Adams: Kevin Cooper no fan of the Kiffin way

John Adams
Denarius Moore (6) and Kevin Cooper (45) celebrate the White teams victory as LeMarcus Thompson (42) congratulates Moore after the Orange and White game at UT on Saturday April 17, 2010.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Denarius Moore (6) and Kevin Cooper (45) celebrate the White teams victory as LeMarcus Thompson (42) congratulates Moore after the Orange and White game at UT on Saturday April 17, 2010.

Kevin Cooper feels as though he's back in college again. But that has nothing to do with classes starting at the University of Tennessee.

It's about the difference in the UT football program under first-year head coach Derek Dooley and the previous year under Lane Kiffin, who left the Vols after one season to become the head coach at Southern California.

"It was like a business under (Kiffin)," said UT's senior fullback. "It was run like the NFL.

"Coach Dooley is showing everybody how to do it the right way. He's showing everyone that the only way to be successful is to do it the right way - as opposed to last year when it was do whatever it takes.

"Coach Dooley brings values and morals to the team, which, in turn, creates spirit. It makes the team better in general and gives you an intangible. I feel like doing the right thing all the time is how you build a championship program."

There's another reason Cooper prefers the Dooley approach. He said Kiffin favored certain freshman players over the rest of the team.

"He wasn't like Coach Dooley, who will make (freshmen) work and earn their spots here," he said. "Then, nobody will have a problem with that.

"It's much different this year. There's a lot of freshmen who are talented and will play this year. But they earned it."

Cooper's assessment is surprising for a couple of reasons - (1) There was no apparent dissension on last year's team, which played with great effort for much of the season; (2) I assumed players in general liked the NFL model.

"The one thing we learned is we can't let anything affect us," Cooper said. "The program has gone through a lot of adversity the last two years. But we just learned to work through a lot of negativity."

As for the professional approach, Cooper said, "You can get treated like an NFL player, but you're not getting paid like an NFL player. The older guys will embrace it more than the younger ones. The young guys, they're boys. They're 18 coming in here.

"College should be a transition into the NFL, rather than being the NFL."

Continuing the NFL analogy, I asked if he thought Kiffin's freshmen were treated like first-round draft picks.

"Exactly," he said. "That's exactly how it was.

"If this guy has this name, he's going to play automatically. Some freshmen were treated like first-round draft picks."

Fellow senior Chris Walker didn't agree with Cooper's take.

"I don't think (the freshmen) were getting pushed to the front too fast," he said. "Obviously, Coach Kiffin saw something that they could help our team. As a player, I trusted him. It worked out for us, and the freshmen who played did really well.

"He wanted to give them a shot. And they took the shot and ran with it."

But the final preseason depth chart for 2009 helps substantiate Cooper's criticism. It was as though the two-deep depth chart was a recruiting brochure - designed to attract more elite young players - which wasn't necessarily a bad idea given UT's shortage of talent.

Freshman Mike Edwards was bracketed as a co-starter at one cornerback. Freshman Nu'Keese Richardson was listed as a starter at wide receiver.

Neither player had much of an impact during the season. Edwards had five tackles, and Richardson caught six passes. Both were dismissed from the team for their alleged involvement in what police said was an armed-robbery attempt.

The most glaring listing on the preseason depth chart was at running back, where freshman Bryce Brown, who recently transferred to Kansas State, and fifth-year senior Montario Hardesty were bracketed as co-starters at running back. Hardesty started every game and rushed for 1,345 yards. Brown rushed for 460 yards as a backup.

"When Bryce Brown was named the co-starter, everybody knew that Montario Hardesty was the running back," Cooper said. "They were giving opportunities to people who didn't earn them.

"Kiffin was going to put in his boys that he wanted to see in there, keeping promises. He was going to let them do what he told them he would."

Keep in mind that Cooper didn't lose playing time to any alleged favoritism, so there's no axe-grinding involved here. He started for Kiffin, just as he started for Phillip Fulmer a year earlier.

Now, he's looking forward to ending his UT career as a three-year starter under a coach who has revived the college spirit and a family atmosphere, according to Cooper.

"Coach Kiffin had us competing more against each other and the incoming freshmen," he said. "Coach Dooley has us playing for each other."

