KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- Vols head coach Derek Dooley met with the media on Sunday to talk about the start of the team's Spring practices. Here's what he had to say.
"First of all, I'd like to apologize for making you guys come in on Sunday. You had a combination of spring break and the morning practice schedule. I didn't want to do this after we practiced the first one and I didn't want to do it a week in advance. I didn't know any other time to do it. I appreciate you guys coming.
"We'll jump right in; we have a lot to talk about. First of all, I want to tell you how the offseason went--the last eight weeks. Of course, in everything we do, every segment, we have a lot of goals. Besides the obvious one of getting bigger, faster and stronger and improving our football specific skills, it was important to me that we accomplished or made progress in two areas.
"One is just demonstrating winning edge values which was a big emphasis for us--kind of redefining our core values: what they stand for, things like discipline, toughness, effort and teamwork. Also secondly, demonstrating individual investment in being the best player and best team we can be. I was really proud of this football team over the last eight weeks. Everybody on the team--everybody on the team--showed significant opportunity in all those areas.
"It's probably one of the best offseasons I've been around from a work ethic standpoint, from an attitude standpoint, from a focus standpoint, from a consistency standpoint. Does that mean that we didn't have any individual challenges? Of course not. I always equate coaching to parenting. Everyday--for those of you that has kids--you know there's good days and bad days. You have to motivate, you have to teach, you have to develop, you have to discipline. We go through that with a number of players every day. What I don't want to do is talk about the individual progress of every player because really what matters now is going into practice. But I will tell you every player on the team made a lot of progress. They're in a good place right now and looking forward to practice.
"Now that we hit practice, it's time to kind of re-shift our goals. I'm going to give you some big picture of things that we obviously need to accomplish. Number one is another renewed commitment of our core values. I'm going to keep emphasizing that. Because--and I told the team this--the core values that we play with are more important than any play we can put in. If we commit to it every day and we perform like that on Saturday, it will mean a lot more to winning and losing than the other stuff."
"On offense, obviously we're going to have to find a way to run the football a lot better than we did last year. That's going to be a big emphasis this spring. We're thing at wideout anyway, so it's a good excuse to go out there and hammer it every day to try to figure out how we're going to run the ball."
"On defense, of course we have a new scheme. We've got to learn our new scheme and try fit our personnel within that scheme. That's not going to be an easy thing to do. And on special teams, I think the biggest thing that we've got to improve on is our specialist play. Those will be kind of the big picture things going into the spring."
"Now on the personnel, some new things that you'll notice on the roster or in practice: of course y'all know about JerQuari Schofield who's not going to be there for academic reasons. Corey Miller is in the same boat. He will not be practicing for academic reasons. Both are still in the program, but not really working with the team day-to-day and haven't been since day one.
"Rajion Neal is going to be exclusively at running back. We have four guys who are going to be working in different roles at linebacker: Brent Brewer, Channing Fugate, Jacques Smith, and Willie Bohannon. Of course we have seven new enrollees: Darrington Sentimore and Trent Taylor at defensive line, Nathan Peterman at quarterback, Alden Hill at runner, Cody Blanc will be working at wideout, Justin Meredith at tight end, Tino Thomas in the secondary.
"Our two ACL guys, Brent Brewer and Justin Hunter, are doing great. Brent's a little over three months out and Justin's over five months out. They're going to be going through spring in a limited role. Then we have the three shoulder guys who got surgery after the season: Curt Maggitt, Daniel Hood and Prentiss Waggner. They're about three months out. They're going to be doing as much as they can. A guy like Prentiss is going to be able to do more because he can avoid contact. It will be hard for a guy like Dan Hood to be able to do much of anything because if you're on the D-line, I don't know what else you do. The one new limited guy that you'll see is Zach Fulton. Zach had a stress fracture in the offseason a couple of weeks ago and he's not yet fully recovered. Hopefully we'll have him back in a few days.
