Saying goodbye to my friend, Haywood Harris

 Cleaning out the notebook from the SEC Meetings from Destin:

 1. We lost Haywood Harris yesterday: First of all, Haywood was my friend and he died yesterday in Knoxville at the age of 80. Secondly, he had been a constant and steadying  voice in the sports information department at Tennessee since he was hired in 1961. In fact, Haywood was the last UT employee hired by General Robert Neyland before Neyland passed away in 1962.

Whenever Haywood found out that I was coming to Knoxville, he would always call and ask me to come by his office. He retired in 2000 but kept an office to work part time as the resident historian for Tennessee athletics. We would catch up on what was going on around the SEC and he would ask me to tape a segment for radio show “The Locker Room” which ran on Tennessee game days for 49 consecutive seasons.

Haywood was funny. He was smart. But he never told you how smart he was. He didn’t have to.

Haywood was one of those people didn’t just work for his alma mater. He WAS Tennessee. We’re going to miss him—a lot.

 

2. When it comes to Mark Richt, some of you out there need a reality check: Kudos to the AJC’s Tim Tucker for going right to the source—President Michael Adams and AD Damon Evans—and putting to rest this ridiculous notion that Richt is even in the same universe as a coaching hot seat. Tim had to ask the question because that is what good reporters do.

I’ve tried to be politically correct on this issue and realize there are passions at work here. So let me just put it in language that is a little more to the point: If you think that Richt, who has won 90 games in nine years in the toughest college football environment in the world, is on some kind of hot seat then you are living in an alternative universe that is completely divorced from reality.

Yes, Georgia had a disappointing season in 2009. Changes were made. Very soon it will be time to play another season. Then Richt will evaluate the program again and Richt will be evaluated again. Period. End of discussion.

 

3. Dooley will be his own man, and that’s good for Tennessee: New Tennessee coach Derek Dooley made one thing clear when he met with the media in Destin. He’s not Lane Kiffin. But at the same time he’s not about to slam the coach who had a cup of coffee (not decaf)  before he went scurrying back to Southern Cal. But Dooley recognized his style is different than Kiffin’s.  That fact, in the long run, will be good for Tennessee.

Someone asked Dooley is he purposely was trying to be the anti-Kiffin. The short answer is no. The former lawyer, who was tutored by his Hall of Fame father (Vince) and Nick Saban, is very comfortable with who he is.

“I know (my style) was quite a bit different from my predecessor,” said Dooley. “I wasn’t trying to make headlines. Our program needed somebody to get their arms around it and our players needed somebody to get their arms around them.

“Because at the end of the day a headline in February is not going to help you win games. It’s just not my style.”

 

4. Now coaching for the Lake Burton Bears, Nick Saban: The coach of the 2009 national champions insisted this week that Alabama is going to be his last coaching stop. The Crimson Tide went 12-0 during the regular season in 2008, went 14-0 in 2009, and will be preseason No. 1 in most polls when the 2010 season begins.

There has always been speculation that Saban will someday return to the NFL, where he had a disappointing two years as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. But in my last few meetings with Saban he seems very comfortable in the lifestyle he has in Tuscaloosa. It doesn’t hurt that his getaway home in Lake Burton is not that far away.

“It is always a difficult decision to leave any place and it is a decision I am never going to make again,” said Saban. “I am where I am. If they get a football team at Lake Burton, I might go there. Otherwise I am where I am.”

I know I’m a college guy and I look at the world through those glasses. But what pro job—money aside—can match what you have at Alabama or Texas? Just asking.

 

5. Ryan Mallett started throwing his week: Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said that his quarterback Ryan Mallet will start throwing this week after his recovery from off-season foot surgery. That surgery kept him from participating in spring practice drills.

Mallett, a rising junior, threw for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, his first in Petrino’s offensive system. He is expected to have a monster season in 2010 and put the Hogs into contention in the SEC West. They get Alabama early (Sept 25) in Fayetteville.

Petrino said that Mallett has two issues to deal with as he gets ready for this season.

No. 1: Mallett’s throwing mechanics have to stay solid. “He has to make sure of his footwork. Sometimes his feet are not under him properly, which makes the ball tend to sail,” Petrino said.

