Derek Dooley Preseason Press Conference

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Aug. 2, 2012

HEAD COACH Derek Dooley
(opening statement)
" Welcome back. You guys have heard me most of the summer bragging about the team on their offseason and the last eight months about how hard they worked, the chemistry, their leadership growth. And all of that's great, but now we are at a point where none of that will pay dividends in the fall if we don't approach the next four weeks with the right kind of mindset.

"As we all know, training camp is going to be harder. It's going to be a lot harder to have good leadership. It's harder to have good chemistry, because of how tough it's going to be on them. So, we're going to try and get them comfortable being uncomfortable so that they are ready for this season to handle all of the adversity that you are going to face over the course of 12 games."

(On recent roster additions)
"A couple of roster updates that will be different from what you've seen recently... We have four new faces you'll notice on there. C.P. (Cordarrelle Patterson), we'll just say C.P. from now on because his name is hard to pronounce, Davante Bourque, Q. (Quenshaun) Watson and Omari Phillips are the four new faces that weren't here the first session of summer when I think I talked to everybody last."

(On Nigel Mitchell-Thornton)
"Nigel Mitchell-Thornton graduated. He got it done in three years, and he is retired (from football) and on to the business world. I support Nigel, I'm proud for him, and he'll be a great employee for somebody."

(Regarding injuries)
"Only really two injury issues, and you know about both of them. Pig Howard is two-and-a-half weeks out of his surgery and progressing great. He's probably a month or so away. He's still in a boot and on crutches, so we'll know more when he's moving around. Christian Harris is three-and-a-half months out from his ACL and really getting back at a rapid pace. We'll know more. The four-month mark is kind of the first indicator, and generally that (recovery) is a six-month rule of thumb. Some come back in four, some five, some six, some eight, some 12. That's really all I've got."

(On the training camp schedule)
"The schedule is pretty much the same. The first week, the first three days we're doing a split-practice format. That hasn't changed. It will be a great chance to evaluate all of the new faces. After a week, that's when we go to Milligan. I'll talk to you guys (media) more about that later. Then we come back for another week, before we start on N.C. State."

(On everyone he signed being accepted at UT)
"I think we did the same thing last year. I think. We've had two full recruiting classes now, and we've gotten everybody in. It's a combination of things. I think balancing your class with how many at-risk guys you take, and we usually have a pretty good indicator early on whether or not they are going to qualify. It's more important now more than ever, because you can't over-sign. You can't go over 25. Hey, it wouldn't happen if those guys (signees) didn't put in a lot of work and finish strong, and they all did."

(On whether he knows how this year's freshman class will factor into the depth chart)
"No, it's a good question. I think this year is more the norm, what we hope is the norm every year. I think what you are alluding to is last year they were going to have to play whether they were ready or not. So, we probably put some guys in that shouldn't be playing. This year, it's going to be if they come in and perform better than what we have, then we're going to play them. There'll be some guys that can help us on special teams, and we get them integrated that way. We're hoping we don't have to play 17 or 18 like we did. Generally, the rule of thumb is around eight to 10 guys, where you're integrating them, they're playing and maybe one or two guys are making a difference because it's hard."

(On defensive lineman Omari Phillips and how it came about for UT to sign him this late)
"We had some guys on the staff that had a relationship, of course, so we just went through the process like we do with anybody of that nature. We brought him up on a visit, we did our diligence and the process has gotten us to here. Really not any different than we do every other player. We just did it in a different time of year than what you normally do."

(On why he feels team unity is so important going into this year)
"Well, it's really important going into every year. I've never been around a good football team, a championship football team, that always didn't say, `you know what, we just had great team chemistry, we had great leadership, we had tremendous unity.' That, combined with the fact it was pretty apparent we didn't have what we needed last year from that standpoint, it's probably why there's such a bigger emphasis on it."

(On whether he realized his team may not have had the kind of unity it needed last year)
"I never did. It was always a work in progress, and I'm not here to say we've got it right now. Because if we go into week three, four, five and we show that we don't, we didn't. You don't really know until the end of the year. And you don't have it from day one, it doesn't matter what team you have, because every year is a new year. You start every year kind of fresh, you try to build chemistry and leadership throughout the course of the year, and then at the end of the year, you look back and you say, `boy, that was a pretty close team or, well, we didn't do as good of a job as we need to. What do we have to do to fix it.'"

