'Dead' periods hampering in-state prospects

InsideTennessee made its way out to get the football coach's thoughts on why in-state prospects may be underrated, why parts of preseason camp will be held off campus and much more. Sign in or subscribe now for the rest.

Derek Dooley came out to speak and sign autographs Friday at the Knoxville Orthopedic Center 30th Golf Scholarship Tournament and High School Media Day at Three Ridges Golf Course.

While there, the Tennessee head football coach took a few minutes to answer some questions as he gets back into the swing of things following a refreshing vacation with his family.

The third-year head man said that he is "excited about this year" and is "really looking forward to this season."

Given the setting, he spoke of how he and his staff most definitely want to consistently build the Vol roster with in-state products like Cody Blanc and Devrin Young should the recruits fit with what the organization seeks that particular class, regardless of whether or not the recruiting services think highly of their skills.

In fact, the question begged if Dooley thought the in-state recruits were generally underrated?

"I think that's a fair assessment," Dooley said. "A lot of the guys don't get the exposure that some of the other players get, but I also think that there is a lot greater emphasis in some of these other pockets of developing players through camps and summer camps and that sort of stuff. Sometimes our local guys are a little bit behind from a development standpoint because of the dead periods in the summer that we have. A lot of the rules I think we could do a better job to help them promote them going to camps. So, that sets them back.

"But, we've given all our local guys a real fair and diligent and honest evaluation and we've signed a lot of them. I wish every year we could sign a bunch of them."

The opportunity to shake hands and converse with several prep coaches doesn't come as often as it used to, but Dooley finds value in building those relationships.

Junior offensive tackle JaWuan James is one of three players representing Tennessee at SEC Media Days.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
"It's important because I don't get to get out as much," he said. "It used to be in the spring time, you'd go spend a lot of time with the high school coaches, but head coaches aren't allowed to go out anymore. So, anytime we can have the high school coaches around and get to know them a little bit better, and spread our message and they spread theirs, it's always a good, healthy thing."

The coach plans to fine-tune some particulars of the team's trip to Milligan College in Johnson City for preseason camp that runs Aug. 9-15. Dooley broke down the thought process of deciding to take several practices on the road.

"Well it was something I looked into last year, and it's something I've wanted to do because when we start camp you're still in summer school and then school starts in the middle of camp. So, it was harder and harder to really get what the true essence of training camp is, which is getting away, no distractions, just spending a lot of time with the team and team building, immersing yourself in football. So, we're going to try it this year. I think it's helped that we're moving into our new facility. So, moving away from that distraction I think will be a benefit."

It takes a tremendous amount of resources and manpower to get the camp on the road with getting the practice fields up to snuff, feeding the staff and team properly, etc. Having locker rooms, training rooms and weight training available and productively stable isn't simple either.

Dooley pointed at how beneficial it is to be at a university like Tennessee where it can make instances like that one become a reality.

Molding chemistry and leadership within the roster has been a focal point since the completion of a terribly disappointing 5-7 season last year. On top of heading east for summer camp, almost 40 players joined Dooley and strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery on a climb to the top of Mount Le Conte in Gatlinburg, Tenn., back in early June. At its peak, Mount Le Conte is 5,301 feet from its base in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"I don't think it does anything magical," Dooley said of the hike. "I think just the more times we can get together and get to know each other on a different level the better it will pay off."

On Thursday, Dooley pulls out one of his suits and steps in front of the lights and cameras as the Volunteers take their turn at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. Joining him will be quarterback Tyler Bray, offensive tackle JaWuan James and linebacker Herman Lathers.

Dooley provided a breakdown on how he selects who will accompany him for the late July trips.

"Last year we took Dallas (Thomas), so I wanted to give some other players the experience. It's a neat experience for them. It's hard not to take your quarterback. Tyler's our quarterback, so he needs to get out there in that environment and handle himself. Then, we took Ja'Wuan. Ja'Wuan is a two-year starter on the offensive line, and we think he's going to represent us real well. Then, of course, Herman is a great story. He's sort of our leader on defense. So, it just made sense, and you want to take somebody on both sides of the ball. You like to take some of your older players and more experienced players."

Danny Parker is currently the Associate Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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