No. 2: Mallett has to learn to trust his offensive line. “He has to get to the point where he trusts our protection 100 percent of the time. At times last year we weren’t protecting him well enough and when that happens you lose your downfield vision,” Petrino said.

My CBS colleague Gary Danielson recently told me that he believes that Mallett could be the single biggest impact player in the SEC this fall. In other words, Mallett could be good enough to lift his entire team and put them in a position to win the SEC West.

 

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Our “Talkin’ Football” show on CSS has been picked up for the entire summer. Starting tonight a new show will air every Thursday night at 6 p.m.  until the start of the season. Bob Neal will be back to lead the discussion with Mark Schlabach, Brady Ackerman and yours truly. Please check us out.

234 comments Add your comment

Beast from the East

June 3rd, 2010
6:07 pm

Gridiron Gator,
I think UGA will be 9-3 at worst. Their schedule is much more favorable this year. Losses to UF, Auburn and either USC or Arkansas. If they get past USC and Arkansas they could go 10-2 or 11-1.

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:14 pm

If I were UGA, I’d definitely run a more short controlled passing game with heavy involvement with the tight ends and backs. I think they’re in trouble if they start trying to sling it all over the ballpark. Those 15 picks by Joe Cox last year could turn into a two year average. Florida has a solid backfield and great distribution as long as Moody can stay healthy and practice good ball security. Demps will be the starter again with his 7.5 ypc but don’t forget Rainey (6.5ypc) can be brought out of the slot to carry a few ala Percy. Gillislee is a potential rising star with size and speed and Mack Brown will be one of those freshmen who need to become sophomores. I think they’re gonna try to protect Andre Debose with very few carries this tear. Look for better distribution among the recievers this year and not the focus on 2 guys like last year….

jumbeauxtiger

June 3rd, 2010
6:21 pm

Dawgdroll

“Does anyone know where I can find a good honest report on all SEC teams?”

These sites discuss all of college football but I like reading them: philsteele.com and thebleacherreport.com. You may find some other articles on cbssportsline, yahoo sports and fox sports.

Dawgdroll

June 3rd, 2010
6:22 pm

@ Beast from the East

Even if UGA loses only 1 to 2 games they still have to face a bigger and better opponent in a bowl game. I don’t think UGA can beat a team like Ohio State, TCU, Boise State or Oklahoma. Those teams all have more returning seniors. Yeah UGA’s schedule is favorable but that only drags out the inevitable. Also, if UGA makes it to the Dome in December it means that either Bama, Auburn, or Arkansas will throw down on them. There is no way UGA would beat a Bama team.

Dawgdroll

June 3rd, 2010
6:23 pm

@ jumbeauxtiger

Visited Phil Steele’s site and it looked like a clown vomited all over the page. It seriously hurt my eyes to look at it. I’ll have to check out the bleacherreport. Thanks for the info.

Beast from the East

June 3rd, 2010
6:24 pm

Don’t think we’re gonna see that YPC be that high this year. Without the threat of the QB to take off, they’re going to have the linebackers up in the hole more. They key will be the WR play. If they can get loose downfield early and often, that will open up the running game. I suspect the offense will look totally different this year. Kind of like what we saw in 2006.

Atlanta Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:25 pm

Thanks, guys. Interesting comments.

Gridiron—-Are you knew around here? First time I’ve seen your posts, but I’ve been a bit of a ghost myself since bowl season. Hard to believe, I know, but there is life outside of college football. LOL

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:29 pm

A pumped up South Carolina, an upset minded Miss St away, a talented Auburn away game and a dominating Florida team will be 4 losses. Look out for Arky and even Kentucky away could present a challenge. Don’t think it will happen that way, but SIX losses could send Richt packing even before 2011 season.

Dawgdroll

June 3rd, 2010
6:29 pm

I just read that Auburn is the dark horse in the SEC West. UGA is the dark horse in the East.

Gotta love the “experts” out there.

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:31 pm

Atlanta, I have posted here before but mainly during the season. But it’s a 365 day thing here apparently. Helps fill the gap a bit.

