COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri announced late Friday afternoon that it will hire Derek Dooley as its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, replacing the vacancy left by Josh Heupel’s departure to coach Central Florida.
Dooley, a 21-year coaching veteran, will have to learn on the fly. He hasn’t been an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach at any of his seven previous stops — although he does boast six years of head coaching experience and two years’ experience as an athletic director.
“Derek brings tremendous energy, knowledge and experience to our staff,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said in a release. “He will do a great job of mentoring our student-athletes in all areas of their lives, and I know he will add great benefit and loyalty to our staff room with his experiences he’s gained over his career. His football knowledge and offensive beliefs are in line with what will make Mizzou very successful. We have a great foundation to build on and along with the rest of the offensive staff we will put our kids in position to be their very best.”
Dooley’s contract details were not immediately released. Heupel was the Tigers’ highest-paid assistant at $700,000 per year.
For the last five seasons Dooley has coached wide receivers for the Dallas Cowboys, but the 41-year old has Southeastern Conference roots — starting with the fact that he’s a native of Athens, Ga., and the son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley.
After a four-year playing career at Virginia, Derek Dooley started his coaching career in 1996 as a graduate assistant at Georgia. He coached wide receivers at SMU from 1997-99, then held a number of positions (including assistant head coach) at LSU under Nick Saban from 2000-04. The Tigers won a national championship in 2003, during which Dooley was the team’s running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
He briefly joined the professional football ranks as a tight ends coach with the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06.
Dooley got his first head coaching gig at Louisiana Tech, where he went 17-20 from 2007-09 and led the Bulldogs to an Independence Bowl victory in 2008. He also served as the school’s athletic director from 2008-09.
In 2010, he was hired as the successor to Lane Kiffin at Tennessee. He was the third coach in three years at Knoxville, as Kiffin lasted just one season after taking over for legendary coach Phillip Fulmer.
Dooley led the Volunteers to a 6-7 record in his first season, which ended with a loss at the Music City Bowl. Tennessee finished last in the SEC East in 2011 and 2012, prompting Tennessee to fire Dooley (who went 15-21 with the Vols) and hire Butch Jones.
In 2013, Dooley joined the NFL ranks as the wide receivers coach of the Cowboys.
Dooley oversaw pro-style offenses at Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. The Vols were dynamic under Dooley, racking up 5,711 total yards (the second-most in program history) in 2012. Dooley didn’t finish that season at the helm, however, as the Vols fired him with one game left in the season.
A pro-style system would be a massive change for a Missouri program that has run multiple versions of the spread for the better part of three decades.
Quarterback Drew Lock has inferred that the Tigers’ decision at offensive coordinator would affect his decision to stay at Missouri or leave early for the NFL Draft. While meeting with reporters on Dec. 26 in Houston, Lock said he’d value an offensive coordinator with pro experience.
“That’s why I’m again waiting to make a decision, to see who we possibly could get for an offensive coordinator,” Lock said then. “What could I necessarily squeeze out of him? What could I learn from him, rather than jumping ahead, possibly missing the opportunity to learn from a great mind that may have been in the NFL, may have coached really good NFL quarterbacks?”
Lock has not announced a decision on next year yet, saying after the Texas Bowl that he wanted to wait for Missouri to hire an offensive coordinator and talk over the decision with his family.