published Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Chat About the Vols with Wes

1:25 David Barry

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:25:16 GMT

We will begin the chat shortly

1:27 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:27:17 GMT

I'm fine with this going until 2:29, but Arsenal plays Bolton at 2:30, and a win by two goals puts the mighty Gunners top of the table over Chelsea.

1:27 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:27:43 GMT

We'll be ready when David Barry says we're ready. Just a couple of minutes away, I'd say.

1:28 David Barry

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:28:13 GMT

We will start the chat at 1:30.

1:29 David Barry

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:29:55 GMT

We are ready to chat.

1:30 Comment From TruOrange

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:30:01 GMT

What will be the final recruiting ranking for UT? Is there a big surprise out there that Dooley can land?

1:30 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:30:56 GMT

I wouldn't be surprised with any finish from 12-25th, to be honest. I think they'll be in the low teens. Dooley can recruit, and guys don't normally like to switch so close to signing day.

1:31 Comment From olhoazul

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:31:12 GMT

Looks like people are somewhat optimistic now with Dooley on board. My concern, however, is why a nationally established program had to go down to the "Minor Leagues" to get a coach. No one was available in one of the major conferences?

1:32 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:32:12 GMT

I think Hamilton wanted stability with this hire after the Kiffin turmoil. But the question is, "Was this a knee-jerk reaction, like hiring Kiffin just because he was so different than Fulmer." Dooley has powerful people in his corner, so there is hope.

1:32 Comment From Eric Eledge

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:32:24 GMT

What do you think the chances are the Vols will land WR Ambles now?...Thanks.

1:33 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:33:32 GMT

Not very good. Markeith doesn't like all the changes at UT. Three WR coaches in a few weeks. They're not 100 percent out of it, but I don't think their chances are great. Hunter was a nice pickup last night, though, and Milton and Meline are fine WR prospects.

1:33 Comment From FBInc

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:33:40 GMT

Is Steele solid to Clemson or is yesterday a version of agent chess? Any idea of a short list for remaining staff positions?

1:34 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:34:22 GMT

I think Steele will probably stay at Clemson, but look at the man's history. You NEVER say never with him. I'd say UT will have to look elsewhere, though.

1:34 Comment From Thomas (North Knox)

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:34:51 GMT

When would you expect the entire staff to be in place?

1:35 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:35:37 GMT

Before next weekend, I would think — or most of it should be in place by then. They'd like to have a DC before the weekend, with guys visiting campus.

1:35 Comment From Rocklion

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:35:54 GMT

With Kevin Steele seemingly out of the picture, who are some of the potential defensive coordinators UT could look at? A lot of support for Lance Thompson, what are your thoughts?

1:37 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:37:05 GMT

UT hasn't released an official statement on Thompson because he could end up being the DC — and I don't think that would be the worst thing in the world. Sal Sunseri is a name out there. There are others, but I'm working on figuring them out. They were solid on Kirby Smart and then Kevin Steele, but both said no.

1:37 Comment From Big Orange Erik

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:37:18 GMT

What do you believe a realistic expectation is for this UT men's bball team in the SEC and NCAA tourney?

1:37 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:37:24 GMT

Ellis Johnson has been contacted, too. He's the South Carolina DC.

1:38 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:38:16 GMT

I don't see them getting past the Sweet 16 at this point, but I think they can go 12-4 or 13-3 in the SEC and have a nice opening weekend in the Big Dance. Even if they don't make it past the Sweet 16, this could end up being the best coaching job of Pearl's career.

1:38 Comment From Thomas (North Knox)

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:38:26 GMT

Who will be UT's starting QB for the 2010 season opener?

1:39 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:39:22 GMT

I've always said Nick Stephens, and I'm sticking with that until proven otherwise. Nick is confident and ready, IMO, and his size will help him absorb blows allowed by a shaky-looking OL situation.

1:39 Comment From Mac B from Tennessee

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:39:31 GMT

What (if any) changes do you think we will see in the Vols' style of play next year?

1:40 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:40:20 GMT

I think you might see a 3-4 defense. The offense should be similar to last year's, with a pro-style look focused on the run. I think the special teams could be drastically different (and UT fans hope it's a lot better!).

1:40 Comment From Cary

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:40:37 GMT

Did Steele accept the position for DC then change his mind after talking with Clemson or was his answer always "no"?

1:41 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:41:27 GMT

My understanding is he told UT he was coming (or at least leaning toward coming) and only needed to tell his players face-to-face before announcing it. Then something changed.

1:41 Comment From BurgessVols

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:41:44 GMT

Do you think UT is considering looking for a new AD . If so do you think this is a move that needs to be made?

1:42 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:42:32 GMT

I think it's no secret that some are very unhappy with Hamilton, but I think he has enough support from people at the very top to withstand this ... as long as Dooley does his job.

1:42 Comment From Tyler

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:42:46 GMT

Hi, Wes! I watched the video from the Lane Kiffin "press conference" before he bolted for USC. How do you think it was handled by the journalists in attendance?

1:44 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:44:41 GMT

Ha! There's no easy answer for that, but I think the TV news producer made the wrong decision. The presser was on Kiffin's terms, not UT's, and we had to compromise a few things to get more time with him. Unfortunately, we didn't come to an agreement, so we only got the small statement. I'm just really glad my most colorful language didn't make YouTube, because I came up with some doozies. I could write about this topic for days, but I don't want to bore those who don't care. Email me, and I'll explain the entire situation.

1:44 Comment From MarkinTenn

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:44:56 GMT

Have you met with any of the current UT players to gauge their impressions of the new coach(es)?

1:45 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:45:56 GMT

They think he's a classy guy, but obviously they don't know much about him as a coach. They're optimistic, though, because former UT players Ahmad Paige and Lennon Creer sat out while transferring to LaTech last season, and both had nice things to say about him.

1:46 Comment From tennpride1

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:46:05 GMT

Any ideas on who they go after for Offensive Line coach?

1:46 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:46:57 GMT

I've heard UGA coach Stacy Searels' name mentioned a lot, but I don't know serious it is. That might be wishful thinking on their part. He's very happy in Athens, from what I hear. He and Dooley are friends, though, so you never know.

1:47 Comment From Leatherwood

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:47:03 GMT

Will UT go back to looking at DC Bumpas from Texas Christian as a possibility?

1:47 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:47:40 GMT

I'm not sure if they will, but they'd be wise to do so. In addition to having one of the best mustaches in college football history, he coaches a defense that is always ranked near the top nationally.

1:47 Comment From First-time caller

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:47:52 GMT

Talking hoops: How do you see the Vols matching up with Kentucky? Are they for sure the second-best team in the SEC, or can Vandy and MSU give them problems, especially on the road?

1:49 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:49:17 GMT

Vandy and MSU are right there with the Vols, IMO. Both have enough pieces to beat the Vols on a neutral floor. UT, as currently shaped, would be challenged to slow down Kentucky. But the Vols have developed a savviness I didn't think they had, and they certainly do have talent, but I just don't know who they have who can contain John Wall.

1:49 Comment From Volfan

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:49:33 GMT

Who are some of the other young UT guys in coaching that fans should keep on their radar

1:50 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:50:47 GMT

Tee Martin comes to mind. Jay Graham comes to mind, though he's not really an up-and-comer, since he's at South Carolina and doing well. Alvin Harper is coaching, as well. Look for Inky Johnson down the road, too, but he's still with UT as a GA.

1:51 Comment From Wes(orangenation79)

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:51:10 GMT

what names are you hearing for the RB'S coach??

1:52 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:52:35 GMT

I've prioritized trying to track down DCs, so I don't have as much there. Dooley is well connected with the SEC, though, and it's common knowledge that you want your RBs coach to be a great recruiter. Stay on my twitter page, and I'll try to get more info on that. Sorry, I'm a one-man band up here, and I wanted to prioritize their search for a DC.

