Close-Ups: Derek Dooley's first year with the Vols documented

University of Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley speaks to the media during a press conference inside Neyland Stadium in August 2010. Dooley is still trying to figure out why nearly a year later, there is still such a swarm of attention on him.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

University of Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley speaks to the media during a press conference inside Neyland Stadium in August 2010. Dooley is still trying to figure out why nearly a year later, there is still such a swarm of attention on him.

Dooley: Why a bowl game is important

Derek Dooley was introduced as the next football coach at Tennessee. He stepped up to the podium and gazed out at a packed crowd and a throng of media.

It was exactly what he expected when he arrived on Jan. 15 to take over a major program after three years at Louisiana Tech.

What Dooley is still trying to figure out nearly a year later is why exactly there's still been such a swarm of attention on him each and every day since that night.

"The one thing I think that makes this job unique is the scrutiny," Dooley said earlier this month. "The media exposure in everything you do, that's probably been the biggest adjustment for me.

"I wasn't surprised early on at the attention because it is Tennessee. But once the newness was over, it was a little bit like, 'Why are you guys still around?' Then I realized you weren't going anywhere, you kind of live here. I was just surprised, I wasn't mad at it or angry, I just didn't expect it to be that many every day. Usually I just expected two or three (reporters)."

Instead Dooley typically found four or five times that many whenever he was available, just one area where he had to learn and adjust during his first season with the Vols.

Of course, in the long run he'll be measured much more for his ability on the sidelines than in press conferences, and despite his previous experience running a program and plenty of time around other SEC powerhouses, there was a bit of on-the-job training on the field, as well.

And if Year One was a time for learning, there were lessons available for just about everybody as Dooley put his mark on UT.

From 2-6 to 6-6

Mike Hamilton stood just a few yards away from the field in the northeast corner of Neyland Stadium, looking out at the closing seconds of a dismal second half in a blowout loss to rival Alabama on Oct. 23.

Behind him, the abuse aimed at the UT athletic director from at least one fan was almost impossible to ignore.

But Hamilton never turned around, never acknowledged the insults and never wavered in his support for the man he had hired to replace Lane Kiffin after his abrupt departure on Jan. 12.

Ideally he wouldn't have drawn up a 2-5 record that would get even worse the next week at South Carolina as the best way to get started with Dooley at the helm. Though even if all the background research and months of working together already had given Hamilton an idea of what his new coach was made of, he at least had a true test for the way Dooley would respond to adversity now.

"I think this reveals more about him," Hamilton said. "I think the 6-6 record out of a 2-6 reveals more. We had an inordinate amount of injuries this year, and in a lot of cases at key positions where there wasn't a tremendous amount of depth. So to be able to handle that adversity and bring everything together in a way that creates some synergy and finishes strong means more to me than if we had blown through the deal the first year.

"Certainly you want to win as many games as possible, don't misinterpret that statement. But we knew going into the year that because of our thin roster that in this league it was going to be hard to overcome in the first year."

Dooley might not have squeezed a winning record out of that roster, but after a winless October he did pull a perfect November out of it to clinch a bid to the Music City Bowl against North Carolina on Thursday in Nashville.

So if Hamilton needed to see a positive response from UT and Dooley down the stretch, there's little question he got it.

"Before the season it was just about if we would improve during the year, how the team would respond to a new coach, how the dynamics of players that had been recruited by three different coaches and have worked under four strength coaches and 20-something assistant coaches, how that would all be managed and brought into some kind of chemistry that would accomplish something on the field," Hamilton said. "For me, that further validates Derek because that's not easy. Particularly when you're sitting at the end of October and you're 2-6 and you wonder about, 'What is the psyche of your coaching staff and your team?'

"I think they've answered the bell on that."

'The Process'

The early results obviously weren't good, and though the Vols were supposed to be ignoring them, a senior class that wanted to leave the program on a high note could sometimes be caught cheating on that a bit.

The veterans embraced "The Process" that Dooley has preached since he arrived, quickly adapting again to a coaching change and helping establish an approach that needed to divert attention away from just the outcome on Saturday. But they also had an eye on a bowl game during their only season with him as the coach, though with their backs against the wall the Vols started sounding more and more like Dooley every week.