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 54

UTGAMER writes:

Interesting that Walker and Cooper had diff things to say about Kiff

AWOLVol writes:

"Coach Dooley is showing everybody how to do it the right way. He's showing everyone that the only way to be successful is to do it the right way - as opposed to last year when it was do whatever it takes.

"Coach Dooley brings values and morals to the team, which, in turn, creates spirit. It makes the team better in general and gives you an intangible. I feel like doing the right thing all the time is how you build a championship program."

Comments like this from our players makes me feel very good indeed about our new coach. I respect Kevin's opinions and his matter-of-fact way of stating them. There's no pejorative under-tone in his comments, and as one who's been through all three recent coaches I think he's clearly earned the right to express himself. I'm glad he's happy with the new staff.

Good job, Kevin, and good luck this season!!!

OrangePride writes:

I guess it is now fairly apparant why Poole played so little and Brown so much. And the probability that that situation was about to change may well have been an underlying cause of a couple of defections. The more I hear of Coach Dooley, the more I think we are on the right track. GO VOLS!

allvol9 writes:

I really like Cooper. I think most agree with his take....Kiffin was going to play his guys that he brought in. Cooper's remarks make me feel very good about the atmosphere that Dooley is creating.

always_vol (Inactive) writes:

Well, I see both sides. Kiffin wanted to draw in more talent, so he played unproven players...but players already on the roster got messed over.

Kiffin counted on this: people always think 'that won't happen to me'; he figured in-coming freshmen would not think ahead to 2 years down the road and wonder what whiz-kid would be taking THEIR playing time.

claiborneh writes:

Why does Adams or anyone find a kid's comments surprising or insightful. They are just kids. No bills, in most instances few trials of life, and little responsibility. Just go to class, do the football thing, and brush your teeth and comb your hair before a date. Who cares about the kids assessment that it gets an article.

CroKev writes:

in response to claiborneh:

Why does Adams or anyone find a kid's comments surprising or insightful. They are just kids. No bills, in most instances few trials of life, and little responsibility. Just go to class, do the football thing, and brush your teeth and comb your hair before a date. Who cares about the kids assessment that it gets an article.

I guess because he has more first-hand insight than any of us reading GVX...

richvol writes:

Dooley and Saban will be duking it out for supremacy in the SEC in time. The 2012 UT squad will be talented and deep enough to push aside Florida and the annual UT/Bama game will retake it's rightful place as one of the country's biggest battles each year.

DannyVol writes:

Wow. What a meandering mess of a column.

Why interview Cooper and then second-guess his statements with commentary? Of course there really wasn't a need to mention the robbery again either; but that would mean going a week without doing so.

DannyVol writes:

in response to CroKev:

I guess because he has more first-hand insight than any of us reading GVX...

Ha! I'm sure that's it. Like Stevie Wonder at an art exhibit.

mwhla writes:

Enough. Lane. Kiffin.

westennvol writes:

Kevin Cooper's comments just reinforce what I believed all along about Kiffin's staff. I supported him, but was irritated at his backhanded comments and ME first approach to new recruits. That works much better in the NBA. Football has its' stars, but it above all others is a TEAM sport. Sounds like he had a take no prisoners attitude when it came to recruiting. That is the NFL way, and probably why I don't really care that much about NFL football, (well not as much as NCAA football anyway.)

brokebackvol writes:

@Richvol - that is assuming alot, that Saban will be at Bama long enough for Dooley to right the ship. His track record for staying in one place is not very long - why would you think Bama will be any different?

volinky writes:

Adams is still in love with Kiffin!

10volunteers98 writes:

All I know is I`m glad Kiffin is gone.The vols would have no doubt been on probation or worse if he had stayed.Kiff and Ogre-on are crooks.Kiffin is a lightning rod for trouble.

vol88 writes:

I like the direction we're moving. Dooley inherited a mess, and instead of trying to put a band aid on it, he's building a culture and positioning us to be consistently competitive in the future. Let's get behind him and stay there until he has time to prove himself. GBO.

VOLliven2it writes:

Our head coach is Derek Dooley. Could someone tell Adams that? As for the Twinky who left for USC, NO ONE CARES. He is gladly gone and we do not have to deal with his junk, only the aftermath of what he did while here. I will no longer read the banter about how it use to be. How it is now is where I am. NEXT ARTICLE PLEASE!

