Tag:Derek Dooley
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Tennessee

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Tennessee , who starts spring practice today .

Spring Practice Question: Can Tennessee make enough strides along the line of scrimmage to threaten the teams at the top of the SEC East?

There was a time when Tennessee fans would have greeted a 6-7 overall record featuring one SEC win over a team that wasn't Vanderbilt or Kentucky -- and that one coming over an utterly mediocre Ole Miss outfit -- with as much hostility as a Gator frigate or Tide destroyer attempting to take sail alongside the Vol Navy. But that time came before the decline of Phil Fulmer and the abbreviated reign of Lane Kiffin, the combination of which turned what had been one of the nation's most feared programs into a smoking orange crater when Derek Dooley was hired in early 2010. Given the major headaches Dooley inherited, the bottom-of-the-barrel expectations for 2010, and the infamous victories against LSU and North Carolina that got yoinked away after the final whistle, 6-7 really wasn't so bad ... and so it's no surprise that rather than looking for a rail on which to run Dooley out of town, Vol fans enter 2011 with a healthy amount of optimism regarding both their head coach and the program's direction.

But steadying the Vols' ship is one thing. Bringing it safely into port alongside Florida or Georgia or now South Carolina atop the SEC East standings is something else entirely. And though no one will blame Dooley for not bringing home a divisional title in 2011, there will undoubtedly be some disappointment in Knoxville if the Vols aren't more competitive against the aforementioned trio; even with the Gators and Dawgs fielding their weakest teams in a decade or more, Tennessee fell to each by a combined 41 points. Though a second-half comeback made the Vols' contest against the division-winning Gamecocks more interesting, ultimately that game ended in a 14-point UT loss, too.

So how does Dooley close the gap? The easiest answer will be getting an entire season out of quarterback Tyler Bray , the true freshman who took over from the erratic Matt Simms at midseason and sparked a startling offensive resurgence, leading Tennessee to 335 or more yards of offense in its final six games despite the team not crossing that threshold once in its first seven.

But as starry-eyed as Vol fans might be regarding Bray's future, even Dooley's not expecting him to be a finished product this fall. "If he doesn't understand something, he doesn't care. He's just going to do something else," Dooley said at a pre-spring media luncheon Monday. "We'll be the ones throwing our hats because he throws it to the wrong guy and it's a touchdown."

Spring Practice Primers
Getting Bray to understand something and rely less on throwing it to the wrong guys -- touchdown or not -- will be one of the primary focuses of the Volunteers' spring. But maybe more important is the place where even more improvement is needed for the Vols to take the next step in their recovery--the line of scrimmage.

It wasn't a surprise, of course, that the Vols struggled with an entirely new offensive line and new starters at both defensive tackle positions. But struggle they did: dead last in the SEC in sacks allowed, dead last in both total rushing and yards per-carry, ninth in yards per-carry allowed, ninth in sacks in conference play. However you sliced it, the Vol lines weren't pretty.

But they were also some of the youngest in the country, and there's reason to think they'll be substantially better this year. On offense, NFL-sized (6'7", 320 pounds) true freshman tackle JuWuan James earned a starting job in fall camp, started all 13 games, and landed first-team Freshman All-SEC honors. Fellow freshmen James Stone, Zach Fulton, and JerQuari Schofield had all likewise entered the starting lineup by season's end, with sophomore Dallas Thomas also making a name for himself. Assuming the five of them take the leap forward expected of rising sophomores (and a rising junior) who have their first year of serious action already under their belt, the Vol line could go from a position of obvious weakness to a borderline strength.

It's much the same story along the defensive front. Ends Gerald Williams and Chris Walker may have graduated, but there's plenty of talent left in their place. The new defensive tackle pairing of Montori Hughes and Malik Jackson had its positive moments as well as its struggles (Jackson led the team with five sacks) and should be much-improved in their second year in the starting lineup. On the ends, yet another true freshman -- Jacques Smith -- came on late in the year and landed on the league all-freshman team. Fellow true frosh Corey Miller was almost as impressive in limited time, and the two look set to serve as sophomore bookends this season.

Overall, the Volunteers will remain so young on both lines that neither can be expected to join the ranks of the SEC's best just yet. But with burgeoning talents like Bray, running back Tauren Poole, wide receiver Justin Hunter, and corner Marsalis Teague (not to mention Janzen Jackson, the troubled safety who withdrew from school with personal issues but who Dooley says is "on pace" to return), as long as there's improvement up front, there should be improvement on the scoreboard as well.

Some of that improvement is likely. But we'll find out this spring how much the Vols can actually expect ... and if it's Dooley or the Gators, Dawgs, or Gamecocks who need to be sweating once spring is done.


Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:40 pm
 

Tennessee reinstates Brent Brewer

Posted by Tom Fornelli

While one person on Tennessee's campus was losing his job on Monday, on the Tennessee football team, a player was getting a second chance. Five weeks after the Vols suspended Brent Brewer following a domestic assault charge in February, head coach Derek Dooley announced on Monday that Brewer had been reinstated to the team.

"He has served a five-week suspension from all team activities," Dooley told the Times Free Press. "There's still some other internal disciplinary measure that are taken. It was a learning lesson for Brent, a learning lesson for all the members of our team (and) it was very unfortunate what happened."

Which is good news for both Brewer and Tennessee, as the team has been without its two starting safeties for the last month. Though the absence of free safety Janzen Jackson has been due to his withdrawing from the school for personal reasons. Dooley also took some time to address Jackson's current situation.

"He seems to be managing his life well right now. (He's) on pace to come back, but that's day to day and month to month."


Posted on: February 13, 2011 4:53 pm
 

Tennessee suspends Brent Brewer

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Tennessee is losing safeties at an alarming rate. Last week Janzen Jackson withdrew from school -- though it's entirely possible he'll be back at Tennessee for the fall -- due to personal issues, and on Sunday word came down that Derek Dooley had suspended Brent Brewer from the team. Brewer was arrested over the weekend in a domestic dispute.

"Without knowing all the facts, any domestic incident warrants a suspension from all team-related activities until a thorough investigation is concluded," Dooley said in a statement. "We respect everyone's right to the legal process, but also acknowledge a greater standard of conduct associated with the privilege of being a member of the Tennessee football team."

Brewer was released on $1,500 bond Sunday.

Brewer did not begin his freshman season in Knoxville as a starter, but was inserted halfway through the season, starting alonside Jackson at safety. Now the Vols head into the 2011 season possibly having to replace both of their safeties.
Posted on: February 7, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Janzen Jackson withdraws from Tennessee

Posted by Tom Fornelli

While Derek Dooley and Tennessee had a nice finish to the 2010 season, one that will bring a bit more optimism to Knoxville heading into 2011, the Vols got some bad news on Monday. Safety Janzen Jackson, who missed Tennessee's loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl due to personal reasons, has withdrawn from the school.

“Janzen continues to battle personal issues of which our program is always going to be very supportive of,” Dooley said. “His withdrawal from school has nothing to do with disciplinary reasons on the football team and everything to do with a continuing battle of deep personal issues, of which we’re very supportive of.

“His leaving for bowl practice was not a punishment, and as long as he continues to manage his personal issues and football and school, he’s going to be welcomed back in the program. He’s clearly reached a point where the personal issues have become much greater than his ability to manage workouts and school.

“Until he gets a little clarity on those issues, we’re going to support him.”

While Jackson is going to miss spring practice, there is a possibility he'll be able to return for the fall if he can get everything taken care of. If not, though, then Dooley and the Vols will be heading into the new season without one of their most talented players. If he isn't the best player on the roster.
Posted on: January 14, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2011 2:12 pm
 

David Oku transferring from Tennessee

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Overall, Derek Dooley enjoyed a successful first year at the Tennessee helm, salvaging a recruiting class that nearly came apart at the seams following Lane Kiffin's 11th-hour departure and dragging a Volunteer team with all kinds of depth chart issues and off-field squabbles to a bowl game.

But for all his accomplishments, no one will claim Dooley excelled in the area of getting some of Kiffin's highest-profile recruits to buy in. Neither five-star tailback Bryce Brown nor freshman All-American Aaron Douglas ever played a down under Dooley, and as of today four-star tailback/kick returner David Oku has also departed the Volunteer program .

The loss won't be a substantial blow to Tennessee's productivity -- Oku was not a major contributor this season, carrying only 42 times for 174 yards and returning 16 kickoffs for less than 20 yards a return -- but it drives home the fact that Dooley is more than willing to reshape the program with his own players and in his own image. The writing may have been on the wall for Oku, playing-time-wise, when Dooley said this to the media last September, just before Oku was stripped of his return duties:
You mentioned kickoff return. Can you talk about what you've seen from David Oku from that standpoint in the first three games?

"I've see nothing from him other than an inability to make yards. I don't think he's running with any conviction, and I've told him that. I think he runs tippy-toeing and searching."
In a word: ouch. That level of abrasiveness won't win Dooley any Mr. Congeniality contests -- and it might have helped cost him whatever modicum of depth at running back and returner Oku represented -- but as long as the Volunteers continue moving forward, no one's going to care.

HT on Dooley quote: @HABOTN .


