Stand-up staff

Tennessee went a combined 12-13 the past two football seasons, the program's worst two-year mark since Johnny Majors opened 9-12-1 by going 4-7 in 1977 and 5-5-1 in '78.

Tennessee went a combined 12-13 the past two football seasons, the program's worst two-year mark since Johnny Majors opened 9-12-1 by going 4-7 in 1977 and 5-5-1 in '78. Moreover, a mass exodus of players caused by two head coaching changes within 14 months reduced the Vols' talent and depth to perhaps their lowest levels in two decades.

Clearly, a lot of problems must be fixed before Tennessee can contend for the SEC championship, and Derek Dooley can't fix them all by himself. Fortunately for the Vols' first-year head man, he won't have to.

Dooley thought he'd assembled a quality staff of aides when he hired them last winter. One spring practice later, he's SURE he did so.

Obviously, the 2010 staff lacks the star power of the 2009 staff. It has no one as famous as Monte Kiffin or as infamous as Ed Orgeron. Instead, it is a group of men Dooley would be willing to entrust with his future. Perhaps he already has.

In a recent exclusive interview with, Dooley offered insights into each of his nine aides, starting with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, the lone offensive holdover from the '09 UT staff.

"Jim Chaney is a very intelligent, seasoned professional," Dooley said. "He and I were in the same systems in the NFL, so it really has been a great dynamic. We communicate very effectively. He understands and, when he doesn't, it gets resolved quickly. He's got a great track record, and I'm happy to have him."

Assistant head coach/receivers coach Charlie Baggett brings a glittering resume' to Tennessee.

"I worked with Charlie Baggett on the Dolphins staff for two years," Dooley noted. "He's coached a tremendous number of talented receivers - in the NFL and in college. He developed some good ones to be great and some great ones to be Pro Bowlers. He's very experienced and been around a long time.

"Harry Hiestand is the same deal. He coached a lot of good football players at Illinois and did a remarkable job with the Chicago Bears. He's always had good, tough, physical linemen who play hard. He's experienced and mature."

Special-teams play has been an ongoing problem at Tennessee for years. Dooley believes he has solved that problem.

"Eric Russell coordinates our special teams and coaches tight ends," the new head man said. "He did a remarkable job at Louisiana Tech. We had the best special teams in the country, and he did an excellent job last year for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Eric's an excellent recruiter."

The critical job of fine-tuning Vol quarterbacks falls to a former quarterback.

"Darin Hinshaw has a tremendous future in football," Dooley said. "He's young, bright, energetic. He was a great quarterback who broke all kinds of records, so he brings that with him."

While coaching Louisiana Tech of the Western Athletics Conference the past three years, Dooley was so impressed with Justin Wilcox that he hired him away from Boise State to coordinate Tennessee's defense.

"Justin Wilcox is a guy I played against for three years and have a lot of respect for," Dooley said. "His best resume' is his film the last three years - the phenomenal defenses he had at Boise State."

Unlike predecessor Lane Kiffin, Dooley chose to hire an aide with a link to Tennessee's football past.

"Everybody knows Chuck Smith, a former Vol," Dooley said. "He was one of the best players in Atlanta Falcon history and an all-star player at Tennessee. He brings something special on the defensive front."

The other two defensive assistants are guys the new UT head man worked with at previous stops.

"I was with Lance Thompson at LSU, and we won a national championship," Dooley noted. "He does a great job of coaching. He's known for his recruiting but he's equally good as a coach.

"Terry Joseph was with me at Louisiana Tech. He's another bright, young, up-and-coming coach. He's very professional, intelligent. He's a great recruiter with a good knowledge of the game and a great connection with the players."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories