Derek Dooley starts Year Two

Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley stands with his team during media day in August 2011 at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2011

Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley stands with his team during media day in August 2011 at Neyland Stadium.

Jim Chaney on prepping for Montana

Justin Wilcox on defending against an uptempo offense

Dan Proctor draws the start of the Tennessee football season

Photo by Dan Proctor

Dan Proctor draws the start of the Tennessee football season

The messy divorce papers between a championship coach and the program were filed nearly three years ago.

The smoldering mattresses when his replacement bolted have been extinguished for almost 20 months.

The house hasn't entirely been put back together just yet, which from a physical standpoint is easy to see when Derek Dooley is standing on Haslam Field facing the ongoing construction of Tennessee's new indoor facility. The work rebuilding a roster decimated by those turbulent seasons leading up to Dooley's hiring doesn't appear to be complete yet either, particularly with so few veterans to work with this fall.

But one year later, UT will have the same coach on the sideline at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: Pay-per-view, 6 p.m.) against Montana. That man will have his starting quarterback back for another season, and he's also got two full recruiting classes that only know the way he wants things done. And with a great deal of effort putting his imprint on the program already in the rearview, Dooley is starting to have the chance to do what he really wants - focus on football.

"At this time last year, I had a lot on my mind outside of the game," Dooley said. "That's not necessarily unique to Tennessee, because I think any time you're in your first year and you're going into your first game, just to make the game weekend itinerary and all the details that go into the last 24 hours, there's a lot to it.

"Because we've done it now, it makes it a lot easier."

Since Dooley started putting his stamp on UT, he's clearly installed much more than a travel plan for getting to the stadium.

The Vol for Life program designed to educate more well-rounded players has taken root and become a staple of his effort to change the culture around the team. The structure of practices has changed dramatically with Dooley moving the workouts to the morning this fall. He's even been active in the redecorating around the locker rooms, including the addition of the "Opportunity is NOWHERE" sign on a set of double-doors -- a motivational ploy designed to get the Vols to read the slogan as four words instead of three.

For all the changes, it is what has remained the same that is really most important for Dooley and the Vols moving forward. Aside from parting ways with defensive line coach Chuck Smith and promoting Peter Sirmon to a full-time role, the staff returns intact for a second season to mold a team with a large majority of underclassmen who signed up to play for them and restore some glory to UT.

"It's good seeing the same guys in here everyday, especially seeing the young guys, guys our age that we know we're going to be here four years with," sophomore tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "Me and (quarterback) Tyler (Bray) were talking about when we got here in January (of 2010) together, it just feels like we're almost seniors now about to play our last season -- even though we've got a long way to go, lot of time to get better.

"We all talk to each other every day about staying together and working hard, because we know we can do something pretty big at this institution."

In another loaded season in the SEC and with a difficult road slate, something as big as a championship might not happen for the Vols this year.

The 2011 season might end up being a bridge to brighter days as UT puts more time between it and former coaches Phillip Fulmer and Lane Kiffin. Then again, surprises happen all the time in the unpredictable world of college football -- which is why one other thing for Dooley hasn't changed as he prepares for the Grizzlies.

"The first game every year, it's like elephants in your stomach -- not butterflies," he said. "I don't care who it is and I don't care how established you are, the first game is the first game. You venture into the unknown every year, and anybody who thinks it's not that way hasn't been around long enough. I had elephants in my stomach last year, and I've still got them this year.

"That's a sign that it's time to kick it off."

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 53

Orange_Juiced writes:

I sure do miss John Ward right about now. What I'd give to hear him say..."It's FOOTBALL time...in TENNESSEE!" at each and every kick-off...especially the first game of the season. I hate it that my kids never got to experience the chills that listening to JW on the radio brought.

writer#358485 writes:

It definitely is that time and I think with Dooley, we're going to be eagerly anticipating it for many years to come. Go Vols!

BigBadVol writes:

Damn good article. Coach Dooley is doing it the right way. In a couple of years CDD will command a big salary. UT will step up and we will be set for years!

BigBadVol writes:

in response to Orange_Juiced:

I sure do miss John Ward right about now. What I'd give to hear him say..."It's FOOTBALL time...in TENNESSEE!" at each and every kick-off...especially the first game of the season. I hate it that my kids never got to experience the chills that listening to JW on the radio brought.

Amen!

tennrich1 writes:

in response to Orange_Juiced:

I sure do miss John Ward right about now. What I'd give to hear him say..."It's FOOTBALL time...in TENNESSEE!" at each and every kick-off...especially the first game of the season. I hate it that my kids never got to experience the chills that listening to JW on the radio brought.

