The head football coach described the eight-week period between National Signing Day and spring practice as productive for the Vols football program and everyone involved, including seven new coaching staff members.
InsideTennessee.com brings you the high points in this press conference notebook:
Making a Move
Several new Vols will embark on new roles both on offense and defense. New defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri brings a new defensive scheme and, therefor, new positions out of the 3-4 base defense.
"Rajion Neal is going to be exclusively at running back," Dooley said. "We have four guys who are going to be working in different roles at linebacker — Brent Brewer, Channing Fugate, Jacques Smith, and Willie Bohannon."
Dooley added that new early enrollees Darrington Sentimore and Trent Taylor will be working along the defensive line, Alden Hill at running back and Cody Blanc will help add depth to a thin wide receiving corps. Justin Meredith will work at tight end with Tino Thomas in the defensive backfield.
Given this Sunday's press conference was the first time that Dooley has been able to speak in regards to his current roster, academic casualties were sure to arise; they come in the form of defensive lineman Corey Miller and offensive lineman JerQuari Schofield.
"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," Dooley said. "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."
While Schofield was rumored to have trouble in the classroom for quite some time, Miller comes as a bit more of a surprise entering spring practice.
On the Mend
Obviously, the two most glaring injuries heading into spring football are both ACL-tear victims Justin Hunter and Brent Brewer, who both remain limited as practice gets underway.
|Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter|
Several other Vols are coming off shoulder surgeries this off-season and each will be restricted in different ways based on condition and position.
"We have the three shoulder guys who got surgery after the season — Curt Maggitt, Daniel Hood and Prentiss Waggner," Dooley said. "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."
Lastly, offensive lineman Zach Fulton, who has been seen recently in a walking boot, suffered a stress fracture in his foot and will also be limited.
"The one new limited guy that you'll see is Zach Fulton," Dooley said. "Zach had a stress fracture in the off-season a couple of weeks ago and he's not yet fully recovered. Hopefully we'll have him back in a few days."
Da'Rick is ‘good'
Much speculation has been making the rounds about the attitude and status of junior wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers this offseason following a rumored incident with the Tennessee strength and condition staff.
While the head coach wouldn't go into detail regarding any incidents, Dooley said his star wide receiver is on par with the rest of his squad.
"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."
"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."
Rogers returns to the Vols as the Southeastern Conference's leading receiver after a 2011 Associated Press All-SEC season when he racked up 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns.
McKeeferey is incredible
In a time where there was constant change in Dooley's coaching staff, one constant has been strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeeferey, now in his second year with the Tennessee staff.
"I can't say enough about Mack.," Dooley said. "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."
McKeeferey even became apart of the Vols recruiting efforts last winter following the departure of defensive coaches Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon.
Maggitt Moves Inside
One of the most surprising things to come out of Sunday's press conference was the shift of Curt Maggitt from outside to inside linebacker, which Dooley says is a result of Maggitt's intelligence.
"Inside backers are always hard to find," Dooley said. "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."
Dooley's "organizational" chart for spring practice lists Maggitt and Herman Lathers at middle linebacker, A.J. Johnson at weakside backer, former safety Brent Brewer at strongside linebacker, with Jacques Smith and Willie Bohannon at the JACK position.