Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley gave a warm welcome Friday to high school coaches and administrators at the Knox County Coaches' Kickoff Luncheon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Dooley also gave them a couple of good laughs.
During a 3-plus minute speech, Dooley told the coaches he was all for having the Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic Kickoff Classic jamboree on Aug. 11 at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium — with a little caveat attached to it.
"I'm glad you all started it, and you've certainly got my support," Dooley said. "Just don't tear up the fields too much (laughter), but if you do, we've got a lot of money, we can fix 'em, so that's the good news (more laughter), and I'll be breathing down our groundskeeper's neck to make sure it's right for the first game."
UT's season opener is Sept. 3 against Montana at Neyland Stadium.
The Vols were 6-7 last season, 3-5 in the SEC, and ended with a 30-27 double-overtime loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl.
Dooley said optimism looms large with all programs at this time of the year.
"This is the best time for a coach," he said. "We're undefeated, the fans are excited, we're gonna win 'em all, and we're the same way at Tennessee. We're really excited about our season. I think we're going to be a fun team to watch, not that we're going to come out there looking like a big-time team, but I think we're going to get to that point because we have so much youth on our team, and watching them grow and develop and to see how quickly they're going to help bring this program back to the standards of what the fans have, I'm looking forward to it. It's going to happen, I don't know when, but I appreciate all the support you guys (have for) our program, and anything you guys need from us, don't hesitate to pick up the phone."
Dooley said recruiting in-state talent is high on his list.
"I hope that you guys know how supportive we are of high school football, especially in this state," Dooley said. "I'm real proud of the fact that we signed seven guys last year from Tennessee. We want to sign a bunch of guys from Tennessee."
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.