I too miss John Ward. One of the nicest, classiest, men I ever met. Unfortunately those days are gone. We start over. And so goes life.
In honor of John...."turning, grinding, digging, catapulting over the line for a FIRST and TEN for the large orange"...

baldingalum writes:

I am very impressed with Derek Dooley. The way he handles himself, his approach to the game, his interaction with the media. He represents the university so well. And "yes" I do think he can win and sooner than most anticipate.

69grad writes:

We've got to havve a tape somewhere of John Ward's intro. Find it and play it loud and proud. GO VOLS!

VOLliven2it writes:

Hey it will be exciting. There will be chills and spills but gang, IT IS HERE, just beyond another sunrise, VOLBALL 2011 style and we are ready. Go Vols, Go Coaches we will be behind you all the way.

heisthelord367 writes:

anyone have 2 extra tix to the TN/LSU game? i know UTTix has some but they are upper deck end zone...not what i'm looking for..if you can help, thanks!

hueypilot writes:

in response to heisthelord367:

anyone have 2 extra tix to the TN/LSU game? i know UTTix has some but they are upper deck end zone...not what i'm looking for..if you can help, thanks!

Don't knock them upper deck end zone tickets there bud. the ones under cover are pretty tasty for the hot early games, and for when it rains. Nice breeze up there. And sometimes they launch the eagle from up there right beside my seats in xx4.

hamneggs writes:

I am a big fan of Derek Dooley and this article fires me up. Rome was not built in a day but I guarantee you it will be next year with this coach..........................

PennVol writes:

in response to FrenchQuarterVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He has charisma, character, good values and he's a straight shooter. What we don't know is if he has the Xs and Os knowledge to get creative and productive in the SEC. We'll know more in a few weeks! Go Vols!

pingkr62 writes:

in response to SpongeBobOrangePantz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That was something to hear. It gave me chills and brought a tear or two. I spent all of my childhood and most of my adult life listening to Mr. Ward. He is one who can never be replaced. But as the saying goes, Life goes on. As for the article, I continue to be more and more impressed with C.D.D. The man is very classy,intelligent, and knows EXACTLY what he is doing. Maybe Kenny Chesney will one day write a similar song about C.D.D. Its here, It's here, It's FINALLY here. IT'S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!! GO VOLS!!!

Vol43 writes:

in response to Orange_Juiced:

I sure do miss John Ward right about now. What I'd give to hear him say..."It's FOOTBALL time...in TENNESSEE!" at each and every kick-off...especially the first game of the season. I hate it that my kids never got to experience the chills that listening to JW on the radio brought.

Give'm six touchdown Tennessee!

Vol43 writes:

Please bear with me on this. This from General Neyland. The man who made it happen. Just ask the BEAR.

The year was 1926. It was a Monday, Labor Day, Sept. 6. The baseball pennant races were in full swing.

That morning's Knoxville Journal contained this note on page 9, a "relatively obscure item," as Russ Bebb called it years later. It foreshadowed the excitement we see on campus today.

"…Coach Bob Neyland will gather his Vols at Shields-Watkins Field at 8 o'clock and start the Orange and White aspirants on the rocky road to glory."

There were 25 prospective Vols present that day.

No one knew what the years ahead might hold, but one thing is clear. Neyland established a simple plan for gridiron success.

"Men, we will practice two and one-half hours each day," Neyland said. "That's all. Each practice will be organized. We will know what we want to accomplish each day, and we will work full speed. Any questions? Let's go."

If that doesn't do it for you, well.

jjsteel writes:

I have John Ward on a cassette stating, It's Football Time In Tennessee. I keep it in my clock radio and wake up to it every morning.

Vol43 writes:

The rocky road to glory. I love it.

75VOLinga writes:

in response to baldingalum:

I am very impressed with Derek Dooley. The way he handles himself, his approach to the game, his interaction with the media. He represents the university so well. And "yes" I do think he can win and sooner than most anticipate.

The one point that impresses me the most about Derek Dooley is he is trying rebuild the Tennessee mystique and tradition not like the other moron that was about as antiTennessee as a Tennessee coach could be. All Dooley has tried to do since he joined the program is do anything he could to build it up again.

ShreveportVol writes:

Does anyone know where to find a downloadable version of "Touchdown Tennesse "? I used to have it burn on a cd and would listen to it everyday this time of year. My wife eventually threw it away " cleaning" she says. I never got to listen to JW but after the first time I heard that song and feelin the chills everyone describes, well, it makes me appreciate even more the passion for Tennesse football I have. GBO! VFL

Vol43 writes:

I love John Ward. He autographed the underbelly of a rubber 18" gator for me. It remains in my VOL collection. F Florida and all their fans.

TKO writes:

Good Luck Big Orange and thank you Coach Dooley!
VFL!
GBO!

