Mike Strange: Everybody take a name tag, please

Mike Strange

Name tags on the helmets, we've seen that before. With 100 guys running around a football field, it's hard to put all those numbers and faces together.

Name tags on the coaches would be a good idea this morning as Tennessee opens spring practice.

On Sunday, Derek Dooley welcomed the media to a pre-spring news conference. A familiar face and voice for the third consecutive spring is reassuring given the program's turbulent recent history.

As always, Dooley presented a perfectly reasonable plan for getting the Vols back on track to being SEC contenders.

Great winter workouts? Check.

Improved roster depth? Check.

Staff stability and carry-over?

Not exactly.

Since the Vols last suited up in Lexington, seven of Dooley's nine assistants have left the building. I don't know if there's a record for staff turnover while the head coach stays in place, but this has to be in the ballpark.

Sunday, however, Dooley painted the mass transition as a positive rather than a negative.

He spoke of the "emotional scars" that have come from two tough transitional seasons. He talked about the "new energy" and "refreshing dynamic" of the reinvented staff.

All the better to heal the wounds that left those scars, he said.

There have been wounds and scars. No one could argue that. The Vols have been pounded on by several traditional SEC rivals. They have had to live with the abominable loss to Kentucky that knocked them out of a bowl game.

Even the two holdovers, Jim Chaney and Darrin Hinshaw, will be working with different positions. Chaney, the offensive coordinator, goes from tight ends to quarterbacks and Hinshaw from quarterbacks to receivers.

Thus every player, from starting quarterback Tyler Bray to the third-string long-snapper, will have a new position coach.

"I thought that was important,'' said Dooley, "and we needed to do that.

"When you go through a tough year, it's hard on the coaches and hard on the players. Sometimes change is a welcome thing. Everybody is going to walk into their meeting room with a new face, a new persona, and it's a good opportunity for the players to start over from scratch.

"They can put away anything that they wish they hadn't done in the past. It doesn't count any more. ... I think it's a healthy thing.''

OK, maybe he's right. There is something to be said for fresh starts.

Or, maybe he's just putting the best possible spin on the perception that his aides were bailing off an unsteady ship. If so, fine, it's his job to be positive.

At least revamping his staff didn't detract from other pressing projects.

"It really didn't hurt,'' Dooley said, "because we didn't go to a bowl. So I had lots of time.''

Now he's got 15 spring practice days to make it all mesh, the fresh energy, the new personas, the second chances. If it can heal the scars from a painful season, it might be a spring well spent.

But soon enough a new season will get here. At which point the new dynamics had better lead to inflicting scars instead of absorbing them.

That will be the ultimate judgment on the mass transition.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 15

kdaff51 writes:

I am so tired of being reminded of the Kentucky loss. It was going to happen sooner or later. Its like they say "A blind squirell will find a nut eventually"..............Can we just move on?

papavol writes:

in response to kdaff51:

I am so tired of being reminded of the Kentucky loss. It was going to happen sooner or later. Its like they say "A blind squirell will find a nut eventually"..............Can we just move on?

I agree. Great information otherwise! It just seems like the basis of almost every UT football related article has been "after the devastating loss to Kentucky" or something similar.

I just want to read an article about the present or the future for a change. This article had much of that until it sprang in "the loss".

Why must you guys ruin all of your articles with this?

MidTennVol writes:

I never want these guys to forget that Kentucky loss. I want it to motivate them. It certainly taught Coach Dooley a few things about Tennessee football.

I want him and the entire team to remember it until something very, very positive (like a championship) replaces it.

Butterbeans writes:

"Sometimes change is a welcome thing.....I think it's a healthy thing." Umm, I'll have to remember that.

dvhill100 writes:

We all knew last year was going to be tough, at least those who didn't get a mainline orange koolaid infusion. This year sets up much better and more will be expected. Should be interesting to see how the new staff performs. Hopefully very well.

hateNCloveTN writes:

I'd take a win over Bama and Florda to maybe put that loss in the back of my mind but "forget" never!

RoadTrip writes:

Good reminder article, MS. One problem though. Russell was the tight ends coach along with ST's. That is unless you are telling us that Chaney actually did it instead. He was the TE coach for the Rams before he came to UT.