"I think Coach Dooley has really stressed and I've taken to heart that all you can control is what you can do," linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "Focus on yourself as a player, do your job and do it to the best of your ability, don't try to overdo something, don't try to be Superman out there.

"The results are what's meant to happen."

Eventually some positive ones rolled in during the final month of the season, extending the careers of those seniors for a few more practices and a bowl game.

Along with it could come a legacy and an example of what Dooley's process can produce.

"There are so many factors, so many outside motivations that we could have focused on and I think that would deter us because we'd get caught up the emotions and all that outside stuff," Reveiz said. "I'm a big believer that everything is put in our paths for a reason, and it's to build us.

"Obviously, I think adverse times, you learn the most from those times."

More work

The good times aren't back at UT yet by any stretch of the imagination, and Dooley is clearly aware that he wasn't hired in the hopes he could go 6-6 and to the Music City Bowl every year.

He brought a plan with him to lead the Vols back to championship contention nearly a year ago, but whether it's in dealing with the media or picking a quarterback, Dooley has proved to be flexible when needed. So if that blueprint does need an adjustment or two, a year in the fire should at least give him a better idea of where to make them.

"Well, you're never fully prepared for everything until you get in it," Dooley said. "As far as coaching, probably the biggest surprise, of course, was where our personnel situation was in the spring. But what we tried to do when we got here was evaluate where we were as a program and we evaluated everything - from all the football stuff, personnel, schemes to off the field and how we support the players, whether it's academic support, personal growth, culture, everything.

"We've set on a course to make a lot of change internally, and we've made a bunch of changes and we're still making changes. The one thing I feel good about is every day we're making progress, and I think this season is kind of a microcosm of the whole year. Start off tough, nobody really understands who I am, what I stand for, then over time the process starts to take over."

As Dooley quickly discovered, there will be no shortage of people around to document it.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 40

bcbobcat82 writes:

DD IS THE MAN WITH THE PLAN!!!! I AM PROUD TO CALL HIM MY COACH!!

pvvol writes:

Very pleased with CDD and the job he has done. He is building a winning program with character @ UT.

wazzya69vol writes:

Short and sweet, I think CDD will do just fine. I realize the jury is still out, but he's got my vote as innocent until proven guilty; in otherwords, a winner! GBO!!!

KptVol7 writes:

Before the season started I knew that it could possibly be a rough year considering the lack of depth at most positions and as a whole how young this team is. Now that the regular season is over and we finished with a 6-6 record, I am very pleased with the job CDD has done. With the exception of this year, you will never hear me say that I am okay with UT going 6-6 because I guess you can say that I, along with most Vol fans, are somewhat spoiled when it comes to UT football because of the success that we have had in the past. After starting out the season 2-6, I knew we still had a shot at making it to a bowl but I also knew that it was going to be tough but this team and the coaching staff did a tremendous job! They were not affraid to make changes where they felt they needed to be made and the players and coaches never stopped going 100% and that right there makes me so proud to be a Vol!
Vol fans we are blessed to have CDD and his coaching staff at UT. They really could not have done a better job coaching these players than how they did this season. I truly believe that next season we will have a better team and will make it to a New Years day bowl!
Thank you CDD and staff for a job well done!
GO BIG ORANGE BEAT UNC!!!!

fpcoach writes:

CDD fan here. Very impressed with the way he takes care of business. Look out SEC, The Big Orange is on its way back to the top. GBO

thvol writes:

And Dooleys next year will be special wqhen he signs these guys!

http://smokiespost.blogspot.com/2010/...

TommyJack writes:

We have a winnah!

Hounddog writes:

Mrs. Hounddog recently commented after a Derek Dooley show, "how could you not like that guy?"

I think she has a great sense of judging...men. Hounddog.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Well said from all of you.

Looking for good things to happen on the Hill in the years to come !

movol77 writes:

I haven't felt more secure with the UT HC in a decade.

