Derek Dooley considers himself old school about his running game.
Older, in fact, than even his famous coaching father.
So while the Wildcat attack has increasingly become en vogue along with spread offenses over the last few years, the Tennessee coach actually views the single-wing style as something that fits in perfectly with what he values on the ground.
“I would say the Wildcat is grandfather school, not old,” Dooley said after practice Thursday morning. “It’s the Notre Dame shift, it’s the single wing. That’s what they ran back in the ’20s and ’30s and that kind of deal.
“They didn’t have this specialized quarterback. They’d snap it to a guy and he runs it. It’s super old.”
Its gradual return to college football is relatively new though, and the Wildcat package will certainly play an expanded role for the Vols this fall under Dooley.
The Vols originally planned to start installation of the versatile offensive set on Thursday with wide receiver Gerald Jones as the centerpiece, a role he’s already familiar with after taking snaps in the G-Gun two years ago. Dooley delayed that until after the second scrimmage, but not because he’s lost interest in putting it in or is wondering whether he has somebody capable of running it.
A background at quarterback combined with speed and elusiveness makes Jones the ideal candidate for the position since he’s a multi-purpose threat, and running backs Tauren Poole and David Oku also will fit into the plans as well. And with some of his snaps going elsewhere, likely starting quarterback Matt Simms started appealing for a fair trade with Jones as UT sifts through its options.
“I mean, I’m not going to lie. I think I might have the best hands on the team,” Simms joked. “Put me out there at (receiver) and let me run a route, Gerald can throw one to me maybe. He’s got to share the love a little bit with that.
“But really, if we can get Gerald the ball in any occasion, that’s fine by me. Offenses like that, it’s just one more thing that a defense has to prepare for in a week. The more versatile we can be on offense, the more looks we give them, the more shifts and motions and different personnel groups we have, that’s an extra thing a defense has to go in and watch film on to make sure they’re prepared for it.”
The exact personnel is always subject to change, and the Vols haven’t really even started putting together the pieces on the field yet.
But in some way the Wildcat or G-Gun or whatever Dooley might call the package figures to be a regular part of the game plan. The trick is finding the right balance so that it’s neither a gimmick nor the heart of the offense.
“Here’s what I like about it, and I like a lot of things,” Dooley said. “I think the key to the Wildcat is not making it your bread and butter. Once it becomes where you don’t know what you are on offense, it becomes a problem. But what it is good for, if it’s five to eight plays a game, first of all it’s eight less plays of a quarterback. Let’s start with that. So you’ve got 70 plays in a game, now the guy’s got 60. So you’re taking away eight plays of decision-making from him, which helps.
“No. 2, you’re creating more work for the defense, they’re going to have to put in and work on a Wildcat package. No. 3, it gives you a chance to get some of your better skill guys the ball in space. Those three things, it’s good. . . . The more you run, the better the quarterback, the less decisions he’s got to make. Then, I’m just a little old school. I just believe that’s what wins.”
Dooley’s also not opposed to going way back in time to do it.