Posted on: December 31, 2010 2:12 am
Edited on: December 31, 2010 2:16 am
 

Bowl Grades: Music City Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

North Carolina uses a blocked extra point, three personal fouls, and two overtimes to knock off Tennessee 30-27 in the Music City Bowl.


NORTH CAROLINA

Offense: The gift North Carolina fans got for Christmas was a healthy Shaun Draughn. Draughn has been battling an ankle injury since early November, but returned to make his first start of the season against Tennesee. The senior from Tarboro, N.C. had his second best outing for the season - rushing 16 times for 127 yards and a touchdown. Knowing that Tennessee was weak against the run, and both Elzy and Johnny White would be out, there was doubt as to if the Tar Heels would be able to take advantage of the weakness. Clearly they did, and clearly it worked out okay. GRADE: B

Defense: While North Carolina did give up 312 passing yards to Tyler Bray, they did limit the entire Vols offense to just 27 yards rushing. Forcing Tennessee to become one dimensional allowed the Heels to drop linebackers into coverage, particularly in overtime. Linebackers like Quan Sturdivant, who picked off Bray in overtime to set up the game winning field goal. The most impressive defensive performance might have come from Donte Paige-Moss. Paige-Moss returned from a busted nose he received from making a helmet-less sack to block the extra point to keep the score at 20-17 late in the fourth quarter. If that kick sails through and Tennessee claims a 21-17 lead, Barth's clutch leg would not have been an option. Big play after big play (not to mention Zach Brown's interception return), and this is a defensive squad lacking 3 future NFL draft picks. GRADE: A

Coaching: North Carolina head coach Butch Davis admitted after the game that the too many men on the field penalty was his fault. The offense had been told to clock the ball after Draughn's run, while the field goal team hustled out to try and kick it before time expired. The confusion was epic and the result, while the right call, will haunt Tennessee fans for a while. If anything, this was another example of Davis getting this team to battle back. It may be from suspension, it may be from injury, or in this case it was facing an impossible deficit in a not-so-neutral stadium. Somehow, the Tar Heels got it done this season - the newest Music City Miracle was just another example. GRADE: B

TENNESSEE

Offense: I know it stings for Tennessee fans right now, but there is plenty of good things to take away from the Music City Bowl. More than anything, the future is very bright with Tyler Bray under center. The freshman quarterback lived up to his late season charge against a tough Tar Heel defense and had a field day. Bray completed 27 passes to nine different receivers for 312 yards and four touchdowns. The deficiency in the running game (27 net yards) has to be a concern, and the three interceptions (particularly the last one) weren't fantastic, but there is plenty to be hopeful for with Tyler Bray leading the offense. GRADE: B-

Defense: Any positive things the defense did before the end of regulation will be completely forgotten thanks to some brutal decision-making in the final minutes. From Janzen Jackson's penalty on Harrelson to defensive end Gerald Williams' unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that set up North Carolina on the 12 yard line to start overtime. Additionally, giving up the touchdown drive before halftime was another huge momentum swinger, but after the way the game ended it seems like a moot point. GRADE: F

Coaching: It was mentioned earlier, but Derek Dooley will probably never want to play the end of close games ever again. After suffering this and the LSU clock debacle earlier this season, Dooley will lead the charge for a rules overhaul in regards to the punishments for substitutions I'm sure. But the blame will have to fall on Dooley as well for the penalties that cost them the game. Discipline issues in the college game will fall on the coaches as much as the players, and those three personal fouls in roughly a minute of gameplay changed the game entirely. GRADE: D

FINAL GRADE: Are you kidding me? Not to go all "standardized test," but if this game is graded in comparison to it's peers it is easily an A++. Not many games before today have carried this kind of impact on the entire college football community. Not to blow anything out of proportion, but this may the spark that gets the last minute run-off instituted in college football for offensive penalties. It does not belittle what North Carolina did in any way (the rule isn't in place), but it may be the last time it occurs ever again in college football. At least you have that kind of potential for historic significance. GRADE: A
Posted on: December 23, 2010 5:10 pm
 

Nick Saban expresses doubt about new NCAA rules

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Back in September, the NCAA introduced legislation to make it possible for coaches to be suspended over secondary NCAA violations. Naturally, this idea is causing consternation among those in the coaching ranks, as secondary violations are generally regarded on the same level of seriousness as parking tickets. In the NCAA's eyes, of course, that mindset is itself a problem, so down this road we go.

Nick Saban sees all this, and Nick Saban doesn't like what he sees. Here's what he told reporters Tuesday, according to TideSports.com:

“I thought originally in our discussions, in some of our meetings, that this was a rule that was going to be sort of implemented for people who had multiple secondary violations,” Saban said. “In other words, there was a disrespect for the rules shown by someone continuing to do the wrong thing. It wasn’t like you had one thing that happened that’s bad … and you could get suspended for a game.”

