Derek Dooley addresses questions about his job
Dooley talks defensive strategy
Derek Dooley reviews the Vols' 51-48 loss to Missouri
Tennessee's players are on Twitter. They own cellphones. And they have friends.
All that contributed to a busy weekend as rumors swirled about the tenuous job status of their coach Derek Dooley.
"It's pretty hard," UT offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James said on Monday. "You guys ask us. Our families ask us. We get phone calls from parents. But I feel like we've got a lot of mature guys that can handle it now. We just all want to win, bottom line."
Running back Devrin Young grew up in Knoxville, so the speculation is magnified because many of his friends from high school are Vols fans.
"One of the biggest things Coach Dooley tells us is to not focus on the things you can't control," Young said. "That's all you can do in a situation like this. Being from here, I hear about it as much or maybe more than some of you guys. I'm getting text messages, calls, people on Twitter. Every time I turn around I'm hearing something about it, but I'm giving them the same answers I am giving you all and that's to focus on things that I can control."
*After Monday morning's meeting in which Dooley addressed the rumors with his team, practice returned to normal, players said.
"He's handling it as best as you can," Young said. "He's staying positive. He's not being affected in any way by it. He's focused on us. He's focused on Vanderbilt."
Senior cornerback Prentiss Waggner said Dooley's demeanor was unchanged in practice as the Vols started to prepare for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.
"From my point of view, I think he has handled it really well. Today he was out there smiling, cracking jokes with me, Eric Gordon, Byron Moore and all of those guys," Waggner said. "I pretty much didn't see a difference."
* One of 13 seniors on the roster, Waggner said it's starting to set in that his college career is almost over.
"These are my last two weeks, so distractions are pretty much the last thing I'm worried about," Waggner said. "I'm just looking forward to going out with a bang and just really having fun these last two weeks."
*Dooley refused to back down from his decision to run out the clock rather than try for a game-winning field goal in regulation in last Saturday's 51-48, four-overtime loss to Missouri.
"Everybody is making a huge deal about that," Dooley said.
Fans booed loudly when it became clear that Tennessee would not try again after failing to move the ball in two plays at its own 39.
Dooley said he planned to go for the victory, but two botched plays forced him to change his mind.
"I answered it after the game and I don't feel any differently," Dooley said. "I think there were about 35 seconds and we had a third-and-10. I just didn't have confidence that we were going to get it and then, all of a sudden, you put the best player on their whole team (punt returner Marcus Murphy) out on the field to change the game, and I didn't want to do that. I felt like we could beat them in overtime."