Even with the staff turnover it is all about the players CDD has recruited over a 3 year period. Any reasonably up to date system will work if you have the hosses to get it done. With the easier schedule this season there is really no legitimate reason to have less than 8-9 wins.

Clarkrm0706 writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

I never want these guys to forget that Kentucky loss. I want it to motivate them. It certainly taught Coach Dooley a few things about Tennessee football.

I want him and the entire team to remember it until something very, very positive (like a championship) replaces it.

I understand what you are saying but that is not why KNS does this. KNS is writing articles for the fans. They can use interviews and press conferences to "get at" the coaches or players.
An article is supposed to be new - news or informing people of something they didn't already know. KNS staff always includes the KY loss because it provokes many comments (Like yours and mine)Not a bad stategy in that it is effective but wish they would try writing really great and conversation worthy articles, instead.

TrouserCough writes:

in response to kdaff51:

I am so tired of being reminded of the Kentucky loss. It was going to happen sooner or later. Its like they say "A blind squirell will find a nut eventually"..............Can we just move on?

A blind squirel didn't find anything. A receiver playing quarterback running six plays on a terrible team beat an incompetent Tennessee coach who had lost his team. You are reminded of it becuause it was so ridiculous. Too bad the real problem didn't leave the team.

frblalack writes:

in response to TrouserCough:

A blind squirel didn't find anything. A receiver playing quarterback running six plays on a terrible team beat an incompetent Tennessee coach who had lost his team. You are reminded of it becuause it was so ridiculous. Too bad the real problem didn't leave the team.

Get a Life! I hope your negative a.. finds somewhere else to express yourself. Sure, we lost...it was "one game".

Get behind the Vols and support the Vols or please get some therapy or crawl back under your rock!

All Vols - All the Time - Respect the Big Orange!

rtrchatt writes:

in response to hateNCloveTN:

I'd take a win over Bama and Florda to maybe put that loss in the back of my mind but "forget" never!

Buy a lottery ticket. Saban after this years win will be halfway to breaking Coach Bryants streak of 11 in a row against ut. Alabama is better coached, better prepared and better fb players...just keeping it real.

volaholic45 writes:

For you moveon.org/vols types, the KY game was still the most recent game we played, and it wasn't just a normal loss (which have become all too normal).

It was unique in that it was lost due to lack of interest on the team (even with the streak and a bowl on the line) that was no longer in control of the HC, and it was inflicted upon us by a depleted, cobbled together, poor-to-mediocre opponent. There is NO loss like it in the memory of any living Vol fan.

It will fade in the thinking of fans when it is displaced by some correspondingly positive performances. Until then, it remains the blackest of Dooley's black eyes, and he has suffered a few.

hikerdude writes:

Another 6-6. And unless Bray and Rogers get an attitude adjustment, worse than that.

GvlVol writes:

Tough times. I am a fan and I support the current efforts. I think some pieces are in place. I, like everyone else, am suffering. I would love to see one, just one, win over someone we don't expect to beat. I think one win over a quality SEC opponent would do wonders. I didn't expect it out of the gate with Dooley. I didn't expect it last year with the killer schedule we had to endure in October. I really need to see that win this year. I love the Coach and I enjoy watching the players compete. I repeated 1000 times that Coach Dooley needed 3-5 years to heal the wounds from Fulmer and Kiffin. We all, deep down, knew it. We must continue reminding ourselves of that as we look towards year 3.

Keep plugging Big Orange. We all wish you the best as you start the Spring work outs. I pledge my continuing support. A big win would be very therapeutic. I think this team and this staff would be surprised to see just how much a fan base would forgive for one win over Georgia (sorry Vince).

Go Vols!

tnfanincali writes:

I for one think we should be pretty good this year. We've got the talent, and now we have the depth and experience to go with it, two things that have been missing the past few years. The only questions I have is at RB on offense, and at LB on defense. These are the two positions where we are thin. But the starters are decent at both these positions, and while they are young, they do have some experience. If there are no major injuries we should be much improved this year. Not saying we are ready to make a run at the SEC title, but I sincerely believe we should improve our record by 3-4 over the past couple of years, and finally get some signature wins. Go Vols!

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