(On whether this year's team is in a better position to have stronger chemistry)
"I think it's fair to say. I think this group is showing more signs of chemistry and leadership than any group since I've been here, which is only the third one."

(On whether it was common at his previous stints at LSU and La. Tech to get everyone in school)
"I'm scared to give you an answer, because I know you guys can go research it, and I'd probably be wrong. There were very few times when a guy didn't qualify that we didn't know there was no way. I look back, there were times when we over-signed at Tech and other places, but we knew from day one that that guy is going to junior college. Very few times did we sign someone, expecting him to be there, and then, `oh, shoot he didn't make it.' I can't even think of one, to be frank with you, but there surely were one or two.

"I think you need to do so much diligence on the front end to see where is this guy from an eligibility standpoint, what does he have to do to get there and, most importantly, what evidence is there to think that he's going to do it? That's where most people say, `if he does this, then he'll qualify.' But if you look at his three years, he's never done that, so what makes you think he will. Some of them respond and get it done, so you have to kind of weigh what the player's makeup is, what does he have left to do and do they fit? If he doesn't have a lot to do and he's not great makeup, then O.K. We'll, if he has a lot to do and he's got good makeup, meaning his effort and drive is there, then you can get it done."

(On his expectations for fall camp and whether they are higher than last year)
"From an understanding what we are doing on all of our schemes, I think that is a fair statement. Of course, the biggest thing we are looking for is A) have we picked up where we left off?; is there any drop off?, and then B) evaluating the newcomers, who are these guys?, when we get them out there on the field. Of course, C) is always the guys that made some big strides and, holy smokes, he didn't look like this in the spring."

(On the veterans being impressed with the new wide receivers thus far)
"A) it was an important year for us to sign wideouts, because even though our two starters are high-profile guys, we only have three guys with experience. So, we were really thin there, and we needed to. They all are a little different. They all have different skill sets. It's hard for me to comment until I go out there and see them. I'll have a better feel for them after four or five practices."

(On guys saying Justin Hunter seems to be at least as good and maybe better than last year)
"I think it is fair to say his knee is fine. Now, it's just he's got to get the pads on and get hit and be able to go 12 games and produce. This will be his first time where we depend on him every game, and can he do it? His first year, he was able to sit there with Gerald Jones and Denarius (Moore), who were two pretty good receivers, and he can go in there and catch some jump balls and you didn't depend on him every week. Of course, second year, he only made it a couple of camps. We're still in uncharted waters for him."

(On if he was disappointed that DL Darrington Sentimore did not win a starting job outright in the spring)
"He didn't disappoint us at all. I do think that he came in at a different level of weight and conditioning that he needed to be a good player. He did some really good things in the spring, but it was really more a matter of consistency. It's a matter of knowing what to do.

"I expect those guys to come in and contribute, but I never expect them to come in day one and they are better than all of the other guys because I think it's hard. With junior college guys, you cannot think that because they're older, we're good there. Well you're not. They're like freshmen in a lot of ways. I think you'll see a jump in him though this fall."

(On if Sentimore not winning a starting job was a result of Steven Fowlkes playing better)
"Fowlkes played better. Yes, definitely. We have a lot of guys on that D-line we've got to sort through. And that's going to be a real challenge for us early in camp - saying who are the guys. We can't rep them all and play them all, so we better find the top three pretty quickly. We've got about eight to 10 guys that are going to get in there and do something."

(On the competition at the center position between James Stone, Alex Bullard and Mack Crowder)
"I would put Mack really more at third. We're still looking for our best five linemen. The encouraging thing is we feel like we have got a much bigger pool to find the best five. So James, of course you all know his story, and Alex and Marcus Jackson - we've got seven guys that have been out in the game and performed well at times. So it's just who is the best five and if we've got six we'll find a way to get six in there. If we've got seven, we'll find a way to do that."