“I think it hurts the players when you start suspending coaches, so I’m not sure I’m in agreement. But I’m not sure that I have a solution, because we do respect the rules and we do want everybody to abide by the rules,” Saban said. “If this punishment is what’s going to change someone’s behavior, then I think it’s good. But if it’s not going to change anybody’s behavior, then I don’t really think it’s good.”

This is actually a remarkably sane approach to the issue. Punishment for the sake of punishment isn't necessarily a positive response to a widespread problem (see: Drugs, War On). Saban correctly recognizes that if the amount of secondary violations doesn't appreciably decrease, football would be worse off if some number of coaches are suspended than if none are suspended.

Further, it's worth remembering that it's really easy to commit a secondary NCAA violation. Derek Dooley just committed one the other day when he accidentally posted on a recruit's Facebook wall, after all. Arkansas had recruits try on jerseys and is under investigation. In basketball, Tom Izzo caught a one-game suspension for paying the wrong guy to run a weekend basketball camp.

So between this and Saban's inartful (yet not incorrect) comparison of unscrupulous agents and "pimps," it's plainly evident that he has a better grasp on incentives and disincentives than most people. Compare Saban's willingness to examine whether a rule is good or bad based on its evident effects on behavior with this from NCAA president Mark Emmert a month before his arrival with the organization, earlier this year:

"I'm really pleased with how we're working with the universities and colleges to try to correct behaviors that are not in the school's best interests," Emmert said in a phone interview Tuesday from Seattle. "Under my leadership, we're not going to see any diminutive effect of that effort. But I like where we're going right now."

"I can't talk about any [current] cases, but the fact that we've got strong enforcement going on, I think, is a good thing," he said.

Now, we're not about to accuse Emmert of not knowing or caring whether every one of those rules is appropriate for the NCAA. That would be wrong. It just seems that with extremely limited disincentive for, say, an agent to make subtle overtures to a prospective pro or a tattoo shop to offer the hookup to a football player in return for some swag, merely increasing the punishment on players taking advantage of such a relationship isn't going to solve any long-term problems; it'll probably just mean more players get in trouble. And if football suffers when its teams lose coaches to suspension with no effect on behavior, it sure as heck also suffers when more of its players are suspended for doing logical things like selling goods for money.

So while we'll stop short of recommending Nick Saban be the next president of the NCAA, in our estimation, the organization would be better off if Saban takes an advisory role on policy once he decides to take his career in a less demanding direction. Or think about it this direction: if Nick Saban's writing the rules, do you really think Terrelle Pryor or A.J. Green sit for a third of the season just for selling things that were given to them in a transaction that doesn't get the other side in trouble at all?

Posted on: December 21, 2010 4:11 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2010 4:11 pm
 

Derek Dooley has problems with Facebook

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Okay, so here are some new rules for the Tennessee athletic department.  All student-athletes should avoid bars for the time being, and coaches need to stay off Facebook.  Even if they're just tending to their farm or whatever it is you kids are doing on Facebook these days.  Both of those activities have led to secondary violations at the school in recent days.

The latest ones come courtesy of head coach Derek Dooley, who, when trying to reply to a recruit via a Facebook message, accidentally posted the message on the player's wall for the whole world to see.
Dooley violated NCAA bylaw 13.4.1.2 on June 3 when he inadvertently posted a message on four-star high school tight end Nick O’Leary’s Facebook wall.
According to the bylaw, “electronically transmitted correspondence that may be sent to a prospective student-athlete (or the prospective student-athlete’s parents or legal guardians) is limited to electronic mail and facsimiles.”
This secondary violation, coupled with another recently learned self-reported transgression involving 26 football players receiving improper benefits from Bar Knoxville, constitute the first known violations involving the UT football team since Dooley took over as coach in January. Under Lane Kiffin in 2009, the Vols committed at least six secondary violations.

The recruit, Nick O'Leary, also happens to be the grandson of some former golfer.  His name is Jack Nicklaus or something like that.  After finding out about their mistake and reporting it, Dooley and his staff weren't allowed to contact O'Leary for two weeks, which left his Facebook wall mighty empty and no doubt made him feel incredibly lonely.

As for why Dooley left the message on O'Leary's wall, it seems that it was all a mistake because Dooley knows that was against the rules.  It's just he was answering the message on his cell phone and thought he was answering O'Leary's message, not posting it on the wall.

In other words, life at Tennessee is like a bad sitcom that gets inexplicably high ratings.  Something we wouldn't know about here at CBS.
 
 
 
 
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