1:53 Comment From Swag

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:53:16 GMT

Should the "sources close to UT" that continue to leak, at best, faulty information be punished by Mike Hamilton? (and yes, I understand these "sources" make your job easier)

1:54 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:54:25 GMT

I don't think Hamilton should punish them. I think their readers should punish them by not trusting them or reading their information. Or advertising with them. We at the TFP aren't perfect, and I'm biased, but I don't think any outlet anywhere has given you better coverage of the search process.

1:54 Comment From Zachishi

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:54:31 GMT

is Sal from Bama a real candidate...for DC

1:55 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:55:21 GMT

He's a name out there, and obviously Dooley likes other guys from the Saban tree. UT has already spoken with Smart and Steele ... so that would make sense.

1:55 Comment From BasketVol

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:55:26 GMT

Does UT have a PR firm or staff to help control public image for the Atheltic Department? Over the past few weeks, control of information and a speculating fanbase seem to have done some negative things for UT's image.

1:57 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:57:39 GMT

I think they have a very good PR staff, but they've been challenged with Kiffin and Co. They've put out more fires than people know about, and they've worked themselves like dogs to make things better. They can't control the way people speculate about things. It's the modern world. The cat's out of the bag. I think Dooley will help tremendously in that way, though.

1:57 Comment From BKnight2

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:57:55 GMT

Switching to hoops, what did you take Pearl's comment on TV last night "We can't play Tennessee basketball, but we can still win" to mean? Do we finally have the heart it takes to get past sweet 16?

1:59 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:59:38 GMT

Heart is part of it, but more specifically, it's about defense and rebounding. This is the best half-court D Pearl's had, by far, so there is hope. I think his comment just meant that this team can't play his style ... but who knows, maybe that will help them in the long run. UT is still going to run and press for a majority of the Pearl era. This is an exception, not a new rule.

1:59 Comment From rodney

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:59:46 GMT

hearing all the rumors about garner, which im not a big fan of other than his recruiting prowess. are there any candidates in the nfl that we may not know much about? sort of what uga did with grantham

2:00 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:00:49 GMT

There are candidates out there, for sure, but I think Dooley will prefer guys who have at least some college recruiting experience. There could very well be names out there. In fact, I've been calling friends in the NFL biz and asking about that. Stay tuned.

2:00 Comment From Zachishi

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:00:55 GMT

The Hunter kid is said to be Dooleys first commitment. Can you confirm this....

2:01 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:01:41 GMT

Yes, but he might have committed to Kiffin's staff, too, if they had room. But yes, this is the first non-Kiffin commit that Dooley sealed the deal with, and it's one of the nation's top 100 overall prospect. A huge statement, IMO.

2:01 Comment From JW

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:01:52 GMT

Has Dooly"s salary been announced

2:02 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:02:27 GMT

I'm not sure if it's been officially announced, but look for something in the 2-2.5 million range per year. Kind of like Kiffin's.

2:02 Comment From Baron Conrad

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:02:40 GMT

How do you manage to resist the urge to "break the story"? It seems that over the past 10 days you are the only reliable reporter in the region. Are you the only one doing your job properly?

2:04 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:04:31 GMT

I can only speak for myself, but I have standards, and our bosses have standards. I have a VERY short list of people at UT I trust as an anonymous source. It's like a lifeline from that millionaire show. You can't use it all the time. I hate using them any time, but sometimes they are necessary. I knew all along Cutcliffe wasn't happening, because a very prominent person with the program didn't want it to happen.

2:04 Comment From Sturmegeshutz

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:04:39 GMT

Who do you see starting on the DL ?

2:05 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:05:27 GMT

Depends on whether it's a 4-3 or 3-4. I'd say your safest bets are DEs Walker and Martin/Williams, and DTs Hughes and Walls. Look for Williams to make a move inside if the team needs it.

2:05 Comment From FBInc

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:05:37 GMT

On the recruiting front, are you able to see a difference in Coach Dooley's approach from the staff who will not be named?

