Derek Dooley has proved he can get creative.
Ideally, the Tennessee coach just wouldn't have to show it so much in the summer.
As it is, with a roster that was already depleted and is still in flux because of last week's brawl at Bar Knoxville, the Vols have had to do some digging in unusual places to help fill out the depth chart. And with safety Darren Myles dismissed for his role and the status of already academically suspended defensive tackle Chase Nelson in question after he was identified as an instigator in a police report Tuesday, Dooley could be putting his late additions to the test right away.
"You have to really be proactively aggressive," Dooley said. "Nothing falls in your lap. You've got to seek it, and it takes a lot of work from a lot of coaches and a lot of phone calls. Word gets out that we have needs. You just dig and you find, and every now and then something pops up. But if you just sit back and hope one lands on you, that ain't happening.
"After spring I felt like I had a handle on what our issues were depth-wise, so we began when we went out in May not just searching for future recruiting, but scouring for anything that's out there that could help our roster this year. . . . Of course, at safety we brought a guy (Brent Brewer) in who had been playing baseball for who knows how long, but we had some concerns with depth at safety - and now even bigger concerns."
The active roster didn't really add any new issues Tuesday since Nelson has been academically suspended since the end of the spring semester, according to a high-ranking UT official. Even with the senior named in the latest report as the player initially starting the fight, there are people with ties to the program who still question whether Nelson was actually involved.
Either way, his suspension weakens the depth on the defensive line, which was looking stronger with the transfer of former Southern California end Malik Jackson - one of the handful of additions Dooley has made since National Signing Day.
UT was able to pry a junior-college center out a year early, landing Darin Gooch from Butte Community College in Oroville, Calif., after finding a snapper became a pressing need during spring practice.
It took advantage of an NCAA ruling against the Trojans to bring in Jackson, who was able to transfer without penalty as part of the sanctions against Southern California. The Vols also were able to find another punter in the summer, swooping in for Matt Darr after the top-rated player at the position was released from his Letter of Intent at Fresno State.
And perhaps most important for Dooley in the fallout of the fight, UT was able to offer a spot for Brewer to make his return to football after four years in the Milwaukee Brewers' farm system. With a projected starter in Myles off the team, Brewer has moved up the depth chart at safety without going through a practice.
"There were a considerable number of holes on our roster after spring practice," Dooley said. "I didn't have a good feel for our roster until I could go see and evaluate it myself. The experience at Louisiana Tech helped, because it was hard for us to sign an elite player so we were constantly ready in case somebody was available.
"A great example is Ahmad Paige and Lennon Creer (transferring from UT). We were very aggressive and proactive, and that was not easy. They don't just wake up and say, 'I want to go to Louisiana Tech.' I had to kind of learn that in May, that spring evaluation period, let's keep our eyes open because there are always people that fall out. You've got to be out there ready to catch them right when they're ready and vulnerable, you've got to be the first one saying you've got an answer for them. And this is my fourth year doing this - I didn't think I would have to do it at Tennessee, but we're going to have to for a couple years."
Eventually that should mean Dooley can save his creativity for the fall.