Derek Dooley right, and his wife Dr. Allison Dooley look on as Derek is being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Tennessee during a news conference on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 in Knoxville, Tenn. Dooley, who was the head coach at Louisiana Tech, replaces Lane Kiffin, who left Tennessee to become head coach at Southern California. (AP Photo/Lisa Norman-Hudson)
KNOXVILLE -- Derek Dooley's shotgun wedding with the University of Tennessee hasn't featured much of a honeymoon.
UT players and media met the Volunteers' new head coach Friday night, and he strolled onto the Thompson-Boling Arena floor with his three children Saturday afternoon to wave at more than 20,000 cheering fans.
Other than those quick instances, though, Dooley has had to cram weeks' worth of work into mere hours. National signing day is barely more than two weeks away, and he is scrambling to fill out a coaching staff and show that staff to recruits.
As of Saturday night, UT listed only four coaches: Dooley, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, linebackers coach Lance Thompson and defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza.
Vols interim head coach Kippy Brown, at least in some part because of a perceived lack of an authentic interview for the full-time position, took a job with Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks. Dooley also dismissed offensive line coach James Cregg and quarterbacks coach David Reaves, Kiffin's close friend and brother-in-law.
UT offensive lineman Cody Pope said he spoke with Cregg earlier in the week, and his position coach didn't paint a pretty picture for his future under a new boss.
"He's a good coach, and I hope it doesn't turn out that way, but this is a business," Pope said. "Maybe Coach Dooley has his own guy, or maybe Coach Cregg just doesn't feel comfortable and would be better off somewhere else. I'm not sure, but all that matters right now is Coach Dooley's our coach, and we just have to believe that he'll bring in some great assistants for us.
"You just have to say to yourself, 'We're Tennessee. We're going to have good coaches,' I'm sure it'll be fine."
Dooley said Friday night that he didn't have to have an "all-star staff" but rather the best collection of assistants for his program's long-term stability and prosperity.
"It's very premature to start talking names and specifics," Dooley said. "The first thing I'm going to do is sit down and talk with the coaches that are here. I hope they want to stay. I hope they believe in me. I hope they've made a lot of phone calls about who I am and what I represent.
"But you know, let me say this about a staff. This whole 'putting together the best staff in the country' and all this, well, every staff can't be a headliner to me to make a good staff. A staff is a team, and each member of a staff brings strengths, and each member of a staff has things that maybe they don't do as well. It's no different than assembling a football team, and so what I'm more concerned with is who wants to be here -- who is going to believe in how we're going to run our organization and how we're going to play offense, defense and special teams. What kind of team member are they going to be? How much are they going to believe in this institution?
"Hopefully, at the end of the day, we're going to have one heck of a team."
The next two weeks will go a long way toward determining the Vols' talent level for next season.
Most of this weekend's scheduled official visitors were in town Saturday -- All-America wide receiver and UT commit Markeith Ambles was the most notable exception -- and Dooley will recruit out of town all day today.
"My personal style in recruiting, it's me. It's my personality," Dooley said. "What's important is you sell the program and sell the university, and not just sell one guy. I think those are the kind of student-athletes that come in and bleed orange, and they come in and play their hearts out for the program because they're coming to a school for the right reasons."
Dooley told the Vols in a brief meeting Friday night that he would soon learn all their names and everything about their families, but he asked them to "bear with me for two weeks."
"What I'm about to do the next two weeks is very important for our program," Dooley said. "I'm not doing it to neglect the team. I'm not saying that because the team's not important as what I'm doing. But the fact of the matter is we've got a recruiting calendar, and we've only got two weeks to go, and we've got to put all our energy into that.
"I think they'll understand."
They do "completely understand," middle linebacker and team captain Nick Reveiz said.
"Recruiting is an element to football where they're going to better our team with the guys he brings in there," Reveiz said. "He promised us he's going to sit down with every single player and talk about what our goals are, and what we're going to see in this program. That will come in time, but right now the biggest thing is recruiting."
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