Dooley and UT working hard on Special Teams

Derek Dooley and his new coaching staff are working hard on fundamentals and are going back to the basics. One area of concern for the new head coach at Tennessee is the special teams unit. The Vols are spending a lot of time installing a lot of new schemes, go "Inside" to get the latest on a unit that needs improvement.

There are many varied opinions on how good last year's coaching staff really was at the University of Tennessee. Former head coach Lane Kiffin bragged to anyone that listen that he had the best coaching staff in college football.

While after just one season it was hard to wrap your head around that notion completely. There were some very talented coaches on that staff and probably was one of the top paid staff's in the country.

One thing that most Tennessee Vol fans will agree on is that UT wasn't very good when it came to special teams.

Former Auburn special team's coordinator Eddie Gran brought his talents to Knoxville, and while the running backs were coached well, can the same be said about the Vols Special Team's unit. For some reason his special team's magic never clicked at Rocky Top.

Apparently new Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley is going to do things a lot different with his program and one area that he is concern with is the special teams unit.

"We have a lot of work to do on special teams, I wished we had 15 more practices just for special teams," Dooley said Saturday. "A lot of new techniques and a lot of new schemes than they have been used to."

Dooley has apparently told his team that he wants to be a top 5 team when it comes to the special team's unit.

"If you are going to win championships you have to be great on special teams," Dooley said. "It's definitely important to us to become a much better squad in that area."

Dooley and his new staff have been spending at least three periods a practice on installing their special team system.

"Most of the new stuff is for the core guys on the unit, around the specialist," Dooley said. "How you implement your system and how much time you spend on it dictates how good you will be."

Two specialist return in punter Chad Cunningham and Daniel Lincoln, also expected to battle for both positions will be the Nation's No. 1 Kicker in Michael Palardy.

"We are fortunate to have some experience guys there," Dooley said. "We just have to work on the putting the best guys around them. Our new system and schemes are a lot different than what they have been use to."

New special team's coordinator Eric Russell, spent time with Dooley at Louisiana Tech before leaving and spending the last year at Texas Tech.

In his first year at Tech, he helped make the Bulldogs one of the top overall return teams in the country. Tech ranked No. 8 in punt return average and No. 26 in kickoff returns. Philip Beck ranked fourth in the country individually in punt return average.

Russell helped punter Chris Keagle average 41.3 yards a punt and earn first team All-WAC honors. Keagle and the punt coverage unit ranked No. 27 in the nation in net punting and tops in the WAC.

The Bulldogs also developed quite a reputation for blocking kicks as freshman Dominique Faust blocked three field goals and one punt while as a team Tech blocked a total of five kicks.

Russell spent 13 seasons at North Texas, including five as the special teams coordinator, where he led some of the nation's top special teams units. During his tenure at North Texas, Russell helped lead the program to four-straight Sun Belt Conference titles and four-consecutive appearances in the New Orleans Bowl from 2001 through 2004.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories