ATLANTA - After taking the stage Wednesday night, it took Derek Dooley about 60 seconds to address the importance of recruiting in Georgia at the Atlanta stop of the Big Orange Caravan. It would be another full minute before the new Tennessee football coach would introduce his own mother.
It seems his priorities are in the right place.
"This is a critical area for our program," Dooley said. "Atlanta is three hours from Knoxville. When I was on the other side, when Tennessee won, they had a lot of great players from Georgia. We started it on signing day, and we're going to keep pushing it to bleed orange right into this state for a long time."
Dooley greeted a warm crowd in the city where he once practiced law. The local UT alumni chapter sold 375 tickets to fans trying to get their first look at Tennessee's newest coach.
Most seemed curious to see if Dooley was more John Grisham or John Madden. That answer may not come until the fall, but what the crowd did get was encouraging.
"I'm excited," said Janette McCullum, who graduated in 1982. "He's come in and picked up the ball in a tough situation. (Former coach) Lane Kiffin was here at this event a year ago, and he didn't smile the entire time.
"He even left early."
If Dooley found it difficult to follow Kiffin's departure from Knoxville, his task of greeting the orange faithful after UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl was no less challenging. Pearl made jokes, discussed his team's trip to the Elite Eight and worked the crowd like a Las Vegas lounge singer.
However, the group never cheered louder than when Dooley introduced his mother, Barbara, in orange.
"There is no way I can come into this state without my mother finding me," Dooley said. "I never knew how good she looked in orange. All these years she's been wearing the wrong color."
Vince Dooley, didn't make the trip, but assistant coaches Lance Thompson and Justin Wilcox did. It was enough to encourage most of the crowd, Tennessee's second largest alumni chapter outside of Knoxville, that the son of the famed Georgia coach may actually know what he's doing.
Not everyone was convinced.
"I'm one of the few people that at first was a little freaked out about it," said Dee Lipscomb, a 1992 UT graduate. "I live in Atlanta and having a Dooley is pretty scary. And after we got burned by Lane Kiffin, I'm a little gun shy. I support him, and hes definitely winning me over.
"I got to shake his hand, but the jury is still out for me."
Dooley's commitment to recruiting was clear, but he also wasted no time addressing what he called the big orange elephant in the room. Three coaches in three seasons isn't what any program wants and the Vols will face difficulty handing the departure of players, he said.
The first question from the crowd was about the status of running back Bryce Brown, who is expected to transfer after one year at UT. It was an issue he made no doubt that he wished not to discuss.
"There's no new news with Bryce," Dooley said. "Everyone's trying to make new news."
Dooley revisited many of the expressions hes made common in his short tenure: His linemen need more fried chicken, he's planting grass, not pulling weeds and if anything is clear, it's about Tennessee and not Derek Dooley.
The crowd of orange and white cheered the sentiment of Dooley's words, but they likely enjoyed the last thing he had to say above all else.
"I'm honored to be the coach of the University of Tennessee," Dooley said. "I look forward to being here a long time."
Glenn LaFollette is a freelance contributor.