Jim Chaney speaks as Vols interim head coach
If nothing else, Jim Chaney has his players' attention.
Chaney began his first team meeting as interim head coach Monday morning by producing an air horn and honking it loudly in front of bleary-eyed and incredulous players.
"I think everyone was still half asleep," said running back Marlin Lane. "It woke everybody up. He said, 'It's ( Derek Dooley's firing) a sudden change but don't let anything keep us down. We're going to keep a smile on our face and just go out there and execute everything that we do.' "
Players practiced Monday for the first time since Dooley was fired a day earlier.
Sunday's news was not shocking. Not long after returning home from Nashville early Sunday, players received a text about an 11 a.m. team meeting. They knew what was coming, and most players took the news in stride.
"It's just part of the profession," said offensive lineman Ju'Wuan James. "When I got here, two days later, coach (Lane) Kiffin was gone. So it's just another coach."
The Vols (4-7, 0-7 SEC) finish the season against Kentucky (2-9, 0-7) on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.) at Neyland Stadium.
"It just seemed weird not to see Coach Dooley here to talk to us to start the week off, but once everything got started it was business as usual," said safety Byron Moore.
Offensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson said he knew that Dooley's tenure was likely coming to an end when the Vols struggled down the stretch.
"I anticipated it. I'm not going to lie," he said. "It's a business. Coaches come and go. That's just the way it is. I love Coach Dooley. He's done a lot for me personally. I appreciate everything he's done for me these last two years, but you've got to move forward."
Lane said he thought the school would wait until after the season to make the move. Linebacker Jacques Smith said he was hoping Dooley would be given another year.
"He put this program to where we need to be to be in a path for success. It just didn't happen this year," Smith said. "I believe if he had another year, we could've made it happen. But that's just my opinion."
As with any head coach, Dooley was closer with some players than others. Some members of the team were saddened by his departure, while others might be looking forward to a fresh start with a new coach.
"Some guys are going to miss him, some guys just know it's part of the business. That's just how it is," Smith said.
James said he hopes to speak with athletic director Dave Hart to lobby him to keep offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
The Vols' line has made huge strides under Pittman in 2012. The running backs also have done well under first-year coach Jay Graham, a former Tennessee player.
But decisions on the coaching staff will ultimately come down to the new coach. And players don't know who that will be.
"We just have to try and adapt to the new head coach," James said. "We have a mature group of guys, so I feel like we'll be able to."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.