(On the Vols' Organizational Chart)
"You'll notice we have an organizational chart and I put that word on there on purpose. There's going to be a lot of guys moving around. There's not going to be a daily depth chart or who beat who out. We're going to be moving guys around a lot. We're going to try different things in a lot of different areas: the offensive line, on defense. We're going to have a pre-spring organizational chart and then we'll give you a post-spring depth chart with nothing in between because it's going to be a lot of experimenting. I think this is the first time since I've been here that we have some quality depth at a lot of positions and should be a lot of good competition and I think that's going to help our team."
(Farewell to media members)
"I understand we have a couple of roster moves on y'all's (the media's) end. (Andrew) Gribble went to Mobile. We're hoping he's a double agent come Alabama week. We'll put one of y'all in charge of helping us there. And Beth (Rucker) went to Scripps, huh? Did y'all hear that? (Beth responds.) If you do a bad job today, nobody will care, so you're all right. We're going to miss y'all."
(On the long break)
"No, in fact it flew by. Recruiting always goes fast. It's a sprint to signing day. All that time in December where you would spend some energy in bowl prep, we put a lot of time into redefining our offseason and taking a hard look at some of the things we need to do different going into next season and of course hiring some new coaches. That ate up the bulk of our time. After recruiting, because we essentially had a whole new staff, we had to kind of start over. I'm glad we had the time."
(On creating staff cohesion)
"Well, I'll tell you what's helped a lot is there's a lot of prior relationships and that was important to me. It was really important to me especially at the defensive coordinator position that I got somebody that I had worked with, I know what he's about, he knows me, he's been in a program similar to this. That transition has been seamless. Of course, a lot of the other guys have worked with each other. The staff dynamic has been great so far, but it doesn't really mean much. This is the easy time."
(On the benefits of late spring practice)
"We would have had this at this time even if everything was the same. I hate rushing through spring. I think there's so much you have to do prior to spring practice to improve from the year before, so I've always been a little later."
(On Da'Rick Rogers' offseason)
"It's been good. He's like the rest of the team. He's shown a lot of progress. His numbers went up in a lot of areas. I think he grew as a player emotionally in a lot of ways, and he's still got a long way to go in some things. He's a lot like the rest of the team."
(On Da'Rick Rogers)
"I'm not going to go into all the individuals. We had a lot of guys who missed a workout or two whether it be for academic reasons, whether it's discipline or injury. We had a ton of that. It's managing a hundred guys. Everyday's a challenge and I don't want to revisit our last eight weeks."
(On relating core values to the team)
"I think that when you define what your program stands for, it doesn't mean anything if you're not reinforcing it every day. I look back and I've said this a number of times that it's not really forcing us to change what we believe. It's just how you implement it and how you go about doing it in every drill. That's something we needed to do a better job of. That's why you need to renew yourself every year and see what you didn't do well. That's probably the number one thing we've got to do a better job of as coaches."
(On the new coaching additions this season)
"I mentioned this in January. When you go through a couple years like we did and you had so much youth and new coaches there are a lot of emotional scars that go along. I think that a little new energy can allow a player who might have been immature before to change and a new coach comes in and there is just a refreshing dynamic that comes from the get go that you might not have had if you hadn't had to heal all of those wounds. So I think it has benefited the team in a lot of ways, and I think it is going to benefit our new coaches. As much as it looks like it is not in a stable situation, it really is more stable than anytime since I have been here because the roster is stable. We finally have guys who are settled in and have a lot of guys who have played a lot of snaps, so there is a lot more maturity, there is a lot more experience, and I think the ability in the roster has led to a better work environment and better dynamic day-to-day."
(On having new ideas from the new assistants)
"Yeah it helps, but it's not really the idea, it's how we execute the ideas. That's what matters."
(On noticing leaders step up on defense)
"I think that is going to come over time. Do I see a lot more guys that have leadership ability, yes. I see a lot of small instances where there is a lot more leadership being shown, but it is something that has to be proved over time and something that has to come up when the times get tough."
(On the changes outside of coaching made in December)
"We changed a lot on how we implemented our off season program over the last eight weeks. We are probably going to do some things different on offense and in all three phases. Probably the biggest thing is how we coach it and how we implement it and how we demand that it gets done right. That is more important than any new thing that we can do."
