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Friday, July 9, 2010
SEC mailbag: Dooley will be decisive

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Let’s see what’s on your mind in the SEC mailbag:

Bobby in Cleveland, Tenn., writes: Your article "Dooley's job just got harder” was out of line and unprofessional. You try and make Tennessee look bad. I know your job is to report news. But the way you presented it in this article was unprofessional.

Chris Low: Bobby, with all due respect, I don’t think the Vols need any help in looking bad in this particular situation. I 100 percent stand by what I wrote. If the allegations hold up that there were indeed a group of players kicking an off-duty police officer in the street until he was unconscious, then they have no place on that team if Derek Dooley is serious about the role of character in his program. And let me add: I believe he’s very serious and that his actions will reflect how serious as he deals with this situation.


Cameron in Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: So Terrance Toliver isn't one of the top six wide receivers in the league? That's egregious. He was ninth in the league last year in receiving yards, splitting catches with Brandon LaFell. Who was seventh in the league in receiving yards? How does that not translate into increased production for Toliver? Please explain.

Chris Low: Well, my best explanation is that I can’t fit 40 players into 25 spots. I think Toliver is an excellent player and again shows the depth of talent in this league that a player of his caliber is not in the top 25. But as I put this list together and talked to different coaches in the league and others who scout players for a living, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, Alshon Jeffery, Darvin Adams and Greg Childs all came in a little bit ahead of Toliver. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong during the season.


Greg in Goose Creek, S.C., writes: Hey, Chris, where is the love for South Carolina. All those players you mentioned … and nobody from Gamecock Nation. What about DeVonte Holloman, Devin Taylor and D.L. Moore, off the top of my head? Gamecock Nation is going to surprise you all this year and feed off the baseball team. Garcia will have a huge year if he gets a little time no matter what Spurrier says to the press. If he did not think Garcia had it, he would have let him go on multiple occasions in the past. Last year was not great, but he was solely responsible for at least three of those wins.

Chris Low: Give me a little bit of credit for showing the Gamecocks some love. I had three of their players ranked among the top 25. Only Alabama had more. I agree they have some younger players who could break through this coming season, and I like Holloman a lot at safety. We’ll wait and see on Garcia, which is the same thing the Head Ball Coach is doing. I do think that Garcia improved more last season than Spurrier is giving him credit for, but it’s his work ethic and commitment level that Spurrier doesn’t think is strong enough. We’ll find out a lot about what Garcia is made of after being challenged publicly the way he has by his coach.


Daniel in Baton Rouge, La., writes: What realistic expectations should LSU fans have toward the quarterback situation? Do you think that the running power of Stevan Ridley and the agility of Michael Ford is enough to take the pressure off Jordan Jefferson?

Chris Low: I honestly think that it needs to work both ways. To be fair, Jefferson’s numbers weren’t too shabby last season. He just needs to be more instinctive in his decision-making and make more plans in the passing game when they’re there. Part of the concern is that he kind of stayed in neutral this spring and didn’t take a huge step forward. In fact, Jarrett Lee outplayed him at times. One thing that will help Jefferson this fall is that LSU is going to make more of a commitment to be a better running team. Ridley has the power and speed to be a marquee back in this league, and the Tigers are eager to see what Ford can do. The other thing is that Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle will be much bigger parts of the offense and turn some of those shorter passes from Jefferson into big plays.


Jason in Fayetteville, Ark., writes: In the article about the Tennessee wide receiver being arrested in a bar brawl, one of the owners of the bar stated that Vols’ players were routinely not charged covers to enter. Would this be an NCAA violation of some sort? I know they deserve Fulmer Cup points, but I wanted to know if this was an NCAA violation as well.

Chris Low: Yes, if true, it would be a violation of the NCAA’s extra benefits bylaws, similar to a manager of a movie theater giving football players discount movie tickets or a restaurant owner allowing players to eat on the house. I doubt this will rise to the level of a major violation. But if it is true, then Tennessee will almost certainly have to self-report it, take action to make sure it doesn’t keep happening and then see what the NCAA’s response is.


Eric in Nashville, Tenn., writes:I am interested if you have been able to get a comment from Mike Hamilton on his rumored response that Tennessee would be glad to face USC in 2012 and 2013, but then Kiffin declined? Or is this just an internet rumor, which is why it is not being reported by ESPN on a national scale as the previous report by Mr. Feldman that Kiffin had contacted Hamilton?

Chris Low:I did speak with Hamilton, and he said he had only casual conversations with Gary Stokan of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Hamilton’s conversations were not with Kiffin. Hamilton did tell me that he told Stokan that Tennessee would be glad to play sometime in the next three or four years, but not in 2011. If anything, Tennessee is trying to lighten the schedule in 2011, not make it more difficult. My question is: Why wasn’t Kiffin lobbying to play USC when he was at Tennessee?