(On the expectations for Antonio Richardson)
"The expectation is that we don't worry about the left tackle position and say `Uh-oh, kick Dallas (Thomas) back out there.' That's what we probably will do if Antonio is struggling. It's nice to have a guy who played two years at left tackle that you can go to in the event that Antonio struggles. He has been doing great though even though he's a first-year starter, he's a year into the program. That's not like a freshman out there."

(On working James Stone at center in the summer after not having him work there very much in the spring)
"Part of it is we were doing some different things and Alex (Bullard) wasn't quite where we wanted him to be yet and I didn't want to disrupt that. Probably, looking back, I should have ran James (Stone at center) in the second half of spring. I went into spring thinking that way and didn't do it. I'm not going to do that in fall camp. We're going to look at both of them and see who's the most dependable and most consistent."

(On if secondary is an area with a lot of competition where a lot of guys have an opportunity to start...)
"...and play a lot for a lot of reasons. One of them is because we do have to play a lot of nickel and that sort of thing. Secondly, there's not a lot of guys back there that have had big-time production. Prentiss (Waggner) of course and Brian Randolph have played the most. Brent Brewer is going to be back and he played last year. Then you've got Byron Moore who is coming on at safety and then you've got guys like Eric Gordon who has played a lot and Justin Coleman who is doing well. So there's a lot more to choose from. It's just about getting five guys who can play at this level that we need them to play. It's a little bit like what's on the D-line. There's a lot more guys who we think in competition can show some stuff. Now it's just a matter of who's going to do it."

(On having Prentiss Waggner more settled in at cornerback and not moving him back and forth at safety)
"He's going to have his shoulder again. He didn't hit in the spring. He's settling in at corner and no more injury. He got his shoulder fixed so he can go hit and in time we're going to see how he's going to respond."

(On if the Tyler Bray incident required him to handle things differently because he is the quarterback)
"No, I didn't handle it much differently as I would another player. But what is different about it is he's our quarterback, so we handled it and kind of moved past it."

(On if Da'Rick Rogers is suspended for the first game of the season)
"No. I don't know what you're talking about."

(On the adversity the young running back group faced last year will help this season)
"I hope so and I think it's going to pay off just because they've been out there before. I hope nothing will surprise them. What I think is going to pay off even more than that is their physical and emotional growth over the course of a year. It's like any experienced player. They probably went in with a little higher expectation that it was going to be pretty easy, realized how hard it was and now they've got to go to work."

(On if seeing the team on the field for the first time in 2012 will be different when his first UT team took to the field in fall practice)
"Yes. It will be significant because everybody out there understands the expectation. They understand how we do things - they believe in it - and with a deep group, we've got more guys out there. So, it's a very different feeling and it should be. We're going into our third year. It would be that way in any program."

(On the decision for the change at the Vol For Life coordinator position)
"Andre (Lott), he's not working for us now, but he's still a part of the family. He's a letterman, he's one of us and always will be. I think it's a great opportunity to reshape it a little bit. We started this two years ago from scratch, I did. You go in and you have some ideas about how we can go in and make it better. Andre did a lot of good things and I think it has made a big impact with a lot of our players but I also think we can make it move to another direction and another level. We'll keep you guys updated on where we head on that."

(On if it is a pressing issue to fill the VFL coordinator position)
"No. The pressing issue is what we've got to do tomorrow."

(On if the VFL program is at a place where it will not need a coordinator)
"I don't think so over time. It's not a situation where we need to hire someone tomorrow."

(On what he hopes to see from the defensive line)
"Active and disruptive. That's it. Active and disruptive. Hard to block and then runs to the ball and finishes. If you're active and you disrupt, if you can take on a block, disengage and finish - that's pretty simple."

(On Darrington Sentimore losing weight)
"He looks a little better now. Body looks a little better. So, we'll see if that helps him."

"We were really proud of what he came in at. His body fat was incredibly low for what his weight is and his strength levels are really high. He's come in at a good place physically. But again, he has never been out there, taking on one of our guys. So we'll see. He's big."

(On if the competition at kicker is wide open)
"Yes. Nobody has really got a position. Obviously if you had a lot of production last year, it's going to be hard to beat you out. George (Bullock) is going to get in here and compete with Michael (Palardy). We'll see if they both respond well. They're going to get a lot of opportunities."





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