2:07 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:07:11 GMT

Both are aggressive, but I don't think Dooley is as brash. I don't think the NCAA's going to set up temporary office in Stokely during his stay on the Hill.I could be wrong, but he seems to come from the old SEC stock that only cheats as much as everyone else. A good ol boy. Hahaha!

2:07 Comment From Baron Conrad

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:07:20 GMT

Is Phil Fulmer doing his best to light a fire under Mike Hamilton's seat?

2:08 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:08:57 GMT

Have to be careful with this. Now that Phillip realizes he might not coach again — and that's been hard on him — he might like to be an AD. The man loves UT like few others on the planet do, and he loves this are, and he'd like to be around the department. That won't happen as long as Hamilton is here, though, IMO. It's certainly something to keep an eye on, because we all know what kind of politician Phillip is. The man is slick.

2:09 Comment From FLVOL

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:09:07 GMT

Been hearing a lot of chatter about a Rogers/Nance combo in recruiting...chances on these two? And how would that change the QB situation?

2:10 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:10:32 GMT

They are visiting this weekend, and they asked their HS coach to set up a meeting with Dooley. That's a good sign, IMO, though it's not certain they'll switch their commiments. Nance would get the same opportunity as everyone else. It's a blank slate here again. I've always wondered when someone not named Vandy would offer Nance. He's got the ability, and he's a good kid.

2:10 Comment From Clint in Memphis

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:10:47 GMT

With the stats shown from La. Tech. last year, do you see an improvement in our special teams play?

2:11 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:11:50 GMT

I think the man they brought here to coach TEs and special teams, Erik Russell, has a solid resume that points toward ST improvement here. But we've all heard that before, so let's see what happens. Dooley told his players last year that UT's special teams weren't very good — but who didn't know that?

2:11 Comment From Thomas (North Knox)

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:11:59 GMT

Why do you think Kiffin left Knoxville with so many questions left unanswered? Did you view the way he left as a sign of disrespect towards the University of Tennessee?

2:14 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:14:13 GMT

I think, in being fair to Kiffin, that he had no intentions of bolting UT so soon. But the USC job — his dream job — came up, and he felt he had to do it. Some people close to him urged him not to do it, and not everyone was 100 percent sold on leaving, but he made the decision quickly and didn't look back. I think, honestly, he felt some level of shame for leaving here so quickly, and he just wanted to leave as soon as possible. Some players were very nasty toward him in the meeting, and Kippy Brown and others deserve much credit for calming the situation.

2:14 Comment From Rocklion

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:14:24 GMT

How long do you think Vol fans give Coach Dooley before he could find himself on the firing line? Will there be some leniency because of Kiffin's departure and the fan base knowing it could affect this years recruiting?

2:16 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:16:15 GMT

Ha! So it begins...I think every coach deserves at least three years to show significant improvement, but Vols fans need to realize the immense challenges facing Dooley. Less than 50 scholarship players from last season will be back next season — that's what the FCS deal with. And the SEC is not an FCS league.This program is at its best when it's stable.

2:16 Comment From FLVOL

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:16:24 GMT

How many Dooley additions do you think that we will see in the recruiting class, meaning guys that we were not in the mix for prior to the coaching change?

2:17 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:17:21 GMT

Maybe five. It's very late in the process to jump in on guys the previous staff hadn't offered, unless they're from East Tennessee on Dooley lost a close battle for their commitment when he was at LaTech.

2:17 Comment From Sturmgeschutz

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:17:32 GMT

Who will replace Berry and Rogan?

2:17 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:17:37 GMT

or Dooley, I mean.

2:19 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:19:36 GMT

The natural answer for Berry is Darren Myles Jr., but he needs to learn the D better and play faster than he did last season. Rogan will be equally difficult to replace. The team has a lot of young corners — man, Mike Edwards was going to be a star — but I don't know there they go from here. Art Evans will be better once he gets that shoulder healthy, and don't sleep on Dalton boy Stephaun Raines. He played well late in the regular season when the team needed him, and he's one of UT's fastest guys.