OrangePride writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You know, I read your negative, moronic, and deflating posts every week. You must be one miserable person to be around. But here is where you are wrong! First, nobody at Tennessee looks at 6-6 as "success and the long term goal." If you even read the article, it was fairly clear about that. Second, the "most successful coach in 50 years" had NOT been very successful over the last 5 or 6 and was also losing to the Floridas and Alabamas every year. As for "losing" Kiffin, no one around here considers his departure "a loss"..........just like your departure would not be "a loss." As for beating the teams on our schedule at the end the season, we make NO APOLOGIES! Those wins proved to this team that it was moving in a positive direction and, with the recruiting class coming in (led by Worley), you can take to the bank that Tennessee will be back competing for championships in the very near future. We have a great staff and a great plan. You, on the other hand, will just be the same bitter, spiteful person you have always been. SO GO VOLS!!!

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're one sad, strange, pathetic little man.

orangeman1 writes:

in response to KptVol7:

Before the season started I knew that it could possibly be a rough year considering the lack of depth at most positions and as a whole how young this team is. Now that the regular season is over and we finished with a 6-6 record, I am very pleased with the job CDD has done. With the exception of this year, you will never hear me say that I am okay with UT going 6-6 because I guess you can say that I, along with most Vol fans, are somewhat spoiled when it comes to UT football because of the success that we have had in the past. After starting out the season 2-6, I knew we still had a shot at making it to a bowl but I also knew that it was going to be tough but this team and the coaching staff did a tremendous job! They were not affraid to make changes where they felt they needed to be made and the players and coaches never stopped going 100% and that right there makes me so proud to be a Vol!
Vol fans we are blessed to have CDD and his coaching staff at UT. They really could not have done a better job coaching these players than how they did this season. I truly believe that next season we will have a better team and will make it to a New Years day bowl!
Thank you CDD and staff for a job well done!
GO BIG ORANGE BEAT UNC!!!!

Good post. I, too, believe that Dooley did a good job this year. I think he made mistakes like every coach does, but he did what I and many others expected of him. There were 6 teams on the schedule that shouldve beat and we won them all.
And for CantstandSaban, Dooley and UT fans arent satisfied with 6 losses long term. Thats why Dooley said he is building a championship team. Thing is, he met my expectations this year where as your coach didnt so why dont you get on your teams message board and cry to them about how bad your season went.
I do think some UT fans got spoiled during Fulmers 1st ten years though, and it will be tough to match what he accomplished for any coach, but I am proud to have Dooley as a head coach. He possesses all the qualities a great football coach needs and he is coaching at one of the greatest football schools in the country. GO VOLS!!

volsfannsc writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

CSS you were obviously breast-fed by your father. It's no wonder you don't like anything including yourself. Let's see- from 1995 to 2007 Bama finished first in their division only three times. It all moves in cycles and I hope you enjoyed Bama's recent climb. Unfortunately for you, Bama's days of dominace are on the decline. Given Florida's choice of HC, that decision lends itself to a tailspin as well. Wait and see....wait and see.

rudy123 writes:

in response to KptVol7:

Before the season started I knew that it could possibly be a rough year considering the lack of depth at most positions and as a whole how young this team is. Now that the regular season is over and we finished with a 6-6 record, I am very pleased with the job CDD has done. With the exception of this year, you will never hear me say that I am okay with UT going 6-6 because I guess you can say that I, along with most Vol fans, are somewhat spoiled when it comes to UT football because of the success that we have had in the past. After starting out the season 2-6, I knew we still had a shot at making it to a bowl but I also knew that it was going to be tough but this team and the coaching staff did a tremendous job! They were not affraid to make changes where they felt they needed to be made and the players and coaches never stopped going 100% and that right there makes me so proud to be a Vol!
Vol fans we are blessed to have CDD and his coaching staff at UT. They really could not have done a better job coaching these players than how they did this season. I truly believe that next season we will have a better team and will make it to a New Years day bowl!
Thank you CDD and staff for a job well done!
GO BIG ORANGE BEAT UNC!!!!

