Derek Dooley: Q&A (Part 1 of 3)
Derek Dooley isn't denying some issues with his first roster.
The new Tennessee coach just isn't overly worried about a lasting impact from them.
Depth might be a problem at some positions. Injuries will keep a few players out of practice and the Vols have already had one defection since Dooley took over the program. But heading into his first practice with UT today, he's just fine making the best with what's around already.
"Long term I'm not (worried)," Dooley said during his pre-spring press conference Wednesday. "Short term I'm very concerned. I do think that over the course of a couple of recruiting years we'll start getting a lot of stability. I think the players will enjoy being a part of the program.
"But we have some short-term concerns that really can't get fixed. We are extremely thin in a lot of areas, we have a lot of inexperience in a lot of areas, and that's only going to get fixed in time."
In some cases it won't take that long, like the boost the Vols will get when cornerback Art Evans and linebackers Nick Reveiz and Savion Frazier return from injuries after sitting out most or all of the spring.
Other issues have an indefinite timetable, like undisclosed personal business for left tackle Aaron Douglas that is expected to keep him out of at least a few of the 14 practices leading up the Orange and White Game on April 17.
Departures like offensive lineman William Brimfield's from the program have no quick fix at all, and there will almost certainly be more attrition before the season opener in September.
But all of that is just part of the building and branding process Dooley started in January, though now he at least gets to do some on the field.
"The big thing is everybody's anxious to get to practice," Dooley said. "You can only jump over bags and run shuttles for so long before you say it's time to play football. Coaches, players, I think everybody's a little anxious. We're excited about practice starting.
"Certainly it's a great opportunity. Anytime you have a change it's a great opportunity for guys who maybe weren't performing the way they thought they could perform, maybe they were in the doghouse for whatever reason, it's a great way to start anew. Now, is there open competition? Yes. However, certainly guys that have had some significant production the last year are going to have some early opportunity. There's not a lot of it."
There's certainly some though, since the Vols aren't completely devoid of talent.
UT will have its top three receivers back, a loaded offensive backfield and a handful of standouts in the front seven on defense. But the Vols will also have to develop some depth on both lines, find a couple playmakers in the secondary and break in a new starting quarterback.
The race to replace Jonathan Crompton at quarterback figures to receive most of the attention in Dooley's first spring. But like anything else right now, it's going to take some time and patience to come up with an answer.
"I can tell you this, the quarterback position will not be settled by the end of spring," Dooley said. "This is a body of work over time. Once we get to a decision with who we go with, sometimes it's still not settled until we get out there and see if we can move the chains and score points.
"We're not going to do a day-trading, this guy's winning, this guy's losing - we're going to go through spring, mix it up, try to equalize reps. The guys that are producing the best are getting more reps, and we'll just evaluate it as it goes."
Dooley can officially start today. The impact just might take awhile.