Making headlines: UT football coach wants Vols in news for right reasons
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 9:21 pm
By: By MIKE HUTCHENS Sports Editor
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Derek Dooley wants the University of Tennessee football program to be in the headlines again.
The Vol coach is insistent, however, on his players’ getting the right kind of press.
Dooley, in Union City Monday as part of the annual Coca-Cola Big Orange Caravan, acknowledged the multiple off-the-field issues of several UT players in the past few years.
He said progress has been made to improve the perception of the program and make those guilty of wrongdoings accountable.
“When you’re dealing with young people, it’s impossible to stay away completely from bad headlines,” the Tennessee coach said. “Young people are like all of us; they’ll always make mistakes.
“The important thing is how we and our program respond. We can’t compromise and we won’t, as far as our expectations of our players and young men. We have a lot of conversations about our expectations. We are challenged regularly of doing a better job of coaching players through the maturity process.”
The Volunteer head football coach, along with new Tennessee basketball skipper Cuonzo Martin and Daedra Charles-Furlow, director of character development for the Lady Vol basketball program, signed autographs and entertained a full house of Obion County University of Tennessee Alumni Chapter members and other supporters at the Hampton Centré.
Dooley says he continues to be amazed at the backing and interest of the Big Orange Nation in all sports — as evidenced by Monday’s turnout during the middle of the day.
“It’s something I saw on the outside when I was coaching at other places, but I couldn’t get a real taste of it until I became the coach at the University of Tennessee,” he said. “The passion our fans have for our school, our program and our kids rivals that of anybody in the country.”
Dooley, who admitted the Vol program is in much better shape in its current state than it was a year ago when he was a late hire for the controversial Lane Kiffin, who bolted for the University of Southern California, insists there’s still a ways to go before UT can be mentioned in college football’s upper echelon.
“Seventy percent of our players this fall will be either freshmen or sophomores, and that’s tough when you’re in the SEC,” he said after leading Tennessee on a four-game winning streak and to a bowl appearance in his first season that included many trying circumstances. “We’ve had two great recruiting classes, but they still have to develop into every-down players in the toughest conference in the country.
“I feel real good about our offensive line and think that’ll be a strength for us for several years if our young players continue to progress.”
Recently-concluded spring practices in Knoxville brought reports of “improvement every day” as his staff continued to strive for “consistent intensity and effort every day,” according to Dooley.
He said although Tyler Bray struggled miserably in the annual Orange and White game, the sophomore-to-be will remain the starter going into the fall.
“Tyler is still in the infancy stages of becoming a real good quarterback and the league will adjust how they prepare for him this fall. That, in turn, will force him to adjust and work on some different things. I like the way he’s worked in the offseason and in the spring, and we hope he can become a little bigger,” Dooley continued.
“The thing I’ve noticed — and this is true from the pee-wee level on up — the really good teams have good quarterback play. The teams that have the best quarterback play are the ones that usually win.”
Dooley has championed a “Vol For Life” cause and says he’ll continue to stress character, education, life skills and career development to all his Tennessee teams.
“We want their football experience to be positive one and for them to walk away with a degree and to be a better person,” the coach concluded. “More than anything, we’re about developing young people the right way.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.10.11