(On the hiring of new coaches and if the transition was hindering)
"It really didn't hurt us because we didn't go to a bowl, so I had a lot of time. I don't think it did, it is a hard process hiring guys and you never want to hire last minute and I hope I never have to again."
(On the difficulties of hiring at this time)
"No, it wasn't. The interest we had was good, it's still Tennessee. We have some quality coaches here and they left some good programs to come here. So finding guys who want to work at Tennessee is not hard, it is finding the right guys that are the right fit and form a good team as a coaching staff and who are going to believe in what we believe in as a program, that's the trick. What makes it so difficult is that the pool size is so big."
(On the depth of this team compared to last)
"I wish I would have brought the number because I am probably not going to be accurate, but I counted and I think we had 24 guys that had over 300 snaps last year and we had about nine guys who were over 500 snaps, so we have never had anything like that here. Which is what we need, time, depth, and experience. It still doesn't mean we are where we need to be, but we are starting to get there."
(On the return of Herman Lathers)
"He is full go, but he hasn't hit anybody yet. With those linebacker spots there is a lot of different personnel groupings, so that is one personnel grouping. Guys will be moving around, but this will be a good spring for Herman. I am sure he will be a little bit nervous the first day, you always are, but he has worked really hard and his body is ready, but until you get out there and take on that first power, you really don't know."
(On goals for the defense by the end of spring)
"The first thing is to make sure we have the right people in the right spots. That is the most important thing. That is not an easy thing to do because it is hard to evaluate guys when they don't know what to do. They have to do a great job of learning and do it fast so we can do a good job of evaluating them. If you don't know what to do, you are not going to play well. So they have to do their part in knowing what to do to play the best they can and we have to do a good job of evaluating them and putting them in the right spots."
(On the differences in preparing the offense than the defense)
"It's not. It is very similar. We have four new offensive lineman who are going to be out there competing for starting jobs, and they are going to get every opportunity to get one. So it is going to be the same. We are going to move guys from tackle to guard, guard to tackle, and center is the same sort of deal. That's why we have an organizational chart."
(On the concern of the defense learning what to do and the progress they have made thus far)
"They have worked really hard, but none of that really matters because we start tomorrow."
(On Josh Conklin's background)
"The first thing was that he has coordinator experience. That was important to me. It is nice to have a couple of guys on each side of the ball who have sat in that chair to get a little bit of the big picture and I think him being in the back end and having coordinator experience will be a good compliment to Sal Sunseri and what his strengths are. He has had success everywhere he ha been.He was just a good feel and a good fit personality wise."
(On the difficulty of hiring a coach in February)
"It was difficult and it is rare for guys to move, but it was the trickle down deal. One school moves and then a week goes and another school moves. That is what happened in this case and it made it a little more difficult and it makes guys a little more reluctant.Teams are already in spring practice and it is hard for a coach to go ahead and leave."
(On Justin Hunter's progress)
"It is really good. He is over five months out and he is doing everything we would expect him to do at five months out. So he is right on track and hopefully he will get some good work in this spring without having a setback."
(On not having a transition on the offensive side of the ball)
"It was good having continuity on offense and special teams. What is new on offense is that everybody has a new coach, so Tyler will have a different coach, and I thought that was important and that we needed to do that."
(On the continuity in strength and conditioning)
"That was a big help. Last year was hard because I like it how I like it, and Ron likes it how he likes it. So we had to find that middle-ground last year, but this past December we got to settle in and come up with what Tennessee should look like in the off season. I can't say enough about Mack. He did an incredible job with the team this off season and it was unbelievable the work they put in and the time it took. I think that was the biggest help over all was that we didn't have a break in continuity."
(On the change at recruiting coordinator)
"Darin Hinshaw is going to be our recruiting coordinator. He's going to have the same role. We have an institutional way with how we recruit. Nothing is going to change. Terry (Joseph) didn't define how we did things, that's what I did."
(On the pressure the O-line feels to help improve the running game)
"That's the beauty of competition and I think the competition will make everybody better this year and I think experience will help too. It's not just on them, the running back have to run, the receivers have to block, and the quarterback has to get us in the right play. We're going to put a lot of emphasis on all of that this spring."
