Asked if he could do it all over again, former Tennessee running back Tauren Poole needed a few seconds to ponder the question.
Poole, speaking Tuesday on "The Drive," an afternoon sports talk show hosted by former Vol Terry Fair on WNOX-FM, said he and his former senior teammates — who were recruited by former coach Phillip Fulmer and wound up playing for three different coaches — would often discuss what life would have been like had they gone somewhere other than UT.
His answer went in a couple of different directions.
"If you'd have told me Coach Fulmer would have gotten fired and then this coach, that coach, this strength coach, that position coach, I probably wouldn't have came here because I knew it would have been a dysfunctional setup, an unstable program," Poole said. "Now that I've been through it, I'm stronger as I come out it. It was a tough situation.
"It was a roller-coaster ride ... I got to do a lot as a young man and all of us seniors came out better for it."
After Saturday's 10-7 loss at Kentucky, which ended UT's hopes of qualifying for a post-season bowl game and served as the Vols' first to the Wildcats since 1984, Poole was critical of how a number of the team's younger players approached the season finale. On top of saying "people were out of it," Poole said it was "embarrassing just to be a Vol right now."
On Tuesday, while reflecting positively on most aspects of his UT career, Poole stuck by his comments geared toward the players who will return in 2012.
"Guys kind of shut it down," Poole said. "All the seniors, we cared. We cared more than a lot of those guys out there. And that's expected, but we weren't getting it back. Those guys have next year to look forward to. We don't. My career is over at UT."
Throughout the game, Poole said he, linebacker Austin Johnson and defensive tackle Malik Jackson all tried to rally their fellow teammates with motivational words of encouragement.
Some players, Poole said, simply couldn't be reached.
"Guys are only going to listen to certain people and listen to certain things," Poole said. "You can't control what people listen to. All you can control is what you say and how you encourage people. We tried to do that. It just didn't happen."
Asked about the candid nature coach Derek Dooley, who has been sharply denounced by a number of ex-Vols for how he regularly criticizes players' performance in
media settings, Poole said he didn't have a problem with it during his two years under his third UT coach.
"Coach Dooley is a very critical guy. He's critical of his players and coaches," Poole said. "It's criticism and you've got to take it in. Guys just got to have thick skin with Coach Dooley.
"He's going to speak his mind. Every minute of the day, every moment, if he's got an opinion, he's going to tell you. That's just the type of guy he is."