Aug. 28, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - When Derek Dooley leads the Vols on the field at the Georgia Dome on Friday, it will be against a long-time friend and mentor in NC State head coach Tom O'Brien.
The two go way back as O'Brien was an assistant coach on the Virginia staff when Dooley played wide receiver for the Cavaliers from 1987-90. That experience left a strong impression on Dooley as he transitioned into the coaching world himself.
"I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him when I was a player because I knew he was extremely intelligent, he was an outstanding coach schematically and he was a great motivator," Dooley said. "He was a Marine, he was hard-nosed and tough. I just really admired him."
Although O'Brien worked with the offensive line with the Cavaliers, Dooley was able to get a unique look at his coaching style through the words of his roommates.
"I roomed with all the offensive linemen so I had a level of respect for him as an outsider, but I also heard all the complaining from the big guys about him," Dooley said. "Usually, that's probably good when they are complaining a little bit that he was tough on them."
Since joining O'Brien among the head coaching ranks, Dooley has had no hesitation to pick up the phone and call him to pick his brain about the game and utilize him as a resource for improvement.
"When I got back into coaching, he has been a real mentor for me," Dooley said. "I leaned on him a lot when I was at Louisiana Tech because he has had tremendous consistency in all of his teams. That's what I've admired most about him."
COMFORT LEVEL HIGH FOR CHANEYHeading into Friday's matchup with NC State, Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney feels as comfortable with his offense as ever.
A lot of that has to do with finally having a full collection of experienced players who know their way around his offense, with 10 upperclassmen listed among the team's 11 starters.
With a productive training camp now behind them, Chaney is ready to get out on the field and see his crew in action.
"I'm excited, I don't know about nervous," Chaney said. "You are always excited about seeing guys go out there and perform. The guys who have played, they are a year older, you hope to see a year more maturity. The new guys you have no idea about. I'm looking forward to seeing them go out there and see what they do."
As he enters Friday's game with a pretty good idea of what to expect from most of his players, Chaney is excited about taking that knowledge and translating it into success on the field.
"What excites any coach is when the players know the plays and when they know what they can and can't do," Chaney said. "It's up to me to put them in the right position to make plays. That's always the excitement. The unknowns are the ones that kill coaches. I feel like I know these kids pretty well."
While that physical execution of the X's and O's is crucial, Chaney knows that his team must be mentally prepared to take on the Wolfpack for four full quarters as well.
"Take the Maryland ballgame where they are down by 27 in the third quarter and came back and won by , that is the challenge of NC State," Chaney said. "They have a culture over there and kids that are used to winning. We'll come out and it's going to be a 60-minute dogfight. Making sure our team understands what they are walking into is the challenge. From a schematic standpoint, they play very, very hard and they are very, very sound. The challenge is making sure we are ready to play mentally."
From a personnel standpoint, Chaney's biggest challenge is designing a game plan for playing against NC State cornerback David Amerson, who led the NCAA with 13 interceptions last season.
The first step in doing that is determining whether he will play the wide side of the field in a zone like last season or if the Wolfpack will place him in more man-on-man situations with UT wide receiver Justin Hunter. Chaney has another position on his wish list for Amerson though.
"They appear to have kept him in the same spot," Chaney said. Who knows? The first game he could be anywhere. I hope he is playing defensive tackle."
TIME TO EXECUTEOne thing Tennessee Defensive Coordinator Sal Sunseri emphasized Tuesday afternoon is that the team has to go out and execute on Friday night against NC State.
In fact, he ended each answer with that statement.
Sunseri is ready for the first game of the year and he feels as though he, and the rest of the coaching staff, has prepared the team for any situation going up against the Wolfpack.
"Like anything else, you prepare yourself to go out and play," said Sunseri. "You give the kids every opportunity because you know you are going to see something new. You have to be able to handle it on the sidelines and then you take it from there. But we put them in every situation, every grouping, every play, every surprise somehow. It is all about being able to adjust. And that is where the coaches come into factor."
Sunseri will be the defensive play caller for the first time since 1999 when he trolled the sidelines at Alabama A&M. But he is not worried about the lapse of time; to him it's just like playing.
"If you know what formation they are coming out of," said Sunseri, "and what the play is you will know where the ball is going. Boom. If you study tape and see what they are doing, you are going to have calls for it and you go out and execute. That is the biggest thing."
The first game of the year is just three days away and after along fall camp, Sunseri knows the players are ready to get out there. And execute.
"I think like anything else these guys are tired of going against each other and they want to go and try and execute the game plan and do what we have to do," said Sunseri. "I think the kids are excited; they have been spending a lot of time on it. I think they know what to do, how to do it and why they are doing it."
Sunseri has also put a lot of late hours in at the office, while studying a lot of tape on NC State to better prepare himself for the season opener. Here is what he has to say about the Wolfpack
Sunseri's Snippets on the NC State