OrangePsyched writes:

It may not be a sellout tomorrow but I hope it sounds like one. I would like to see some false starts on the Grizz offense because of crowd noise. First time they've played an SEC team..let's give them something to remember!

jjsteel writes:

sic,em smokey

pingkr62 writes:

in response to OrangePsyched:

It may not be a sellout tomorrow but I hope it sounds like one. I would like to see some false starts on the Grizz offense because of crowd noise. First time they've played an SEC team..let's give them something to remember!

We may not need many false starts tomorrow, I'm sure Montana has never played in heat and humidity like they will have to deal with during the game. I think when they step out into the field, they won't know what hit them. They better load up on hater-aide today and tomorrow or they will wilt before the second quarter. G.B.O.!!!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to baldingalum:

I am very impressed with Derek Dooley. The way he handles himself, his approach to the game, his interaction with the media. He represents the university so well. And "yes" I do think he can win and sooner than most anticipate.

Success in the SEC comes down to 50% recruiting and the other half is player development;game time coaching and preparation;strength;leadership and player motivation...Last years recruits were good and are the building block for the next 2 years..Though it's early the next recruit class isn't top shelf and there are 5 SEC teams out recruiting us..Why is Saban winning games??Because he has 3 top 5 classes to work with!!Winning and our top notch facilities and fan base will slowly change that but for now Dooleys doing well!!!

RashaadSalabeb writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

Damn good article. Coach Dooley is doing it the right way. In a couple of years CDD will command a big salary. UT will step up and we will be set for years!

I agree! When they first hired Dooley I thought what the hell. Now I have to agree...he's what we need! He will git er dun!

Go Big Orange!

Hrockytop writes:

I realize this off topic but my god how I do miss John Ward. Greatly under appreciated. I grew up listening to John and it's not just not the same without him...

Bravo John

Go Big Orange

absgovols writes:

Go to the "Here, at Neyland Stadium" label on the below link -

http://gate21.net/2009/07/06/remember...

Bleed_Orange_n_Ky writes:

in response to ShreveportVol:

Does anyone know where to find a downloadable version of "Touchdown Tennesse "? I used to have it burn on a cd and would listen to it everyday this time of year. My wife eventually threw it away " cleaning" she says. I never got to listen to JW but after the first time I heard that song and feelin the chills everyone describes, well, it makes me appreciate even more the passion for Tennesse football I have. GBO! VFL

I have two copies, (one has never been opened), but I can't see myself ever parting with either of them. There are some listed on amazon.com, but they are pricy. I also seen where you can download them in mp3 format at www.airmp3.me/search/touchdown_tennessee_download/mp3/al.
Hope this helps and GO VOLS!!!

VOLFTBL writes:

Good luck this season Coach Dooley. Go Big Orange!

GerryOP writes:

Today it begins ... 13-0 baby, 13-0!

murrayvol writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Today it begins ... 13-0 baby, 13-0!

This world would be an ugly place without unrepentant optimists Gerry. Carry on.

GerryOP writes:

in response to murrayvol:

This world would be an ugly place without unrepentant optimists Gerry. Carry on.

You geezers makin' the trek to Neyland today?

madcountyvol writes:

I agree, damn good article! John Ward is the best ever. My granddad has a dvd of John and Bill it definitely put chills in my bones. 5-4-3-2-1 give him six touchdown Tennessee!!!! Hey they're playing two pirates of the caribbean movies back to back starting at 4 on usa I can't wait.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SpongeBobOrangePantz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Me too, SBOP! That is no question the best thing Kenny Chesney ever wrote. Puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it. "Your voice was our eyes" indeed. And yes, a deeply-felt "Thank you, John" from all Vol fans.

tennesseebee writes:

They should, if nothing else, play a recording of JW over the loudspeakers recite that iconic line, "IT'S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!" to kickoff every game.

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to SpongeBobOrangePantz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Chill bumps! Took me back...

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to PatientlyWaiting:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Blah bablahh bllaahhh. Blah, blahh UT bad. Blahhh blaahh, bablahh, Dooley bad. Blahhh blahh I'm Brett Maverick, sports idiot, Vol envier…

Not today, butt head! I'm in too good a mood!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to tennesseebee:

They should, if nothing else, play a recording of JW over the loudspeakers recite that iconic line, "IT'S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!" to kickoff every game.

I'm sure that Kesling would probably veto that attempt, but I would love to for them to immortalize John Ward by making that a tradition! He was certainly unique in his style! He knew how to paint the picture and as a result I "saw" more games during a time before TV covered every game! At least he got to go out in style after the Championship in 98! GBO!

VolFaninDC writes:

in response to FrenchQuarterVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sadly, the only statistics we have on Dooley is his current record from La Tech and UT 2010, which is not that good. He MAY be a good coach some day. I think the intangible you mention is called "hope."

murrayvol writes:

in response to GerryOP:

You geezers makin' the trek to Neyland today?

