April 13, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Unlike his former mentor Johnny Majors or current Vols head coach Derek Dooley, 2012 Tennessee Football Coaching Clinic keynote speaker Jon Gruden may never don orange pants in his life.
"I think I saw Bill Battle wearing those," Gruden said. "I saw Coach Majors at one point in his career wearing those pants. That looks like the loudmouth gear...Who knows? If you love Tennessee, you can wear any kind of orange you want."
But Gruden, who started his coaching career at Tennessee as a graduate assistant in 1986-87, did wear a smile as he returned to Rocky Top.
Currently serving as an analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Football, Gruden was the featured speaker for UT's annual coaching clinic Friday evening, which saw more than 350 coaches in attendance.
"It was great," Gruden said. "My wife cheered at Tennessee when I was a GA. We got to reunite with Coach Majors last night and had dinner, reminiscing on what Tennessee is all about and the impact that he's had not only on me but on a lot of people in this business. Getting to know Coach Dooley and meeting some of the Volunteer players, it was a great couple days."
One of the Vols that Gruden met was junior quarterback Tyler Bray.
Gruden, who has analyzed plenty of NFL Draft quarterback prospects on his "Gruden QB Camp" feature that airs on ESPN, was impressed with the Vols' gunslinger.
"He's a great looking kid," Gruden said. "He's 6-6. There's no question he can throw the ball. It's about him choking this opportunity here. Getting with this receiving corps, they have some great young receivers here.
"They get with Coach (offensive coordinator Jim) Chaney mastering this offense and putting his spin on it and winning games. There's no question he has the physical talents to be an outstanding player. He just has to go prove it daily on the practice field, in the meeting rooms and on game day. Hopefully, that happens."
The Super Bowl XXXVII champion (Tampa Bay) head coach studied with Dooley for about five hours and also caught up with UT defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, whom he coached with at Pittsburgh in 1991.
Gruden, who coached the Oakland Raiders (1998-2001) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-08) to a combined total of five divisional titles and five playoff appearances, believes the Tennessee football program is in good hands.
"They have an excellent coaching staff here," Gruden said. "They're trying to get back to where Tennessee football is used to being. Since I love Tennessee and my wife is from Tennessee, it was a great opportunity to come back. If I can help - hopefully I did, I don't know - just to be a part of it again was exciting."