Beast from the East

June 3rd, 2010
6:38 pm

Gridiron,
I think UGA is gonna be better than you think. I think Richt made the necessary changes in the offseason. Could be wrong but it’s never wise to underestimate your opponent.
Is it September yet??????

Atlanta Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:39 pm

Gridiron—-

Good to have another Gator who represents the alma mater well among the football heathens. There are a handful who know ho to handle themselves without engaging in name-calling, hair-pulling, and dare I say it, eye-gouging.

Where do you hail from?

Atlanta Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:41 pm

Patience, Beast. Those young Gators need some more time in the BHG weight room. september will be here soon enough.

= )

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:42 pm

Beast, look for the Gators to take it up top more. Play action or fake handoffs on the dive to freeze the backers will keep opponents guessing. The fact that this team doesn’t have such a focal point (Tebow) will make them harder to predict and maybe even more dangerous.

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
6:51 pm

I live 5 minutes from where Murray played high school and where “must get” James Wilder Jr is going to be a senior. I’ve seen them both up close and personal and feel I have a little insight there. Trust me when I tell you that James Wilder is not your everyday specimen. He is already ripped ala Ronald Powell (if he doesn’t start this year, it won’t be a physical thing) but once he gets into a good weight training program…I’m only dreaming what Mickey could turn him into…does the word “granite” mean anything to you? Yep, just like his old man.

kgator79

June 3rd, 2010
6:55 pm

Gridiron…

I agree. I think we could potentially see a tougher offense for defenses to stop if the right players step up. Deonte Thompson, Carl Moore and Andre Debose should be as effective WR corp as any others in the SEC if they play to their ability, not to mention Chris Rainey now playing the Percy position should be far more effective than Brandon James playing it last year. The only real question I see with the offense is TE. But if the WRs step up and the RBs continue to do their thing, that shouldnt be a problem.

kgator79

June 3rd, 2010
6:56 pm

I see many are already saying James Wilder should be the #1 prospect for the 2011 class

atlvol55

June 3rd, 2010
6:59 pm

Nice article Tony. While I didn’t know Haywood Harris personally, everyone that did always aaid he was truly one of the nicest people they had ever met and a true Southern gentlemen.

He will be missed..Go Vols!

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
7:06 pm

kgator79, look for some experimentation with that TE position. Depends on the progression of Jordan Reed and Gerald Christian. Preliminary indicators from the spring are good but look for uber talent Ronald Powell and even big Matt Patchen in the red zone or in specific matchup formations. LOTS of options there.

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
7:10 pm

BTW, if I were the average high school DB and saw Wilder break into the secondary, I’d have to fake an ACL. He’s like a runaway freight train with a bad attitude.

kgator79

June 3rd, 2010
7:13 pm

Gridiron…

Yeah I think Reed as the potential to be a playmaker at TE similar to what Ingram was. But not sure if that will show this year his first full year at the position.

Gridiron Gator

June 3rd, 2010
7:28 pm

Remember, he is STILL a freshman. Powell, like Percy was, will probably be a rare exception to that rule. My biggest concern is that DB opposite Janoris. Tim may have been the heart and soul of that team but Joe Haden was it’s biggest loss. Just like ol Fred Weary used to be, he was almost always in the right place and had make up speed when he wasn’t. I don’t think even the coaching staff has a clue who is gonna end up starting there.

Liven loudly

June 3rd, 2010
8:06 pm

Tony-

Most of the time I disagree with your Pro Florida rants, but this time, I agree. 90 sec wins in 9 years is RI DI CU LOUS.

Until Meyer or Saban MATCH Richt’s accomplishment of 4 consecutive top 10 finishes in the SEC, or 90 SEC wins in 9 years, they’ll be in a lower league.

Richt’s consistency of excellence is peerless.

Atlanta Gator

June 3rd, 2010
8:15 pm

Liven loudly—

Just for the record, Urban Meyer’s teams have finished in the top five in both polls 4 out of the last 6 seasons (in the top 20 the other two seasons), and he has the highest winning percentage of any active Division I football coach.

Not bragging about our coach, mind you, just sayin’.

Atlanta Gator

June 3rd, 2010
8:17 pm

Oh yeah, forgot to mention . . . Meyer has 96 wins in nine seasons, two SEC championships, and two BCS championships. Did I hear you mention the word “consistency” and then disparage Urban Meyer?

