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Dooley At The Podium

Here’s a rundown of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley’s comments:

* Dooley was scheduled to begin his talk at 1pm ET.  Instead, he started at 1:40pm.  Such a delay is ridiculous.  If the SEC has invited so many people to Media Days that it can’t even keep players and coaches close to being on schedule, then it’s time to boot some of the fans who now attend the event while masquerading as journalists.

* Dooley said that about 70% of his team is made up of underclassmen.  “We’re not gonna allow youth to be an excuse for failure.  We’re not gonna do that.  I feel very good about the talent level of our young players and how quickly they become every-down, dependable players in the SEC will determine what our success is on the field.”

* “Because of our youth they’re not gonna show up the first game and be all-conference players, but if they have the right mindset of coming in everyday with a relentless pursuit of improvement then we’ll get Tennessee back to what the standard is.”

* “I do believe we lost our way a little bit in understanding what it means to play for Tennessee and what the Power T represents.  And so we have spent an inordinate amount of time educating our team, talking to our young people, our young players about what Tennessee stands for and what the standard is.”

* Dooley chalked up the West’s recent advantage over the East to natural cycles.

* Asked how he’ll coach quarterback Tyler Bray — a player who likes to improvise — Dooley said: “It’s a little like parenting.  They don’t always do it the way you want, but then they do it, you go, ‘Well that wasn’t too bad after all.’  And that’s what Tyler was.”  Bray showed a “level of confidence that was rare for a freshman” and he would “aggressively” push the ball down the field.

* Asked about Mike Slive’s suggestion to up academic standards, Dooley said: “We’ve set some good base line standards (via APR scores) and we’ve met those standards in college football for the most part.  But now, I guess there’s criticism because we’re the lowest of the sports in APR and to me it raises the question, ‘When is the lowest good enough?’  We’ve set the standards — the minimum standards — we meet the minimum standards and now we’re not happy.”  Dooley admitted that he didn’t know the specifics of Slive’s plan.  That plan was not just a football-only plan.

* Of Will Muschamp Dooley said, “Will and I are good friends.  Of course we talked a lot — I know he told you guys that — prior to him getting the job at Florida.  We still stay in touch, not as much obviously.  We don’t talk about the same things we did before.”

* Dooley had big praise for interim athletic director Joan Cronan.

* Asked about Bray’s poor showing the Tennessee’s spring game, Dooley said: “I would rather him have played good, but I don’t lose sleep over what he did in the spring game given how we minimize it, how we divide the team, it’s just a very different dynamic. … We feel very comfortable with the progress he’s making.”  He added: “Does it concern me that the teams he played against (as a starter) didn’t have winning records?  Hey, I was happy that we went out there and were able to get four victories.  I don’t care what their record was because there was a point in the season where it didn’t look like we were ever going to win another game.  Now, he’s gonna have to go prove that he can do it against every team in the league.  So we’ll see if he can do that.”

* Asked for his feelings when Muschamp landed the job at Florida, Dooley said he had mixed feelings.  He said he was proud of him but he’d “rather him been at Texas ’cause he’s a friend of mine.  That’s just how it is.”  He doesn’t think their friendship will have any impact on Tennessee-Florida games.

* Losing Herman Lathers was “a real blow.”  Dooley said he doesn’t think the linebacker will be back “anytime soon,” which means UT will have only one returnee in its defensive front seven.

* Dooley said he is not involved in the AD hiring process.  “Nor should I be because he’s gonna be my boss.”

* “I do appreciate the way the Tennessee fans supported us all season (last year).  It’s the most unconditionally loyal group of fans I’ve ever been a part of.  And when we were sitting there at 2-6 on our heels a little bit, there was nothing more meaningful to me than getting off that bus on the Vol Walk with 30,000 fans going crazy and a 100,000 in the stadium.”

* “We’re doing our best to meet (fans’) expectations.  They’re high and they should be high.  You have every resource to succeed at Tennessee.  We’re gonna get there.  How quickly?  I can’t predict.”

* Dooley said a scholarship is a contract “and both parties have obligations to do things to continue the contract.”  Obviously, he’s not in favor of Slive’s suggestion that it might be time to give out multi-year scholarships.  “If a coach is just taking away scholarships and kicking people off the team, the market is gonna take care of it in recruiting.  Who’s gonna wanna go play for the guy?”

* Dooley — the ex-lawyer — is an engaging speaker.  He seems more comfortable this year than last, but that’s understandable as last year was his first taste of Media Days.  On occasion, Dooley can be a bit sarcastic if he’s uncomfortable.  Not today.

* Asked about the endings of the LSU and North Carolina games last year, Dooley said: “I told everybody I was 8-7 in postgame handshakes last year.  It was a remarkable feat.  (Laughs from the crowd.) … I told our team, once I was able to gather my emotions, if things don’t go your way — in life, in football — before you start pointing fingers, you better look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘Is there anything we could have done better to change the outcome, is there anything I could have?’”



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