Not me. I'll have a "catered" living room seat for PPV.

Not sure about the rest of the troops. Hard to resist opening day when you're that close.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Not me. I'll have a "catered" living room seat for PPV.

Not sure about the rest of the troops. Hard to resist opening day when you're that close.

Witch Doctor too! Witch Doctor gonna enjoy this one from the man recliner in the hut! Witch Doctor say Go Vols!
Bones never lie.

thereturnoftriumph writes:

once again triumph the gator fan wishes the best to Vol Nation against Buffalo.
Get a win and come out of the game healthy.
one thing i can say about CDD is he has done things the right way. look at what is happening at miami, auburn, THE ohio state,
boise state,usc etc and be glad that you are not part of that firestorm.
see you at the swamp in a couple of weeks.
peace,
tticd

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to VolFaninDC:

Sadly, the only statistics we have on Dooley is his current record from La Tech and UT 2010, which is not that good. He MAY be a good coach some day. I think the intangible you mention is called "hope."

DC. You may wish to examine available data with a bit more diligence. Last year.....in the aftermath of all the previous turmoil, CDD's new players (youngest in the nation) clearly played up to their potential. Considering their lack of experience, depth and comprehension of the systems implemented by CDD's coaching staff, these coaches utilized their potential as well as could reasonably be done. A 6-6 regular season for an SEC school indicates this. Although not as deep and experienced as most upcoming opponents, those intangibles, as brought up by FQV, will play at the very least a small role and may well win some games which shouldn't be won by standard reasonings. It's far better to have "faith" than mere "hope," my friend. Just ask yourself why so many people in-the-know applaud CDD's methods. It's not purely a character issue. CDD and his veteran staff, in fact, are building a strong and solid program and the results should show themselves sooner rather than later. GBO!

Vol43 writes:

Me and ole CSS are gonna hang out tonight in Mt Juliet and watch the VOLS.

Vol43 writes:

in response to sameolvolalum:

DC. You may wish to examine available data with a bit more diligence. Last year.....in the aftermath of all the previous turmoil, CDD's new players (youngest in the nation) clearly played up to their potential. Considering their lack of experience, depth and comprehension of the systems implemented by CDD's coaching staff, these coaches utilized their potential as well as could reasonably be done. A 6-6 regular season for an SEC school indicates this. Although not as deep and experienced as most upcoming opponents, those intangibles, as brought up by FQV, will play at the very least a small role and may well win some games which shouldn't be won by standard reasonings. It's far better to have "faith" than mere "hope," my friend. Just ask yourself why so many people in-the-know applaud CDD's methods. It's not purely a character issue. CDD and his veteran staff, in fact, are building a strong and solid program and the results should show themselves sooner rather than later. GBO!

Excellent, excellent points fellow VOL.

Colliervol writes:

in response to PatientlyWaiting:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Please do not use the term "we". You have no business in the category of Vol fan.

drone#208075 writes:

Hope Dooley eats an elephant in October. :)

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Success in the SEC comes down to 50% recruiting and the other half is player development;game time coaching and preparation;strength;leadership and player motivation...Last years recruits were good and are the building block for the next 2 years..Though it's early the next recruit class isn't top shelf and there are 5 SEC teams out recruiting us..Why is Saban winning games??Because he has 3 top 5 classes to work with!!Winning and our top notch facilities and fan base will slowly change that but for now Dooleys doing well!!!

Unfortunately, everybody in the SEC can't have a Top 5 recruiting class as the math is, of course, prohibitive. Recruiting rankings are only tools, and relative ones at that, for the fans and pundits to argue over. Coaches hardly even look at them - they are best used by PR people. Great coaches, and Saban certainly is one, recruit the men they want that meet their needs on and off the field. One problem UT had with the former two coaches is that they, unfortunately, were too tied to recruiting rankings and forgot that those young men, not their "stars", were going to have to get in school, pass their classes, stay out of trouble, and perform on the field. Being trained by Saban, I think Dooley gets that and as such, I am much less concerned about what some recruiting service thinks about our players and much more interested in seeing what Dooley and company can get out of them. Go Vols!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to VolFaninDC:

Sadly, the only statistics we have on Dooley is his current record from La Tech and UT 2010, which is not that good. He MAY be a good coach some day. I think the intangible you mention is called "hope."

I prefer "cautious optimism". The record is marginal but all the tools are there if he has properly learned his lessons from both his father and mentor, Saban. Now about that record...... I would really expect to see marked improvement this year and certainly next. If not, then I don't think I will be alone in questioning a 5 year time frame for his success. Go Vols!!!

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