Derek Dooley on dealing with the cold
NASHVILLE - Derek Dooley looked out at his steep driveway Sunday morning and was immediately concerned.
The Tennessee head coach knew that his potentially slippery slope to Sunday afternoon's Music City Bowl practice was probably much more treacherous for his players, many of whom were scattered across the country and relying on air transportation.
His successful trip out toward Interstate 40 was symbolic of the vast majority of his roster, as all but one Vol was present and accounted for on a day filled with travel calamities all throughout the United States.
Sparsely used cornerback C.J. Fleming, a Richmond, Va., native, was held up at a Virginia airport, Dooley said, and wasn't able to make it out for Sunday afternoon's practice at Vanderbilt.
"I was pleased," Dooley said. "I was a little nervous when I woke up this morning. Once I got out, I said 'We're going to be OK.'"
The rest of the Vols who traveled through the air were able to avoid the hundreds of extended delays and cancellations that were a common theme throughout the weekend, as major hubs such as Atlanta and Philadelphia were thrown out of whack by snow storms. The road to Nashville wasn't exactly an easy cruise, either, as UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said early in the afternoon on his Twitter account that he'd barely moved out of Knoxville after an hour of driving.
An example that bad weather can truly affect your travel plans no matter where they happen were those of kicker Daniel Lincoln, who barely made it to Nashville on time for the first team meeting after facing delays out of Orlando, where it was 75 degrees with a light drizzle.
"I was running up in street clothes and sweating trying to get to the meeting on time," he said.
Dooley said the nearly 100 percent attendance was something to be proud about.
"Our players have really, knock on wood, been real professional about everything," he said. "They kept a good attitude so hopefully it will continue on."
Oku Watch: Dooley said sophomore tailback David Oku is up to speed and in as good of shape as he was before he left for two family funerals.
"He looked good today," Dooley said. "He has to get back and learn the plan like Janzen (Jackson)."
Dooley said comparing the absence of Oku, who returned to practice Wednesday, to Jackson's isn't fair because Oku isn't as much of a lock in his respective part of the rotation. Dooley said last week that freshman Rajion Neal, whom Oku had flipped and flopped with for the second-string tailback position during the season, had performed well while Oku was back home in Midwest City, Okla.
"Janzen is a bona fide full-time starter who is all-conference," Dooley said. "David has really been battling for that second spot all year. Setbacks affect some more than others."
Gordon In Red: Cornerback Eric Gordon was the only Vol in a red, non-contact jersey Sunday, but Dooley said it's really a misnomer.
"I think Eric's fine," Dooley said. "He plays more physical with the red shirt on than the regular one. They think that he's not going to hit them if he has the red shirt on so he gets more aggressive.
"So we just keep the red shirt on and everyone knows he's OK. He thinks we don't know that."
Linebacker Herman Lathers (shoulder), who wore a red jersey throughout last week's practices, was back in his normal orange shirt Sunday.