CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Derek Dooley isn't issuing predictions and he's not tempering expectations.
Really, the new Tennessee coach hasn't had any need to do so on his first trek on the Big Orange Caravan.
The fans have been understanding of the situation Dooley inherited, supportive of the direction of the program and apparently rational about the limitations the Vols might have in his first season. Of course, it's also only May.
"If you try to temper fans' expectations, you're walking up a hill you can't climb," Dooley said during the tour stop at the Cleveland Country Club. "Here's what's fun - the expectations now versus the fall. Now it's, 'Hey, coach, we're understanding. We've got a long way to go.'
"But the first time you kick that ball off, the feelings change a little bit because of the competitive environment, and that's OK. You wouldn't want it any other way. Surprisingly, expectations aren't that different anywhere you go. It's always a little higher than what you could probably pull off - no matter where you are."
A lack of depth and plenty of inexperience has lowered the bar at UT this year, and there seems to be a consensus that it could take some time for Dooley to get the program back to higher standards.
For now, the questions have mostly been about his coaching philosophies, what he learned from his legendary father and daily requests for updates on the status of departed players Bryce Brown and Aaron Douglas - which might be the only issue that appears to visibly annoy Dooley at this point. Either way, he's patiently provided answers, asked a few questions of his own to the fans and really dug in this week selling himself and the program.
"I think it's an important part of the job," Dooley said. "A lot of coaches treat that as sort of a necessary evil, but I think we have a responsibility. It's like a company and your customer base. They're our customers, and we have a responsibility to serve them the right way, and they need to know who their coach is and they need to feel good about their coach.
"Same thing with the team, they need to understand they have a responsibility to represent the fans. If you don't have the fans, you don't have a program. This is what makes Tennessee special."
Dooley has been careful not to talk about how special the Vols might be on the field this fall though, and that surely won't change.
There's still uncertainty about the roster, a brutal schedule looming and way too many variables throughout a season to guarantee any number of wins this year. But Dooley has been regularly delivering at least one message as he spreads the word about his program.
"The biggest thing is the future is in good hands, and it's being built on a solid foundation," he said. "Because it's being built that way, it's going to be able to handle any bumps along the way. But I think there's also a reality about some concerns that can't get fixed right away. That's the inexperience, the lack of depth, but the most important thing is long term.
"That's what we're here to solve."
The fan base seems willing to give Dooley some time to do it - at least in May.