Before Dooley gets even deeper into the Class of 2013 and spring practice, he opened up to answer several questions at length:
InsideTennessee: With Cordarrelle Patterson now on the roster with Justin Hunter and Da' Rick Rogers, some people say this could be the best one of the best crops of receivers this program has ever had, if not the best. Looking at that position, do you feel the same way?
Derek Dooley: That's a strong statement because there have been some outstanding receivers here. Only time will tell. Do we have some talent? Yes. You saw a lot of talent in Da'Rick last year and what he did. Certainly the few games you've seen Justin Hunter, he's got a lot of exceptional ability. But, nobody beyond those two have yet risen to the kind of caliber that you are talking about. Now do we feel like we have some guys with potential? Yeah. So, time will tell.
IT: Even with the program being down a little the last few years, there are so many players with Tennessee ties in the NFL. What is your relationship with former players like now because I know you sell the VFL program in recruiting?
|Erik Ainge is one of several former Vols that is on campus on a consistent basis.|
Dooley: I get to know some more than others. Some pass through every year where I spend time with them. Some are local and they have a real comfort level of coming by. Some I have only met one time. What I hope they all know is how much I respect the job that they have done, how much I appreciate how they represent Tennessee, and how open they are to coming back because I have told them that this is their program, this isn't my program. They are the ones that built it. I have just been hired to coach the current players. They are more a part of Tennessee than a lot of us ever will be. I will always embrace a letterman and always respect the traditions that they have created.
IT: I know Peyton Manning comes around from time to time. Guys like Erik Ainge and others live in the area. Is there anybody that you feel close to that you see a lot that you lean on or talk to on the phone?
Dooley: I have several guys that have a nice pulse out there for me. Some of them are over the phone, some of them will come by, some of them we will talk to. We have one here (Jay Graham) that works for us. I wouldn't say it is one guy. I think I have a pretty good arm with a few of them, but I would always like to get to know more and more.
IT: Was Jay Graham being a former Vol a factor in his hiring in any way?
Dooley: Absolutely. Anytime I can bring back a former player, if they fit the criteria, I want to do that. I'm not going to bring back a former player just because he is a former player. I hired Jay because he is a great football coach and a good person. But, the fact that he is a former Vol made it a no-brainer.
IT: With the six assistant coaching changes, how tough is it to build that chemistry within the staff?
Dooley: There is chemistry as people and then there is chemistry and continuity of understanding how we do things as a program. I think all that just comes in time. I think the hours that we spend together every day allow it to happen sooner than later. Because we spend an inordinate amount of time together in a room with no windows and watching film and talking and hashing things out. So, it kind of expedites that process. There's a lot of guys on our staff, even though they are new, they have worked with each other before. So, that dynamic of relating as people I think will go quicker than most staffs.
IT: Looking ahead at the 2012 season schedule, even though the SEC is never going to be easy, does it feel like it is going to be somewhat more manageable than it was the last couple of years with one of the toughest October schedules any team has ever had to face?
Dooley: I don't think there is ever any way you can craft an SEC schedule and say it is going to be easy. Our toughest one is going to be in the beginning. The first game is hard. But, our focus is not even close to being that. Right now our focus is on this offseason program, how we can get our team to have a lot better chemistry, a little more leadership, bigger, faster, stronger and that's all we are worried about right now.