OTPVol writes:

Quick lesson of the day. How to spot a fictional story:

Kiffin was going to put in his boys that he wanted to see in there, keeping promises. He was going to let them do what he told them he would."

Jakevol writes:

In the military, one is taught to look-out and help their fellow fighting man. We won many wars doing this. Seems Dooley understands this. I know Neyland did!

196SVol writes:

Well, I guess if Dooley is doing it the "right" way, that might be the reason the NCAA is camping out. It infers that Kiffin was doing it the "wrong" way.

TommyJack writes:

in response to 196SVol:

Well, I guess if Dooley is doing it the "right" way, that might be the reason the NCAA is camping out. It infers that Kiffin was doing it the "wrong" way.

implies, not infers.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

I know it’s easy to sit back and say this now, after the fact. But based on the players feedback I truly believe that Kiffin would have been bad in developing any kind of team Chemistry. He attracts talented players with a desire to go to the NFL, which sounds good on paper, but with a few of those types of recruiting classes you end up with a team full or prima donnas who don’t care about the TEAM concept and are only there for themselves. Imagine a team full of Kelley Washington’s… YIKES! I think Dooley will bring cohesiveness back to the team and give everyone the fair chance they deserve and have earned.

Like many, I like what Cooper said… they’re now playing ‘for’ each other.

GO VOLS!

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to back2z1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That makes one of us! lol I guess Dooley just won't give you guys enough bulletin board material to play with. :) I expect a tough time from you trolls this year, but I think we'll be seeing less and less of you guys in the not-to-distant future.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to FearTheVols1252:

That makes one of us! lol I guess Dooley just won't give you guys enough bulletin board material to play with. :) I expect a tough time from you trolls this year, but I think we'll be seeing less and less of you guys in the not-to-distant future.

They'll always find some nit to pick. Whether it be recent or ancient history.

whistlinwingman writes:

Concept of article was great! I just don't understand why Austin Ward does an article on Cooper on August 17th and Adams comes in with one now. Why does he do an article after 2 or 3 have already been posted on the same subject? Chris Walker comment comes in from left field and still can't figure why it is in there.

One thing is for sure, players seem to love what Dooley is doing, and all Adams' "columns" will be about Kiffin, a follow-up of a previous story by someone else, or a story that appears to be praising something about UT but in the end snide remarks make it appear otherwise.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

This is why I believe that Dooley will be successful! And I will ask the question again...of the 2 former coaches (Fulmer and Kiffin), which one has more in common with Dooley?...that's right! All those Fulmer-bashers need to understand that yes, it was time for him to go, but (also) yes, we need to reflect on the great things that he did while he was here and be civil!

I think Dooley will take us where we want to be! I just hope that Athens doesn't come calling after they dismiss Richt within the next few years!

adamsmith5529#630125 writes:

I've always hated Bryce Brown.
DOES anyone remember the first run Brown had vs. Western Ky???? He ran out of bounds before taking a hit and gaining an extra yard or FIVE!! If you don't remember re-watch the game!!! BROWN IS A BUM!!

us43137415#376444 writes:

in response to DannyVol:

Ha! I'm sure that's it. Like Stevie Wonder at an art exhibit.

Stupid comment from some keyboarder trying to be funny.

Next time, peruse the obituaries and make fun of the grieving families.

Troll_Here writes:

I really believe that Dooley will get you guys back competing with my Gators for the east within 3 years. Unfortunately, this year will be a tough one that will just need to be survived. This article tells me all I need to know about him. He's building a solid foundation on the principles that lead to winning. I, for one, am rooting for you guys to return. I miss the rivalry that was so great in the 90's and early 2000's.

Mule_Days_King writes:

Can we please get the season started?

Colliervol writes:

Is Kevin inferring that Lame has no values or morals? I am stunned.

Seriously, when a player comes out and says something like that, well, let's just say I'm not sure I'd want my kid playing for that dimwit. USC recruits would be advised to pay attention. That isn't a fan talking. I wish we knew then what we know now but you know what they say about hindsight.

byobbio writes:

"Cooper's assessment is surprising for a couple of reasons - (1) There was no apparent dissension on last year's team, which played with great effort for much of the season; (2) I assumed players in general liked the NFL model."

