'Polished, crisp' practice

The last of Tennessee's spring practices may not have been the best of the 14 but it was close enough to have head coach Derek Dooley clearly pleased as he met with the media afterward.

Calling the workout "real polished, crisp ... good energy," the first-year Vol coach added that "It really signifies that spring practice is over and the last thing is the spring game."

Senior captains held a Wednesday night "draft" to select the rosters for Saturday's Orange & White Game. Dooley was pleased with the preparation and effort that went into the process.

"We had a great draft last night," he said. "The players were into it. Right now they're divided in their teams and they're going over their last-minute strategy. The head coaches are taking over, and I'm looking forward to just sit back and watch. Everything's out of my hands right now."

As has been well documented, Dooley assumed command of the program under adverse circumstances last Jan. 15. Lane Kiffin's abrupt departure to become head man at USC three weeks shy of National Signing Day cost the Vols several veteran players and some recruiting commitments, as well.

Dooley quickly assembled a skeleton coaching staff, scrambled to salvage the signing class, then completed his staff. The next step was to take the first baby steps toward molding a team during spring practice. For the most part, he believes that process went well.

"I really feel good about the 14 days of work that we put in," he said. "I feel like I have a very good handle on our personnel. I feel like our staff has a good feel for some of the things we can do well and some of the things we better stay out of. I feel like we have a good understanding of our needs going forward.

"It went about as well as I could hope for - from an administrative standpoint, from the players' commitment standpoint. I'm looking forward to kind of reevaluating some things, cleaning up some things after this week and then getting ready for the fall."

Following Saturday's O&W Game, Dooley and his staff cannot oversee the activities of the players until preseason camp begins in August. That means team leaders must arrange "voluntary" workouts to ensure that the Vols stay on the same page mentally and on the right path physically during the offseason.

"I'm not worried about it," Dooley said. "The one thing I've noticed since I've been here is that these guys want to work. The work ethic has not been an issue, and I don't expect us to be wondering where guys are this summer. I'll be surprised if that's the case.

"They all want to win. They want to do well. The key for us is getting 'em to understand how to work. It's one thing to work hard but everybody works hard. Teams that work smart and work diligently - getting feedback every day on their work and going out to improve the next day - are the ones that make strides."


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