Old school

The face is young but the style is old school. New Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley is so old school, in fact, that he rekindles memories of predecessor Phillip Fulmer.

At 41, Dooley is 18 years younger than Fulmer. But the new coach's approach is just as detail-oriented and minutely organized. His manner is just as low-key and businesslike. He prefers that his lips, like his practices, be closed. When he does speak he measures his words carefully. If he coaches 50 years he will never, EVER say anything that winds up on the bulletin board of an opposing team.

He is tolerant of the media but wary of it. He is far more comfortable behind a blocking sled than behind a podium. Hard-nosed and strong-willed, he seems born to coach and destined to compete. He is a throwback to the time when coaches coached and others handled the periphery issues. He leaves no doubt that he is IN CHARGE.

Clearly, there is a good bit of Phillip Fulmer in Derek Dooley. Tennessee's veteran players have noticed.

"It's kind of funny and scary how much they're alike," senior defensive end Chris Walker said following Thursday's spring practice. "They're different in some things but there's a lot of carryover from Coach Fulmer to Coach Dooley. That's awesome to see because I love Coach Fulmer."

Like Fulmer, Dooley believes toughness - mental and physical - is the trait that separates winners from losers. Their schemes may be different but their philosophies are essentially the same.

"Definitely," Walker said. "I see it in the way we're going to work, how tough we're going to be. Coach Fulmer always said this program was going to be modeled on toughness, and that's the first thing Coach Dooley said when we met. He said we're going to be tough and we're going to run the football, like old Tennessee used to.

"I was really encouraged by that. He said he's going to embrace everything at Tennessee, and that's what I love.

Dooley may embrace everything at Tennessee but he won't let "how it was done in the past" affect his decison-making.

"The main difference I see is that Coach Fulmer was a guy that wanted the tradition-type things around," Walker said. "Coach Dooley is like, 'We're going to do it our way, and we're going to get it done.'"

Senior wide receiver Gerald Jones sees another similarity between his current coach and his former coach. Both like to share tales that underscore the link between football and other facets of life.

"Him and Coach Fulmer always have a little story," Jones said, grinning softly. "Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't; sometimes it goes over your head. But, speaking-wise, he reminds me of a young Coach Fulmer, most definitely."


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