No apparent dissension? We had several. A qb. Offensive lineman. We kicked players off the team for armed robbery. We had a player get sent to the locker room during the ky game. We had a player (same one in the armed robbery, and it was not "alleged", by the way) who made it known he was unhappy with his playing time. We had a TE who was dismissed from the team because of his bad attitude. And, finally, we had a head coach and MOST of his assistants quit on us during the height of the recruiting season.

No dissension? BS John adams

CoverOrange writes:

This time last year there appeared on many of these pages quotes from players about how they loved the new discipline, excitement and tempo, implying (or inferring, I used to know the difference) there was none with the previous regime. What things will we hear in the years to come from former and soon to be former players. There is always somebody disgruntled in every group. Just look at these boards everyday.

V_O_L_S_GO_VOLS_GO writes:

in response to Troll_Here:

I really believe that Dooley will get you guys back competing with my Gators for the east within 3 years. Unfortunately, this year will be a tough one that will just need to be survived. This article tells me all I need to know about him. He's building a solid foundation on the principles that lead to winning. I, for one, am rooting for you guys to return. I miss the rivalry that was so great in the 90's and early 2000's.

Hark!!! Do we have a RATIONAL gator fan amongst us? :)

Thanks for your words. Appreciated, and I look forward to 'the rivalry that used to be' coming back again.

willaustin writes:

in response to richvol:

Dooley and Saban will be duking it out for supremacy in the SEC in time. The 2012 UT squad will be talented and deep enough to push aside Florida and the annual UT/Bama game will retake it's rightful place as one of the country's biggest battles each year.

I like the way you think. I think it's a very real possibility, assuming no one goes ape $h1t this year when we're mediocre.

willaustin writes:

in response to volinky:

Adams is still in love with Kiffin!

No kidding.. I bet John wears USC Trojan footie pajamas.

markmcc98#635778 writes:

in response to Troll_Here:

I really believe that Dooley will get you guys back competing with my Gators for the east within 3 years. Unfortunately, this year will be a tough one that will just need to be survived. This article tells me all I need to know about him. He's building a solid foundation on the principles that lead to winning. I, for one, am rooting for you guys to return. I miss the rivalry that was so great in the 90's and early 2000's.

Thanks man for being a man and saying your a gator fan and also showing some respect. I too miss those days. Just wish we could have won more of those. Fulmer had Alabama's and Georgia's number then but it took him awhile to beat FL. I hope DD can get the vols back there!!

GerryOP writes:

in response to richvol:

Dooley and Saban will be duking it out for supremacy in the SEC in time. The 2012 UT squad will be talented and deep enough to push aside Florida and the annual UT/Bama game will retake it's rightful place as one of the country's biggest battles each year.

I agree richvol ... 2012! Great post!

16 -- Fear The Dooley Dude...

volky writes:

Bryce transferred to K-State? So he grew some nads and went to Dooley for his release??

GerryOP writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Awww, geeze, here we go again with a commit list in August, with 167 days until LOI NSD. Same broken record we heard from the Fulmer guys in August '08. Of course come September '08, the kids were already jumping ship!

What you're saying is kind of what you hear when you go in to buy a new car and offer a price reported by Consumer's Report. A smart salesman will tell you to buy your car from CR! Same thing here! How was the Rivals team ranked at the end of ANY season?

Rivals and weather forecasters have the same credibility. "Here is what we say is the "truth" until we tell you something different."

I'll trust Dooley's evaluation of the players. We'll see Bama in Atlanta December 2012 ... if Bama can win the SECW!

You have a nice day...

Mule_Days_King writes:

in response to VolnotHAMILTONfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm just glad you are here to share your pearls of wisdom. How many "I told you so" posts have you made now? Your act got old about 6 months ago.

Mule_Days_King writes:

in response to WEAREBETTERTHANVANDY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Average at best this year is better than 99% of any team that the West End Toilets have ever fielded.

Now you deal with that, Turd Jouster.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to Troll_Here:

I really believe that Dooley will get you guys back competing with my Gators for the east within 3 years. Unfortunately, this year will be a tough one that will just need to be survived. This article tells me all I need to know about him. He's building a solid foundation on the principles that lead to winning. I, for one, am rooting for you guys to return. I miss the rivalry that was so great in the 90's and early 2000's.

Very classy post, Troll_Here!!! I wish all the trolls were like you and wouldn't just come on here to degrade UT..BTW..Your screenname just kills me!!! LOL!!

