curious part of this is, if the Ducks don't. And let's assume that USC does win the conference but Oregon beats the Trojans in the regular season, I suspect Oregon (if UO was 12-1) would still be a compelling option for the bowl folks. Losing to USC twice, though, might be a different story. Would the Rose Bowl still jump at the chance to grab Oregon again? My guess is yes.

Of course, it would help the Ducks if Arkansas State, under new coach Gus Malzahn, can pile up a similar number of wins as ASU had in 2011. The other two non-conference opponents Fresno State and Tenn. Tech don't figure to impress pollsters. Anyhow. It's still waaay early to worry about this kind of stuff though.

From @FLKeysBeachBum:Does Ryan Williams have a chance to be the starter over Stephen Morris this year?

He does. Williams has some game experience having been a starter at Memphis before transferring back home to Miami. Word is, Williams has a very accurate arm and is really bright. I'm not sure if his arm is as strong as Morris', who really has an elite arm and also has more running ability, but if the 6-6, 220-pound Williams can prove he's more consistent, making better decisions and hitting on more of his passes, he might win the job. It certainly doesn't hinder his cause that Morris is recovering from injury and not getting reps this spring. It sounds like UM has two viable options here.

From @Max_Florestano: Does Braxton Miller figure to play more like a Chris Leak or a Tim Tebow?

Of those two options, more like Tebow. Chris Leak wanted to be primarily a pocket passer and not run. He had pretty good feet, but not like Miller. Tebow obviously ran a lot in Urban Meyer's offense. Miller is faster than both of those guys. Meyer used Tebow as his power inside running threat. I wouldn't expect him to use Braxton Miller exactly like that, but the sophomore QB's speed and elusiveness will provide the Buckeyes new attack with an added dimension. Meyer's new roster at OSU this fall will have more physical running backs than what he had at UF.

 
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