2:19 Comment From Leatherwood

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:19:41 GMT

Re: basketball, what type of role will the returning players take on? Is Pearl going to slowly bring them back into the fold? I really think Maze and Bone are proving themselves well at the PG spot and adding Goins back in might interrupt that flow.

2:21 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:21:29 GMT

Goins is a great defender, and they'll need him at some point in the SEC season — I think he's the only guy on the roster (maybe other than Bone) who can stay reasonably close to John Wall.Tatum will be back in the rotation soon, IMO. He will earn it.Before people judge those guys, let's see what their final charges will be in that case. Not saying they're choir boys by any means, but I think they've served an appropriate punishment.

2:21 Comment From Brandon

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:21:35 GMT

How far has the UT fallen in terms of national perception? It's somewhat understandable that we had difficulty finding a replacement for Kiffin, but it's more than a bit disconcerting that we can't garner more legitimate interest from high level DC candidates. Are candidates afraid of the SEC East? Or is the program just not that attractive anymore?

2:24 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:24:03 GMT

There are challenges to coaching at UT that Florida, Alabama, LSU, Georgia don't have. They're not insurmountable, but the Vols can't bounce back as quickly from coaching turnover or bad recruiting classes as the other top SEC programs. The perception is UT is a second-tier SEC program at the moment, and some (but not me) would even say third-tier.UT has money, and it has tradition, and it has pride. It will be back. The question is when, and I don't think it will happen until they restore continuity to the program.

2:24 Comment From HeyBeeCee

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:24:28 GMT

When the 4 hoops players were first arrested I heard Tobias Harris was a little uneasy. Have you heard anything lately out of Harris or the other 2 commits lately? I would think the winning streak and the discipline exercised would be positives.

2:25 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:25:52 GMT

All three commitments are solidly back on board and happy about the future. I have spoken with all of them, and they are happy. Pearl's actions (and the team's play) since that incident have really helped the program. They again have major momentum on the trail for future guys, too. 5-star Jr PG Kevin Ware from Atlanta looks like a great player, and he's a solid UT commit.

2:26 Comment From Jamestown

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:26:17 GMT

Any chance that the upcoming Vols team feels a little slighted given the coaching issues and media controversies and surprises us versus what is sure to be a tough 2010 schedule? Maybe wishful thinking, I know, but I would love to see those guys come out with a chip on their shoulders and do well.

2:28 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:28:10 GMT

Man, that schedule is absolutely brutal. One of the toughest they've had in a long time, IMO. But new coaches sometimes inspire teams to great starts — Willingham and Weiss at Notre Dame come to mind, as do others.I can tell you the chemistry between almost all the players is outstanding right now, because they truly feel like all they have is each other after the past 15 months. It's been really hard on them, but there are a ton of great kids in the upcoming senior class, and they've kept things together at the moment.

2:28 Comment From vollin

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:28:47 GMT

With so many inconsistent teams in NCAA bball this year, why do you think the Vols BBall team won't make it past the Sweet 16?

2:29 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:29:46 GMT

I worry about their frontcourt depth in the tournament. I'm just one man, though, and my opinion means nothing more than yours or anyone else's. The way they play defense in the halfcourt gives them a shot. Then again, what it always comes down to is the brackets. The matchups are crucial.

2:30 Comment From Eric

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:30:15 GMT

Have you heard any news on recruiting offensive lineman since Double D took over? Have they visited any?

2:31 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:31:53 GMT

They've visited a few, and I think they're going to start offering a couple more JUCOs to fill some spots — and they would be wise to do so, IMO. Local kids like Zak Tait at Knoxville Catholic (my alma mater! Go Irish!) could get a closer look, too.

2:32 Wes Rucker

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:32:13 GMT

We're about out of time, guys. We'll do this again very soon. We should do this on a regular basis. What great turnout.There are dozens of questions we didn't get to. Take your questions to my email inbox or www.twitter.com/wesrucker, and I'll answer them ASAP.Go Arsenal!

2:33

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:33:56 GMT

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