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to willaustin:

I like the way you think. I think it's a very real possibility, assuming no one goes ape $h1t this year when we're mediocre.

I like that line of thinking as well, but good luck with the last part of your statement because you know how some of our fans are.

volboy81 writes:

John Adams writes like Les Miles talks. Neither make any sense....but who cares, its almost FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!

UTbassdrummer writes:

in response to Troll_Here:

I really believe that Dooley will get you guys back competing with my Gators for the east within 3 years. Unfortunately, this year will be a tough one that will just need to be survived. This article tells me all I need to know about him. He's building a solid foundation on the principles that lead to winning. I, for one, am rooting for you guys to return. I miss the rivalry that was so great in the 90's and early 2000's.

This is a really cool post. This is what it should
be like. Thanks for being classy. I'm optimistic
that our rivalry, with Dooley and his changes,
will be fiery and furious and balanced again
shortly. It'll be great to all hate each other
and beat eachother's heads again in top form.

I'll still take a win this year, though.

whistlinwingman writes:

in response to VolnotHAMILTONfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

First of all, your name should be FULMERnotVOLfan. Second, I don't care what Lynn Swann said. He was born here but left for California when he was 2 where he eventually played for So. Cal so he has no ties here (how's that for history?). If Kiffin or Fulmer were here for this year we still would be 4th or 5th in the Sec East. Tennessee has a winning football HISTORY which is what we are trying to get back to.

Here is what most of us told you(all) after the 2005 season.....The program is starting a downward decline. We aren't living up to expectations. The GREAT RECRUITING classes aren't being developed. It's time for change(Not the Obama change either). Fulmer was great and we will forever remember what he has done for us but the game is passing him by. Fulmer was a good coach but with David Cutcliff he was a great coach. If actions would have been taken a few years sooner, we might be back in a SEC hunt by now.

Enjoy your history baby, cause I am looking forward to the future now.

GerryOP writes:

in response to whistlinwingman:

First of all, your name should be FULMERnotVOLfan. Second, I don't care what Lynn Swann said. He was born here but left for California when he was 2 where he eventually played for So. Cal so he has no ties here (how's that for history?). If Kiffin or Fulmer were here for this year we still would be 4th or 5th in the Sec East. Tennessee has a winning football HISTORY which is what we are trying to get back to.

Here is what most of us told you(all) after the 2005 season.....The program is starting a downward decline. We aren't living up to expectations. The GREAT RECRUITING classes aren't being developed. It's time for change(Not the Obama change either). Fulmer was great and we will forever remember what he has done for us but the game is passing him by. Fulmer was a good coach but with David Cutcliff he was a great coach. If actions would have been taken a few years sooner, we might be back in a SEC hunt by now.

Enjoy your history baby, cause I am looking forward to the future now.

Well said wingman ... every danged word of it.

Preached the '05 change since '05. If we had done it then, we would be well on our way back to the top by now. But, at least we now seem to be crawling out of the valley.

Well said my Vol friend....

mercuryvol writes:

in response to whistlinwingman:

First of all, your name should be FULMERnotVOLfan. Second, I don't care what Lynn Swann said. He was born here but left for California when he was 2 where he eventually played for So. Cal so he has no ties here (how's that for history?). If Kiffin or Fulmer were here for this year we still would be 4th or 5th in the Sec East. Tennessee has a winning football HISTORY which is what we are trying to get back to.

Here is what most of us told you(all) after the 2005 season.....The program is starting a downward decline. We aren't living up to expectations. The GREAT RECRUITING classes aren't being developed. It's time for change(Not the Obama change either). Fulmer was great and we will forever remember what he has done for us but the game is passing him by. Fulmer was a good coach but with David Cutcliff he was a great coach. If actions would have been taken a few years sooner, we might be back in a SEC hunt by now.

Enjoy your history baby, cause I am looking forward to the future now.

Word.

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

in response to TennVolAlum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dooley ain't a softy. My take is that his edges are right for a top tier college coach. And he does seem to be his own man, who's made his own way the hard way. So I'm not worried about anybody else calling Tennessee. Yeah, I want to see some good things happen this year. And I got a feeling that Coach Dooley's staff and our players will have something for every team on the schedule, which is very tough. Count me as supporter for the short haul...and the long haul. GO VOLS!

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