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De-reeeeeeek, Deee-rek Doo-ley
Coach of the Vo-o-lun-teers
Posted: Monday, July 26th, 2010, 2:18 PM • Permalink
I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely skeptical about the Derek Dooley hire when it was made. I knew Mike Hamilton was backed into a corner with the timing of Lame Duck Kiffin's sudden departure. In other words, I knew we weren't really getting our first choice.

But, sometimes, the prettiest girl at prom ends up being 250 lbs. by her 30th birthday. You never know.

At least that was what I tried to tell myself. "Oh, this guy was one of Nick Saban's top assistants. He must know his stuff. Wow, he took Louisiana Tech to their first bowl game in a trillion years! He gave Boise State trouble, and they keep beating BCS conference champions. His dad is Vince Dooley, so he must have some recruiting connections in the Southeast. He kept Lance Thompson and Jim Chaney; that's a good sign. He's assembled a good staff. Justin Wilcox—I like that hire. Man, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers?! Way to close out a recruiting class with only a couple of weeks!" (And we didn't even know the extent of Da'Rick Da Freak's pugilistic prowess at that point.) media appearances. No 2011 commitments. No recruiting buzz. No recruits mentioning us in their top 5 or 10. Former players—including THE Eric Berry—are upset about being denied their long-standing access to facilities and practices. In other words, “Ruh-roh, Raggy!”

“Maybe I was right the first time. Maybe we really did get the leftovers.”

Then...commitment #1: Christian Harris, LB, on 3/20/10. "No name guy, really, but maybe this is just the start. Maybe the recruiting train is about to get rolling. Come on, spring practice!"

Ah, spring practice. That was fun. (Insert sarcastic smirk here.) Aaron Douglas and Bryce Brown are no-shows. Then, Douglas and Nick Stephens transfer. But, really, who needs your top returning OT, QB, and RB? Those guys aren't that important, right?

Follow that bit of encouraging news with an Orange and White game that didn't exactly inspire hope, unless you're a big fan of games that end 16-7 with your projected starting QB struggling.

"Does someone need a Scooby Snack?"

Then, after the relatively uneventful spring practice period (there’s that smirk again)...the Big Orange Caravan. Crowds of Vol fans clamoring for a look at their secret coach finally get their wish. "Dooley really does exist! That wasn't just my imagination back on January 15."

More than that, Dooley impressed and even endeared himself to the fans. He even got his second commitment, and a good one at that: Alan Posey, OL, on 5/4/10. "Offensive line—a position of need. That's a good sign." Then...

*Cricket, cricket* *Cricket, cricket*

Nothing for weeks. “It’s spring. What should I expect?” Uhhhh, how about a couple of commitments? “Does a basketball player from MTSU count?” Um, no.

(You like that internal monologue?)

Finally, June hits, and the commitments start flowing: Darin Gooch, OL, 6/1/10; Brent Brewer, DB, 6/6/10. Both for the 2010 class. As for the 2011 class: Andrew Power, TE (JUCO), 6/13/10; Tom Smith, RB, 6/15/10; Brian Randolph, DB, 6/16/10. Dooley adds Andre Lott as Vol for Life/Character Coordinator—which I see as a very good move—and the NCAA takes a wrecking ball to Kiffin and USC! “Scoooooby Dooby Dooooooo!”

The end of June brings another (much needed) 2010 commitment in the person of Matt Darr, P, 6/30/10, widely considered the best punter in the 2010 class. Not that we needed one of those or anything. Oh, did I mention he’s a part-time linebacker? And at 6’2” and 215 lbs., he may actually be able to make a tackle if—or should I say when—the rest of our punt coverage teams fail to do so.

As good as that news was, the start of July brought a commitment from Dooley’s top choice at QB, Justin Worley, on 7/2/10, as well as one from Allan Carson, DT, on 7/7/10. While the news of WR Todd Campbell’s departure wasn’t great news, it was more than offset by the transfer of DE Malik Jackson from…drum roll please…USC!

“Hey, each of these commitments addresses a different position. That’s a good sign.”

Déjŕ vu, anyone?

Now, I don’t hold the decision not to play USC next year in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Dooley. That’s Mike Hamilton’s deal. Neither do I hold Dooley responsible for his players’ actions at Bar Knoxville in the wee hours of July 9. (You already know my take on that “situation.”) Regardless, bad publicity for UT football is bad publicity for Derek Dooley. But I guess you can handle those sorts of things when you make in one season what a lot of normal folks would consider a nice retirement fund.

Meanwhile, no more commitments, which leaves us somewhere around 50th in the country at this point. Even though Matt Simms has followed his less than stellar spring performance with a good showing at the Manning Passing Academy this summer, the drama with Nick Lamaison has caused further consternation among fans with regard to the QB situation. There have been, however, several more episodes of “As Bryce Brown Turns” to enjoy.

In fact, Dooley addressed the now infamous “saga” before taking questions at SEC Media Days. (Read Tony's Blog for the latest on Bryce Brown.) Which brings me to my last bit of info. on Dooley to date: his performance in Hoover. First of all, I loved the fact that he ripped everyone from the guy directing traffic in the media rooms to prominent members of the southeastern sports media themselves. Classic. (Derek Dooley @ SEC Media Days) Meanwhile, SEC personalities Mike Slive, Nick Saban, and Urban Meyer kept gushing over Dooley, expressing how much they like and respect him. (Link) I know this news doesn’t sit well with a lot of UT fans who believe that a coach being liked by other league coaches means he’s a doormat. Since Dooley hasn’t actually coached a game yet, I’m less inclined to see a problem with the statements. All it tells me is that Dooley has enough sense to conduct himself with the class and integrity he preaches to his players. If after four seasons Saban and Urban are still sending Dooley Christmas cards, then I’ll be concerned. For what it’s worth, I thought he did really well at Media Days (for what THEY’RE worth…which isn’t much).

That said, and as you’ve probably figured out by now, my opinion of Dooley is still in flux. Considering that we haven’t even made it to fall yet, I suppose that’s where my opinion should be. With things continuing to oscillate in his brief tenure, I need a larger sample by which to judge DD, including a won-loss record. If you had asked me a couple of months ago, my assessment would not have been positive, but now I’m cautiously optimistic…mostly because I’m a realistic homer. (Can anyone say, “Oxymoron”?)

Nevertheless, it looks like I’m not the only one who’s still not quite sure what to think about Dooley. I can’t remember a time when the UT Athletic Department had more trouble trying to sell tickets. (I know, I know. Increased prices and “donations,” “the economy,” HD TV, being mediocre for years, etc. all contribute to that. But that doesn’t help me make my point, so forget that for now.)

But have you seen the hair?! I haven’t seen that much hairspray since my sisters’ obsession with Aqua Net back in the ‘80s. So, even if the whole coaching thing doesn’t work out, and he doesn’t want to go back to practicing law, Dooley could always have a career as a news anchor.

My fearless predictions for the 2010 season coming soon. Gotta keep up with the Doinks and Tonys of the world, ya know.
1 .. 240 241 242 .. 244

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