I agree with all that you stated BUT I still wish we had that LSU game back. Could you imagine how excited and motivated the players would have been, had we won that game???
Of course, the 13 players on the field, didn't necessarily lose the game for us. We did allow a 4th and 20.
I still wish we had the LSU game back and last seasons Bama field goal back.....

abnermc writes:

Who accomplished more?:
Dooley 6-6 & a bowl
Meyer 7-5
Saban 4th in the west

The answer is obvious.Dooley could have taken either of those two squads & had a better record that Meyer or Saban.( and he didn't cost 4 mil) gbo

Clarkrm0706 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We also remember your promises of Vandy beating us, Oku not returning and Wilcox being gone before the bowl. It's like you are never wrong.I guess I will just go ahead and call NC the winner. I know I used the word bowl and if you do not know what that is- It is what you go to when you win several more than 2 games a season.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Guys, i just got home from a great church service...We are too love people like CSS....dont hate on him....He needs our love....and lighten up just a bit...laughter is much better than anger...surely you see the humor in his post....

TommyJack writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stale stuff, pal.

1990volgrad writes:

Getting away from all of this negative give and take... I was surprised when we hired him, but I think Dooley definitely is what we need. Focus, character, class, and clearly a winning formula and attitude. We'll be back in contention in 2 years, back at the top in 4-5. By the way, nice article by Austin Ward.

volistic writes:

Off point (kind of) but an interesting article in Rivals about a UT recruit. Things are definitely on the upswing.

http://footballrecruiting.rivals.com/...

orangehuskr writes:

With all the intangibles and adversity of the last couple years, CDD leading this team to 6-6 and MCB berth is quite amazing. ALL of the big-time programs go through "cycles". The Vols are in 1 now. But I think CDD is exactly the type of coach to lead the orange back to the very successful years of past. When you hear players talking about "the process" and buying into it, that's when you know you have a leader. The Vols have been missing quality leadership, but I think they have it now.
UT 31 UNC 20

abnermc writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I thought we might win one of the tough games & we should have .(At least LSU & w/o the t.o., SC but what DD did was w/ much,much less talent & even less numbers. At one point in Oct. we only had 62 players on the squad. No, it is not close DD overachieved ,Meyer & Saban greatly under achieved. After 3 games Finebaum wrote that Saban's biggest challenge would be staying awake. You know what all the expectations were. I have in front of me the August ,2010 issue of S.I.,COLLEGE FOOTBALL REVIEW, Alabama #1 w/ noone else close. They finished 16! Florida was a strong #5 & of course they finished unrated (out of the top 25) . Anyway you look at it Dooley did much better. And I promise you that in their 1st year they also had much, much more talent. Not even close.

osbymartin#581730 writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

While Meyer did win 9 games his first year..the Saban statement, on the other hand, is completely incorrect...Saban in his first year finished 6-6 in the regular season and the bowl victory made him 7-6...last time I looked Dooley was 6-6 regular season and with a bowl win would finish 7-6..that seems pretty close to me.

volsbandit writes:

Get used to it DD. This ain't LA Tech. Welcome to one of the biggest football programs in the country. Only one thing comes before Volunteer football and that's GOD. I could have said two things, GOD and family, but that is arguable, so I left it at one that I'm sure about. Go Vols!

osbymartin#581730 writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I believe that abnermc meant with expectations...who accomplished more.

Florida picked to win the East finished 7-5 and 4-4. It was a disappointing season..don't believe me ask any Gator fan.

Alabama defending Nat'l Champs with a ton of talent back picked to win the west..lost 3 games and finished 3rd in the west with 3 teams having a better record..Ask any Bama fan if they were disappointed...

Tennessee picked to finish 5th in the east..expected to win 3 maybe 4 games..finished tied for 3rd in the east and had a 6-6 season..giving what we had and the expectations I would have to say that UT exceeded expectations this year. Ask UT fans if they are disappointed..you will get mixed responses but the fans that KNOW football and the situation in which we were in this year will respond no.

So Dooley did accomplish more this season than Meyer or Saban given the expectations of the 3..

abnermc writes:

in response to osbymartin#581730:

I believe that abnermc meant with expectations...who accomplished more.

Florida picked to win the East finished 7-5 and 4-4. It was a disappointing season..don't believe me ask any Gator fan.

Alabama defending Nat'l Champs with a ton of talent back picked to win the west..lost 3 games and finished 3rd in the west with 3 teams having a better record..Ask any Bama fan if they were disappointed...

Tennessee picked to finish 5th in the east..expected to win 3 maybe 4 games..finished tied for 3rd in the east and had a 6-6 season..giving what we had and the expectations I would have to say that UT exceeded expectations this year. Ask UT fans if they are disappointed..you will get mixed responses but the fans that KNOW football and the situation in which we were in this year will respond no.

So Dooley did accomplish more this season than Meyer or Saban given the expectations of the 3..

Well said.Oh ,and Bama was 4th in the west.

DennisVols writes:

I have stated this before,”It took 10 years for UT to reach the point they were at when Dooley was hired. It will take more than a year to get back to where we want to be.”
This team did not become thin along the OL and DL between Kiffin and Dooley it was a lack of system control that had taken place for several years. Not having a QB with experience was waiting on Dooley when he arrived. Injuries while they are a part of a full contact game, when they happen in mass to a team that is not only thin but is also trying to establish some kind of continuity can devastate a team that does not have leaders and coaches that hold the anchor in the storm.
UT finished with a win over UK. Who is UK you say? Well they beat USC and Auburn only squeezed out a 3 point win. Both of those teams played for the SEC Championship this year and one is playing for the NC. Following the GA loss UT would not have won that game.
Dooley has made just the 1st of many steps that will be necessary to bring UT back to the championship level. Next year they will be a little more depth but it will be 3 more years before UT has its full allotment of scholarship players. “The Process” is now in place and all the returning players will bring the new ones along. It will not be 64 players trying to learn it next year.
I am looking forward to next year at a lot higher level of excitement than I did this season. CDD has shown a level of class Kiffin never could, the ability to hold a team together in the midst of a storm, the ability to get young players to come in and play at a higher level sooner than many could have under prior leadership.
Just 3 months till spring training. Looking forward to another year of…
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

volistic writes:

in response to FormerMarine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just a few months ago the Florida trolls were crowing about how invincible Urban Meyer was. Saban is a little smarter and a little tougher than Meyer, so he might last a few years longer. But, a few more losses to Auburn will do him in too. Saban's best hope is the death penalty for Auburn.

RoadTrip writes:

in response to FormerMarine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually, when Saban leaves I have it on good authority that Bama will bring in Mike Price from exile at UTEP since he never got the chance to coach his first game for the elephants. That sure was an embarrassing moment for Tide fans wasn't it?!

Mule_Days_King writes:

And in another dumba** VandyGrad debunking, Janzen Jackson has arrived in Nashvegas.

Mule_Days_King writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

To quote the great Ronald Reagan: "There you go again."
Does it ever end with you?
Just admit you were wrong AGAIN.

abnermc writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

Actually, when Saban leaves I have it on good authority that Bama will bring in Mike Price from exile at UTEP since he never got the chance to coach his first game for the elephants. That sure was an embarrassing moment for Tide fans wasn't it?!

Or maybe coach Fran?They have lots to choose from.

rkw2 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If your Vandy team had that record, you'd want to sign him to a lifetime contract! Vandy can't HOPE to get to 6-6. "Boston College middle of the road results" would be a VAST improvement for your little Commode-doors team. Our average still beats your best year in and year out.

Tennessee_checkerboards writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

its no doubt his throat is constantly sore, but not from that...he's use to hearing..."when daddy touches you like this, it means i love you boy"

abnermc writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nobody is saying that we were better than Al. or Fla. But most agree it was far better coaching job from Knoxville than either Al. or Fla. THIS YEAR. Both of those teams were huge failures & disappointments but UT finished where most predicted.

osbymartin#581730 writes:

in response to abnermc:

Nobody is saying that we were better than Al. or Fla. But most agree it was far better coaching job from Knoxville than either Al. or Fla. THIS YEAR. Both of those teams were huge failures & disappointments but UT finished where most predicted.

Yeah they finished lower than expected..seeing as they were preseason #1 and #4 and picked to play in the SEC Championship game. And neither made it and lost 8 total games. UT finished above expectations..picked 5th and to win 3/4 games and tied for 3rd only 1 game behind UF and won 6 games again just 1 game behind UF..UA and UF failed to live up to expectations and UT exceeded them..Not an opinion but a fact just check out the preseason talks..

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Losing that 24-0 lead against Auburn hurt bad didn't it Farragut

TommyJack writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

Losing that 24-0 lead against Auburn hurt bad didn't it Farragut

Bwahahahaha

abnermc writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And AMEN!!

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