Tennessee's Nov. 12 practice
Junior defensive lineman Daniel Hood called Tennessee coach Derek Dooley “one of the best people that I’ve had around in my life” and also said Dooley was one of the most important people he has had in his life.
“As a player, it’s hard not to take it personal when people are attacking your coach,” Hood said. “It’s hard to separate the X’s and O’s from the actual person.”
Hood, a Knoxville Catholic graduate, said Dooley supported him this summer after the death of his mother.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without someone like Coach Dooley,” Hood said.
Hood was one of the few players who acknowledged that the uncertainty about Dooley’s future could present a distraction.
“The thing Coach Dooley preaches all the time is you have to be able to put it away,” Hood said. “It’s a great lesson for us because we’re learning how to do things that a lot of people don’t get to — being able to put away distractions and still work through that adversity.”
Quarterback Tyler Bray said he believes that Dooley will be Tennessee’s coach for the last two games of the season, even if his future beyond that remains uncertain.
“We’re going to get these last two (games) for him,” Bray said.
Bray later clarified that he didn’t have any inside information but was merely speaking of his perception of the situation.
“I mean, you guys know as much as we do,” Bray said. “He’s here every day, so until he’s not here, I guess he’s the coach.”
Junior Jacques Smith will get first crack at replacing injured linebacker Curt Maggitt, who suffered a torn ACL last week against Missouri.
Smith started at Jack linebacker earlier in the year before Jordan Williams took over. Senior Willie Bohannon will provide backup at both positions.
“A lot of it depends on what package we’re in,” Dooley said. “We have Jacques, we have Jordan Williams, we have Willie Bo at outside linebacker, and then (Raiques) Crump gets in the mix a little bit. Between Jordan, Jacques and Willie, we kind of have three for two spots.”
Maggitt’s absence was noticeable late Saturday as the defense struggled to stop Missouri. Smith said he hopes a week of practice will make the transition seamless.
“When a brother falls down, we all have to pick it up for him,” Smith said. “We’re going to pick up the slack and, hopefully, there will be no difference.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.