Dawgdroll

June 3rd, 2010
9:19 pm

Who is Urban Meyer?

jumbeauxtiger

June 3rd, 2010
9:23 pm

Dawgdroll

“Visited Phil Steele’s site and it looked like a clown vomited all over the page. It seriously hurt my eyes to look at it. I’ll have to check out the bleacherreport. Thanks for the info.”

I agree he needs to overhaul his site but he does do alot of research to back up what he says unlike those talking heads on TV.

Liven loudly

June 3rd, 2010
9:30 pm

read carefully:

Until Meyer or Saban MATCH
Richt’s accomplishment of
4 CONSECUTIVE top 10 finishes
IN THE SEC,
or
90 SEC wins in 9 years,
they’ll be in a lower league.

Richt’s consistency of excellence is peerless.

poopdawg

June 3rd, 2010
9:30 pm

Atlanta Gator , how many of those wins and championships have been without Tebow? I think UF’s offence will be better than 2006 due to Brantley’s arm but Tebow will be missed.

Tide Rising

June 3rd, 2010
10:02 pm

Well, just got back. I guess Forrest Gump was a no show. No biggie. I’ll just get back to talkin football.

Liven Loudly,

I’m pretty certain both Urban Meyer and Saban will both match the accomplishment of 4 straight top 10s. Neither has been at their respective schools long enough to do it. Meyer has only been at UF for 5 years so you’re basically asking him to finish top 10 in 4 of only 5 years of having been there. Not easy to do.

Saban was at LSU only 5 years and at Bama only 3 so its impossible for Saban to have 4 straight top 10s at Bama and would have been hard to do at LSU because he inherited an LSU program that had losing seasons in 8 of 11 years prior to his arrival.

However, both UF and Bama have 2 straight top 10 finishes(2 straight top 3s for Florida) and its likely that one or both will finish top 10 both this season and probably next season also.

Tide Rising

June 3rd, 2010
10:06 pm

Atlanta Gator,

4 top 5s in 6 seasons. Yep. That is pretty impressive. Saban has two top 6s and we should be able to get another top 10 finish this year provided we don’t drop more than 3 games. Saban also had a stellar top 60 finish in his first season in 07 at Bama.

Charlie Bama

June 3rd, 2010
10:46 pm

Seriously, America– That guy “Forrest Gump is . . . ” and “I wish Auburn played . . . ” (they’re the same person)– needs help. We’ve all agreed here before he needs a girlfriend or a job of some sort. It looks like it won’t happen. He’s still living in his mommy’s basement, full of resentment about his station in life. Whew! Better you than me, Dude!

Matt

June 4th, 2010
12:01 am

I’m sick of hearing everyone say that Arkansas will NOT win the west this year because we have NO defense. And then find out that its someone from Auburn that is the moron saying. Listen tigger, Auburn’s defense was terrible last year too…and Arkansas BEAT you by 3 TDs. So if you’re gonna say Auburn has a chance then you better include Arkansas. Here’s how I see the west. LSU and Ole Miss have a weak offense and strong defense. Arkansas and Auburn have strong offenses and weak defenses. Alabama has a strong offense and until proven otherwise, a strong defense. Miss St, in Mullen’s 2nd year, will likely beat on of the top 3 and help decide the western race. My guess is that Auburn beats Bama, Arkansas beats Auburn, Bama beats Arkansas. LSU beats Auburn, Bama beats LSU. Florida beats Bama and LSU. Confused yet? Everyone in the west finishes with at least 2 conference losses except Arkansas, and even though Bama beat Arkansas….Arkansas represents in the SEC CG. And they get that much anticipated rematch with the Gators.

al thomy

June 6th, 2010
8:55 pm

Tony,
Of all the PR men I met in 25 years at the JC, Haywood Harris ranks with the best. If you were going to write about his beloved Vols, you were welcome. He was a genuinely nice man. Not too many of those left. Look Eastward in the morning and see the Big Orange tinge to the sky. I’m sorry he didn’t see young Dooley’s first edition. Interesting column, keep up good work. Regards, Al Thomy