(On the changes that the new O-line coach brings)
"Everybody has a different way of teaching and I think Sam will bring a good way of teaching that will connect with the offensive linemen really well. Again, everything is a little premature to talk about right now because we haven't even had a practice yet."
(On how Marlin Lane's knee is)
"Good. Really good."
(On how quickly players develop when they come into the program)
"It depends on the player. I think the worst thing to do is to judge guys too early in their career and I think the reason people do that is because there are so many guys that do so well early in their careers but everybody is different and these guys are kids when it's all said and done. They handle pressures differently, they handle the academic work load, the social change, the physical wear and tear, everybody handles and manages those things at a different pace and some of it takes a couple of years to try to learn how to handle those things properly. The important thing is to not beat a guy down just because he's not performing well in his first two years with the program. You just have to keep coaching them and keep developing them and keep believing in them and then usually they play their way out of it and they play a lot better and I'm hoping that's going to be the case with a lot of our guys."
(On the steps he'd like to see Tyler Bray take this spring)
"He's taken some good steps already this offseason. We hope he starts performing the way he performed early in the season, not late in the season, from a physical standpoint. I hope we don't see any hangover from the thumb injury and I don't expect we will. I'd like to see him have a greater command of the offense and understanding the leadership component of being a quarterback."
(Elaborating on saying that every player having a different coach will be a good thing)
"I think when you go through a tough year it's hard on the coaches and hard on the players. Sometimes change is a welcome thing and everybody is going to have that and they're going to walk into their meeting room with a new face, a new personality and it's a good opportunity for the players to start over from scratch. They can put away anything that they wish they hadn't done in the past. It doesn't count anymore. You have a fresh new coach in there who you can just kind of start over with. I think it's a healthy thing. It doesn't mean that the coaches were bad coaches that left. They were good coaches and they did a good job for us, but sometimes you just need a little change."
(On if the defensive players are excited about playing in the new system)
"There is so much unknown with the players right now. I think they're excited because it's going to be different. Most of us like different stuff. It'll be more multiple and they will get to do more things but there's a drawback with that because they're going to have to work a little bit harder in learning what to do."
(On if any of the guys on the current roster will fit in better with the new defensive scheme)
"It's hard to say now, but what I believe is that I feel like our personnel in some ways is more suited for a little more 3-4 look at times. I felt like our ends weren't as big as they needed to be. I felt like our inside guys weren't as big as they needed to be. When you move them all out a man they become a lot bigger. The trick is finding a nose guard. We're not going to be in just a 3-4 the whole time. We're going to try to do a lot of stuff."
(On what he expects from the first day of spring practice)
"It's probably impossible to have a great day tomorrow. I told Dave Hart, I'm really pleased with this offseason. I'm as proud as I have ever been of a team because this is one of the best offseasons I've been around, but you need to know that on Monday afternoon I'm going to be miserable and I'm going to tell you how awful we are. That's just what happens. It's hard. We're going to go out there and do day one install and throw a lot at them. We're not in pads so all you can do is go out there and do the best you can and try to get better the next day. I don't know any other way to do it, but we will not be a good team tomorrow."
(On if he feels more encouraged about the defensive backfield)
"Yes. We have more guys, and more guys with experience. There will be a lot of competition there. I don't know of an area where there's not going to be a lot of good, healthy competition. We're going to have it in the defensive backfield, we're going to have it up front, we're going to have it on the offensive line, and we have three good quarterbacks on our roster. At running back, we don't know who is going to be the running back. There is going to be a lot of competition everywhere, it's going to be fun to watch."
(On an Atlanta Journal Constitution story involving Cordarrelle Patterson)
"That's not true."
(On giving Curt Maggitt a look at the mike linebacker spot)
"Inside backers are always hard to find. It's a little bit like offensive tackle on the offensive line. If you take your better guys and start them inside and then if they can't do it you move them out, you tend to find more inside guys. And Curt, besides having the length, he also has the intelligence to make a lot of calls. He has the personality to take command of the defense so we thought we'd try him out there."